We continue our exploration into popular Asian dishes that can be easily made at home (we started with dumplings and wonton) by looking into noodles. Noodle bars and ramen joints are going gangbusters in Toronto these days, from Momofuku’s Noodle Bar to Kinto Ramen you can’t throw a chopstick without hitting one. And they are all, always, packed. So maybe instead of waiting in line at a restaurant every time you feel the need for noodles you could stay home and make them for yourself.
Noodles are a big part of Asian cuisine and here are some noodles you should know how to identify and a few simple, classic dishes in which they shine:
Ramen- Ramen was originally a Chinese dish consisting of wheat noodles in a meat or fish-based broth. It became hugely popularized in Japan, especially when Momofuku Ando, the Taiwanese/Japanese founder of Nissin Foods developed the instant ramen noodle in the late 1950’s. Ramen noodles can be broad or narrow, straight or wavy and are usually cooked in one of four main categories of broth:
Shio- (salt) ramen is basically just that, a clear yellowish broth made with lots of salt and chicken, vegetables, fish or seaweed.
Tonkotsu- (pork bone) is a thicker, opaque broth that comes from boiling pork bones and cartilage for hours. Because it is often so thick, Tonkotsu is often mixed with chicken stock, vegetable stock or soy sauce, and the preferred ramen noodle is thin and straight. Favourite toppings include pickled ginger and sesame oil.
Shoyu – (soy sauce) is typified by a darker broth made from chicken, vegetable, fish or beef with soy sauce added. The ramen noodles in Shoyu are curly, and the dish is often characterzed by the addition of vegetables such as bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, scallions and seaweed, and topped with chili oil and beef.
-Miso ramen is a mix of miso and chicken or fish broth, sometimes in combination with pork bone or lard, resulting in a thicker, sweeter soup. Corn, onions, bean sprouts, ground pork and bean paste are some of the toppings that adorn it.
Udon- These are thick wheat noodles used in many Japanese dishes, in hot pots, soups, stir-fries and served cold as well, in spicy noodle salads. Probably the simplest and one of the most popular Udon dishes is Kake Udon, essentially hot udon noodles in broth, perhaps served with green onion or a slice of kamaboko.
Because they are so thick, udon noodles work well in stir fries and stand up to the addition of meats and vegetables.
Soba- Soba means “buckwheat” in Japanese, and soba noodles, made from buckwheat flour, are the thin, versatile noodles that we see in cold noodle salads, often served with a variety of vegetables and green onions and flavoured with soy and sesame. In Tokyo and many parts of Japan this ubiquitous noodle is served in soups as well, the tradition dating from a period when it was discovered that beriberi could be prevented by eating thiamine-rich soba noodles in lieu of white rice.
Rice Noodles- A staple in the cuisine of many Asian and South Asian countries, rice noodles , often called rice vermicelli are made primarily from rice flour and water, and like soba noodles, are gluten – free and are hugely popular in Malasia, Thailand and Vietnam, where rice pasta is also made into rice-paper wraps for classic dishes such as cha gio. Rice noodles can come in a variety of shapes, thicknesses and widths; for example, in the classic Vietnamese dish, Pho, wider noodles are used in the north than in the south. Rice noodles are white when cooked and sometimes mistaken for mung bean noodles.
Cellophane noodles, mung bean noodles or Chinese vermicelli. These delicate noodles are made from mung bean starch and cook clear when boiled. They are an integral ingredient in the classic Sichuan dish, Ants Climbing Up a Tree and are often used in faux shark’s fin soup because of their texture, and are an important ingredient in Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
There are so many fabulous Asian Noodles available to us it can sometimes be difficult to decide what to make, or where to begin, especially if using them for the first time.To help you out, here is one of our favourite full-meal salads from Bon Appetit, it’s a simple, great dish for this time of year, one that combines the nutty flavor of buckwheat soba noodles with wild salmon, avocado and fresh flavours of the spring, like baby spinach and asparagus.