They’ve been around for centuries and have become a much loved food item in India as well. But, there is still so little we know about noodles. So, Rhea Dhanbhoora & Shirley Mistry tell you about the types of noodles, how to cook them and our favourite places to devour a bowl of piping hot noodles
Where did they come from?
Although the Arabs and Italians have always claimed to have created noodles, in reality, it is China (unsurprisingly) that gave birth to noodles. Text in a Chinese book written between AD 25 and 220, is the earliest record we have of noodles. If you are wondering whether noodles were any different back then, they weren’t — for most part. In 2005, a group of scientists discovered the world’s oldest noodles in Lajia — an archaeological site in China. Made using grains from millet grass, unlike the wheat flour that we use today, these noodles were found in an overturned, sealed bowl. Once tests were performed on them, it was found that they were around 4,000 years old, laying to rest all claims of noodles having originated in any other country.
Pick your noodles
We can’t tell you about every single type of noodle that exists across the world — but we can try to tell you about most so that the next time you’re planning on cooking noodles, you know what options you have.
Udon noodles: The Japanese are the masters of all things noodle related and udon noodles are a great example of this fact. These noodles are also available dried, but the fresh variety is springy and extremely good for dishes with strong flavours.
Somen noodles: Another Japanese favourite, these noodles are very similar to udon ones and are also made of wheat. The biggest difference though, is that they are usually served cold, with a dipping sauce. Pick some up for the summer, since they’ll keep you cool.
Cellophane noodles: Starch that’s collected from green mung is used to make these noodles. As the name suggests, they’re translucent and quite smooth on the tongue. While most recipes use them deep fried, they’re often soaked and added to a meal.
Rice noodles: Rice noodles are extremely thin, so even people who don’t usually like noodles are fond of them. If you’ve ever had a Thai salad, you’ve tasted rice noodles! They’re made with rice flour and usually cooked in soups and salads after being soaked.
Spaghetti: Ah, there’s a word you recognise, right?! We don’t need to explain what spaghetti is to most, but just in case — the thin, long noodles are made from something that is known as durum wheat and are incredibly easy to cook, which is probably why they’re so popular.
Egg noodles: If you ever visit Singapore, you can’t skip out on trying their egg noodles. They are available in a variety of thick and thin noodles, go very well in soups and are made from wheat flour. The reason they’re called egg noodles is because they are also made with a flour and egg yolks mixture.
Ramen noodles: If you’re thinking of a certain Indian brand, let’s stop you right there. These noodles are the type we use most because they can be cooked in under five minutes, they are available dried or fresh and originated in China, even though they are used in most Japanese noodle dishes (especially those stir fried with pork or fish). They are a combination of egg, flour, water and salt.
Soba: These buckwheat flour noodles are extremely popular and are one of our favourites. Extremely delicate, these thin noodles are surprisingly flavourful and served plain as they have a distinct flavour and texture.
Cart noodles: These are a type of noodle that is extremely popular in Hong Kong. They are generally sold on the street (that’s where the name comes from, since they are sold in street carts), so they’ve had a reputation for being the cheaper variety — but they are still delicious enough to try!
Dotori guksu noodles: These Korean noodles are quite interesting! They’re made with a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour and can also be made with acorn flour. They are used mostly in noodle soup dishes.
COOKING NOODLES PERFECTLY
Noodles are a delicate food — cook them too much and they turn to mush, much like baby food; cook them too little and you have on your hands noodles that have too much of a bite to them. Follow our tips to make sure you cook them just right:
- Boil your water really well before you put your noodles in. This ensures that the temperature of the water doesn't fall too much when you put your noodles in the water and the bubbles help keep the noodles separate.
- Stir the noodles only once after you put them into the water to separate all the strands and make sure that they are all submerged under the water. Too much stirring will cause your noodles to break.
- Salt your water well, because noodles absorb salt the best at this stage.
- Don’t cook two kinds of noodles together, as each variety takes a different amount of time to be perfectly cooked. When you mix two types, you run the risk of overcooking one type and/or under-cooking the other.
- While people are on the fence about adding a teaspoon of oil to the noodles once they are done to prevent them from sticking, there is no harm in doing this — especially if you are a beginner.
- Never rinse your noodles in cold water after they are done boiling as all the starch on the noodles gets washed off. The starch is what helps the sauce and seasoning stick to the noodles, so getting rid of it is not a good idea.
