A Guide to Rice and Noodles Used in Asian Cuisine

Typically, most of us, upon developing the urge for Chinese food, simply reach into the drawer for the takeout menu or head over to the local Chinese Buffet. Yes, it’s tasty, but as common sense also dictates, it is not often healthy, and you can be assured that most Chinese takeout places are not using top quality ingredients.

Additionally, you are missing out on the wide variety of tasteful and healthy dishes that can be prepared in your own home using a handful of common ingredients and a smattering of some not so common items. An excursion into the world of Asian cuisine can seem frightening at first, especially if you happen to possess a recipe with an excessively long list of ingredients. True, some recipes may require a bit of work, especially if you are unused to preparing such comprehensive dishes. But with a modicum of practice you will soon develop a flair for preparation and execution, and the flavorful dishes you create will be well worth the effort.

A common staple of Asian cuisine is noodles, and to a lesser extent, or more commonly as a side dish, rice. But there are many varieties used depending on the ethnicity of the dish.

Listed here are the most widely used varieties of noodles and rice that should adequately cover most recipes of Asian cultures. Many of them can now be found in your supermarket, but some may require a trip to an Asian grocery.

Egg Noodles
Made from egg and wheat flour, they are made in a wide variety of thicknesses. You’ve probably sampled them before in various dishes such as Lo Mein or Chow Mein. The most size common is angel hair. You can purchase these noodles dried or fresh.

Rice Noodles
These are made from white rice and steamed and lightly oiled. They are usually purchased in either thick or thin sizes, but are also sold as a sheet that can be cut to a preferred width.

Dried or Fresh Udon Noodles
These are Japanese noodles made from wheat flour. You will often find them as accompaniments to the main course in sushi restaurants, or added to miso soup. The fresh noodles are more preferable to the dried, but may be more difficult to find.

Cellophane Noodles (also known as mung bean vermicelli)
Nicknamed cellophane noodles because of their white, slightly translucent color, these are made from mung beans. They can be purchased in bundles and can be quite filling. Do not use any more than a recipe might call for, or they will overpower the other ingredients of the dish.

Rice Vermicelli
Thin and translucent and similar to the cellophane noodle. It is also packaged in blocks, and is sometimes deep-fried.

Hokkien Noodles
You will probably only be able to find these at an Asian grocery. These wheat flour noodles are already cooked before being packaged. Simply add them to the dish as called for by the recipe

Dried Rice Sticks
Resembling fettucine but sold in short blocks rather than long sticks. These are most commonly used for stir-frys.

All noodles need to be soaked in hot water or boiled, with the exception of the Hokkien noodles.

Not to be outdone by the noodles, what is an Asian meal without a steaming mound of fragrant rice? A necessary accompaniment for any spicy dish or just as a suitable side dish, these are the most popular varieties of rice.

Jasmine Rice
A long-grained rice, easily found in supermarkets and served with most Asian meals as a side-dish.

Glutinous Rice
If you’ve ever had Chinese food, you have most assuredly had this rice. White rice, sticky when cooked.

Basmati Rice
Traditionally more of a Middle-Eastern rice used in Indian Cuisine. basmati rice can be white or brown.

Traditionally, many recipes will add several spices and herbs to enhance the rice dish.

Now that you have an idea of the varieties of rice and noodles used in Asian cookery, hopefully you will feel a little more confident about tackling some of those recipes. But this is just the beginning. The world of Asian cuisine is a world of new flavors and foods, and you may find yourself wanting to explore it quite often.

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