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Asian Noodles

Asian Noodles

Wheat, rice flour, buckwheat, and mung bean starch are all used to make different types of Asian noodles. These noodles are used throughout Asia to make an enormous variety of soups and stir-fries. Shop for these noodles in Asian markets or in the international aisle of your supermarket.

To choose dried rice noodles : There are two main types of rice noodles - rice sticks and rice vermicelli. The thin, flat rice sticks are called jantaboon in Thailand and banh pho in Vietnam. Add rice sticks to soups and use them to make pad thai and other stir-fried dishes. Thin spaghetti can be substituted for rice sticks. The very thin and delicate rice vermicelli are known as bun in Vietnam and sen mee in Thailand. They are often sold in nests. Use them in salads, soups and stir-fries. Rice papers (sheets of rice noodle) are used to make spring rolls or summer rolls. When rice papers are quickly softened in hot water, filled, and rolled, they are called summer rolls. When fried after filling and rolling, they are known as spring rolls.

To prepare dried rice noodles to use in soups, salads and stir-fries, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes and then boil about 5 minutes for rice sticks and about 2 minutes for rice vermicelli. When deep-frying, drop the dry noodles directly into a deep pot of hot oil. Remove with a pair of tongs as soon as the noodles are puffed and crisp. Use as a nest for serving stir-fried vegetables and meat.

Choosing and preparing fresh rice noodles : One pound sheets of rice noodles, called sha he fen, can often be found in the refrigerated section of Chinese markets. When preparing, cut the noodle to the desired width and add directly to soups and stir-fries toward the end of cooking time.

Choosing Chinese wheat noodles : Look for dried versions in supermarkets and Chinese markets in 1- pound packages of either long, straight noodles or swirled nests. Imported noodles are sometimes labeled "imitation noodles", but are in fact the real thing. The mislabeling is done intentionally to conform to confusing FDA packaging regulations. Some imported noodles may be flavored with shrimp or fish roe. If you can't find dried Chinese wheat noodles, angel hair pasta can be substituted. Fresh Chinese wheat noodles are also sold in a range of sizes. Thick, oval strands are known as Shanghai noodles, and flat, wide noodles  are called chow fun. Chinese egg noodles are usually labeled "mein". Spaghetti-shaped ones are called regular mein, and fettuccine-like noodles are known as wide mein. A similarly shaped pasta such as spaghetti or linguine can be substituted in a pinch. Fresh sheets of Chinese wheat noodles made with egg are used for egg rolls and wontons. Fresh sheets of lasagna can be substituted.

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