- Choose a big pot to boil your noodles in and fill it with a lot of water, so that the noodles don't get crowded and stick to each other.
- Cook your noodles as per the instructions on the packet and taste them intermittently. When they have the slightest bite in the centre or resistance, it means that the noodles are done. You don't want to cook them through and through, as they will then later turn to mush when you stir fry them.
NOODLE RECIPES TO TRY AT HOME
Chiang mai train station noodle by Janti Duggal from Mamagoto
- 100g boiled noodles
- 300ml thick coconut milk
- 20ml oil
- 15g chopped onion
- 10g chopped garlic
- 10g turmeric powder
- 20g red Thai curry paste
- 15ml fish sauce
- 150g thinly sliced chicken breast
- 20g sugar
- 30g brown onion
- 10g brown garlic
- 15ml lemon juice
- 45g crushed peanuts
- 2 pieces lemon wedge
- 10g spring onion
- 5g chopped coriander
- Heat oil in a wok and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook till they are light brown.
- Add red curry paste and turmeric powder. Sauté for two minutes on a low flame.
- Add the chicken breast. Sauté till half done. Add coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar. Cook on low heat until the chicken is done.
- Place boiled noodles in serving dish. Pour curry over, garnish it and serve.
Yellow noodles with crispy okra by chef Vaibhav Mahajan, Auriga Restaurant & Lounge
- 150g vermicelli noodle
- 20g red and yellow pepper julienne
- 3g diced dry red chillies
- 5g pak choy
- 5g chinese cabbage
- 4g bean sprout
- 5g carrot julienne
- 2g Madras curry powder
- 2g turmeric powder
- 2g oyster sauce
- 2ml light soya sauce
- spring onions to garnish
- Okra slices dredged in flour and crisp fried
- 10ml water
- 4g chopped garlic
- 10ml oil
- Put the vermicelli in a bowl and tip boiling water over it until completely covered. Leave for 30-45 seconds until softened, but not too soft, then drain and leave to dry in a sieve or colander for about half an hour. toss occasionally to make sure they don't clump together.
- Heat oil in a wok and sauté the chopped garlic and dry red chillies.
- Add the veggies and sauté for a minute. Add the noodles and mix in the Madras curry powder, turmeric powder, oyster sauce and light soya.
- Stir well, sprinkle water and sauté further.
- Mix in the spring onion and adjust seasoning.
- Serve hot.
NOODLES WE LOVE
All this talk of noodles is bound to have stirred up quite an appetite. So, take a look at our recommendations of the top five noodle dishes from restaurants across the city:
Pho at Asian street kitchen
The Pho at Asian Street Kitchen bowled us over completely. Being vegetarian, the hardcore non-vegetarians may miss the slivers of meat in it, but it is entirely delicious nonetheless. The mushroom stock is delicious and you can't help but go back for more of the slurpy noodles and the hearty, flavourful broth.
Pad Thai at Yumchavie
We love the Pad Thai noodles from Yumchavie and we are sure you will too. Their take on this much loved street food is packed with morsels of eggs, chopped firm tofu, chicken, dried shrimp, tamarind, garlic, red chillies and palm sugar, giving it a rounded yet robust flavour.
Jade noodles at O:h Cha
This newly opened restaurant has some promising Thai food (read our review coming soon!) and their Mee Yok Kai left us impressed. Jade green noodles with strips of chicken and bell peppers in a Shanghai sauce made this dish extremely delicious. The noodles are nice and thin and cooked to perfection. The sauce adds a nice flavour and the dish is light, making it perfect for when you are feeling peckish.
mee goreng at Hakkasan
The Seafood Mee Goreng at Hakkasan is a meal in itself. Made with yellow noodles and an assortment of seafood, this popular dish certainly packs a punch. So, make sure your tastebuds can handle the heat before you order this dish.
Did you know...
We scoured around for the most fun information to bring you a quick fact file about noodles:
- In China, noodles symbolise longevity.
- Australians consume almost a kilo of noodles per person every year, making the total consumption 18 million kilograms!
- If you’re eating noodles neatly in Japan, you’re probably insulting the host. Slurp your noodles if you want them to know you’ve enjoyed the meal!
- If anyone ever tells you noodles are unhealthy, here’s an interesting fact to throw at them: noodles actually contain several vitamins and minerals, are low in fat and have very little sodium.