General & History
The earliest known noodles have been found in China. Due to a lucky
accident (lucky for us - not for the inhabitants of the town of Lajia),
a fresh bowl of noodles was inverted and buried in mud and silt. An air
pocket under the bowl protected and preserved the noodles, dated to 2000
BCE. These noodles, about 20 inches long, were made from foxtail millet
(Setaria italica) and broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum).
While in Europe, "pasta" is made almost entirely from hard winter
wheat and water, and "noodles" are made form softer wheat, and perhaps
with egg, Asian noodles are made from a number of grains, seeds and
starches. While wheat is popular in the northern regions, noodles are
also made from rice, bean starch, arrowroot starch, tapioca starch,
sweet potato starch, buckwheat and other materials.
Each of these materials has its own unique properties, so these
noodles are used in many ways, but "Italian style" with pasta sauces
is uncommon in Asia today. Extruded shapes such as are common in
Europe are not much made, because they can only be made with hard
winter wheat, or softer wheat and plenty of egg. Most Chinese "Egg
Noodles" are made with yellow dye, not egg.
While the types of noodles used in China, Korea, Japan and Southeast
Asia do vary with region, as do cooking techniques, we do not separate
them here by country because each type is too widespread to localize that
Cha Soba - [245; Green Tea Noodles]
I've put these soba under wheat because they don't have enough buckwheat
to tint them brown. They have barely enough green tea to give them a
slightly green tint, but they have a strong green tea aroma.
Made by Hakubaku Australia, 7-3/4 x 0.040 x 0.065 inches. Ingred:
organic wheat flour (95%), organic buckwheat flour (3%), green tea
powder (2%), water.
Somen [161 Somen (Japan);
Very popular in Japan, these are very thin wheat noodles usually used
in clear soups, added in the last few minutes as they cook very fast.
Identical noodles are used in Korea, but much more widely, appearing
in many both hot and cold dishes.
Made in Japan, round, 8 x 0.040 inches. Ingred: wheat flour, water,
Korean Wide Noodles [343,
Used much less than the Somen type, this dried noodle imitates the
fresh "cut noodles" made in households. Someone with a less than
perfect grasp of English named them "Chopped Noodles".
Made in Korea, 0.130 x 0.040 inches by 8-5/8 inches long. Ingred:
wheat flour, water, salt.
Shanxi Noodles - 
These wide noodles are very popular in northern China (Shanxi province
is a little southwest of Beijing) They are usually 0.40 inch thick,
0.29 inch wide and 7.3 inches long. Wheat flour, salt. Made in China.
Chinese Style, Thin - 
This is one of the most common of the Chinese style "egg" noodles
(many of which have yellow dye rather than egg). The FDA used to
require these to be labeled "artificial noodle", but now "Asian noodle"
or "Chinese style noodle" are accepted, but some still use the old
designation. Packed in 1-3/4 ounce skeins of noodles 0.040 inch
diameter, made in Hong Kong. Ingred: wheat flour, corn starch, egg,
FD&C Yellow #5; alternatively wheat flour, corn starch, egg, lye,
water, FD&C Yellow #5. I usually select brands that have actual
egg in them.
Chinese Style, Wide - 
A wider version of Chinese Style "egg" noodles (many of which have
yellow dye rather than egg). The FDA used to require these to be
labeled "artificial noodle", but now "Asian noodle" or "Chinese style
noodle" are accepted, but some still use the old designation.
Packed in 1 ounce skeins of noodles 0.12 inch wide and 0.025 inch
thick, made in Vietnam. Ingred: wheat flour, egg, water, lye,
vegetable oil. I usually select brands that have actual egg in them.
Crispy Chow Main Noodles - 
These are not authentically Chinese. They probably originated
in the United States and are typical of "Chinese-American" restaurants,
which serve a cuisine much different from any found in China. They are
served as an appetizer, sprinkled over Chinese salads, and sometimes
topped with a stir fry with plenty of sauce. 2 inch randoms 0.12 inch
diameter; enriched wheat flour, vegetable oil, water, salt,
4% trans fats.
Shanghai Noodles - 
These are popular in Zhejiang province of southeastern China, and are
sold fresh in Asian markets. They are about 0.13 inch diameter. Some
brands make them rectangular, but I prefer round. They are made up
into loose hanks and sold from the refrigerated section. Keep them
refrigerated and use within a few days to avoid mold. Cook them by
dropping them into rapidly boiling water. When the water is back to
a boil, they should be done in between 2 and 4 minutes depending on
brand. They should remain chewy. Drain, rinse in cold water and
tumble with about 1 t oil per pound to prevent sticking. Wheat flour,
water - made in USA. Subst: Japanese fresh Udon noodles of similar
Bean Starch Noodles
- [Cellophane Noodles; Glass Noodles; Sotanghon
(Philippine); Tangoon (Taiwan, Malaysia); Harusame (Japan); Phing,
Fing (Tibet); Falooda (India, Pakistan); Bun tau (Vietnam); Saifun,
Fensi, dongfen (China); Soun, Suun (Indonesia). Wun sen (Thai)]
Bean Starch noodles must not be confused with rice noodles, which
sometimes look exactly the same when dry. Their cooking properties are
totally different. These noodles are made from mung bean starch.
Caution: Always check that you buy these
noodles made in Taiwan or Vietnam. Mainland Chinese makers have been
found to use cheaper cornstarch, then correct the color with Lead (of
course), but also Aluminum, and toxic Sodium Formaldehyde Sulfoxylate
Bean Thread Noodles - 
This is the most common form of bean thread noodles in North America.
