Warm up with steaming bowls of Asian noodles with fresh ingredients and tasty sauces
Stephanie Dean, Amy Machnak, and Sylvan Mishima Brackett
– January 28, 2009
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Warm Soba Noodle Bowl
A popular Japanese winter dish, warm soba with toppings is just the thing for lunch on an overcast day. The broth is made with dashi, a staple soup base whose delicate flavor comes from dried bonito tuna flakes and seaweed.
Although it has some ingredients in common with Indian curry, Japanese curry is slightly sweet as well as spicy, with a thick, almost clingy sauce. Kabocha squash can be added, which can be eaten peel and all.
Usually coiled into single portions, dried egg noodles (top) are made from wheat flour and eggs. Boil until tender, drain, then deep-fry or add to soups or stir-fries.
Fresh egg noodles (bottom), found refrigerated at Asian markets and well-stocked grocery stores, are best if quickly boiled to soften. They can be braised, steamed, stir-fried, or deep-fried. Many have yellow food coloring added.
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Bean thread noodles
Always dried and always super-thin. Made from mung bean starch, they need to be soaked in hot water until soft before cooking.
They turn clear and slippery when cooked, which is why they’re also called “glass” or “cellophane” noodles. Excellent in stir-fries and soups.
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Ubiquitous in northern China, where wheat thrives. Dried wheat noodles (near left) come wrapped or tied in neat little bundles. Boil them until al dente (as you would Italian pasta); good in soups or stir-fries.
Fresh wheat noodles (far left) come in a range of thicknesses. Add directly to soups, stews, and braised dishes.
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Most plentiful in the big rice-growing countries: China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Made of rice flour and water. Available in a variety of thicknesses, dried rice noodles (wide and vermicelli, left) are great in soups and stir-fries, since they absorb the flavor of the other ingredients.
Soak them in very hot water until tender before adding to dishes. Fresh rice noodles, found in the refrigerator section of Asian markets, can be used in place of dried, but there’s no need to soak them.
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A staple of Japanese cuisine, soba noodles are made mainly from buckwheat flour and have a nutty flavor and chewy texture.
Boil them until softened but still slightly chewy. They’re very good in warm soups or cold noodle salads.
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A note on Asian ingredients
You’ll find most of the noodles in this story, along with other specialty ingredients like fish sauce, curry paste, and sambal, at any well-stocked grocery store ― but for some (like fresh noodles or Thai basil), an Asian grocery store is a better source.
Depending on what ingredients you’re looking for, a more specialized shop is best of all; you’ll be more likely to find Japanese ingredients, for instance, at a Japanese store than at a pan-Asian one.