They are made up into 2 ounce skeins, which is why many recipes call
for 2 ounces of them. These are about 0.030 inches diameter. Ingred:
bean starch. These were made in Taiwan.
Mung Bean Vermicelli - 
This is a thicker form than the bean thread. These are about 0.040
inches diameter and 21 inches long bent in half. Instructions is to
cook at more than 180°F for 5 to 6 minutes, then quench in cold
water. Ingred: mung bean flour, starch, water, protein. These were
made in Taiwan.
Bean Noodles, Broad - 
Here we have a much wider version of bean starch noodle, 0.19 inch
wide and 0.030 inch thick, packed in 1-3/4 ounce skeins. Made in
Vietnam. Ingred: mung bean powder, potato starch, water.
Some of these look just like Bean Thread noodles, but must not be
confused. Their cooking properties are totally different, and they will
break up into tiny pieces if used like bean starch noodles.
Shown here are just a few typical examples. You will find more
varieties, much detailed information, and instructions on how to cook
them on our Rice Noodles page.
Rice Vermicelli - [009, Rice Stick]
This is the most common form of rice noodles in North America, often
labeled "rice stick". These are about 0.040 inches diameter. Ingred:
rice flour, water. They are sold in skeins of 4 ounces and up.
Rice Flakes - [219, Banh Uot (Viet)]
These are available in markets serving a Vietnamese community. In
Vietnam they are cooked and served hot with dipping sauces. They can
also be used when fresh rice noodle roles aren't available for
Thai beef and broccoli (and to tell the truth, they're easier to deal
with). 2 inch random squares, 0.025 inch thick.
Rice Roll - 
These are available in markets serving a Thai or Vietnamese community,
and I also find them in the Korean markets. They are quite thin,
0.015 inch to 0.020 inch (I prefer the thicker when I can get it).
Most makers fold up a single large sheet, but some make a stack of
individual sheets. It is oiled to keep the sheets from sticking
together. This product is intended to be used the day it is made,
or at most the day after. It cannot be refrigerated.
Bánh Trang - [Rice Paper,
Spring Roll Wrappers]
These are available in several sizes and in full disk or quarter
disk from any market serving a Thai or Vietnamese community. They
are essential for making spring rolls and the like. The photo
specimens are 8-1/2 inch diameter and 0.007 inch thick. Yes, that's
7 thousandths of an inch (0.018 mm) thick.
These are usually mostly of wheat flour so they hold together well,
but they still have a distinctly buckwheat flavor, so we're giving
them a separate section.
Soba - 
Very popular in Japan, usually served cold with a salad-like dressing.
These are easily recognized by their fairly dark tan color.
Made in Japan, 7.75 x 0.050 x 0.055 inches. Ingred: enriched wheat flour,
buckwheat flour, yam, salt, water.
These seem to be a specialty of the Philippines, where they must be
quite popular - judging from the number of brands and packages on display
at my local Philippine market here in Los Angeles. They have just a
little more flavor than bean starch noodles, which I imagine to be
Bihon - [257; Cornstarch Sticks]
These were purchased at a Philippine market in Los Angeles. The package
says it is very important they be washed before cooking. In simmering
water they took 10 minutes to tenderness. By 15 minutes they were
starting to get too soft. For braised dishes they should be soaked
and added within the last 10 minutes. Product of the Philippines,
.040 inch diameter, sold in 8 and 16 ounce skeins. Ingred:
Bihon, Golden - [256; Cornstarch Sticks]
These were purchased at a Philippine market in Los Angeles. In
simmering water they took 10 minutes to tenderness. By 15 minutes
they were starting to get too soft. For soups and stews they should
be rinsed, then added within the last 10 minutes. Product of the
Philippines, .025 inch diameter, sold in and 16 ounce blocks containing
4 cakes. Ingred: cornstarch, water.
Sweet Potato Noodles
Sweet Potato starch noodles are tough and much more durable than
other Asian noodles, and take much longer cooking times, but they hold
their shape and texture well in hot liquids.
Thin Korean Style - [230;
Mieng Dai Han]
Instructions for these are fairly clear. Boil for 6 to 8 minutes (I
say more like 8 to 10 minutes), drain and refresh with cold water,
then mix with salad, cold dish, appetizer or as ingredient in hot pot.
These are essential to the famous Korean dish Japchae. Made in China,
0.06 diameter by 22 inches folded length. Ingred: sweet potato starch,
sulfur dioxide, water. They cook to a firm jelly consistency. Flavor
and texture are pleasant and these noodles are much more durable in
recipes than bean starch noodles.
Broad Noodle - 
Pour hot water over these noodles and let soak for at least 1/2 hour
(the package instructions are unrealistically optimistic). Simmer them
for 10 minutes or until as tender as you need - for hot pots less
tender than for other uses. Use in hot pots, salads or stir fries.
Made in Sichuan, China, 0.45 inch wide, 0.045 thickness and 11 inches
long. Ingred: sweet potato starch.
Hot Pot Green Bean Stripe - 
Why they are called "Green Bean" is a mystery to me. Preparation for
these is similar to #229 above, but even longer soaking and cooking
times. These are used in hot pots, as they will hold their form and
texture much longer than most noodles. Their texture is like a stiff
jelly. Made in China, 0.68 inch wide, 0.35 inch thick and 10.75
inches long. Ingred: sweet potato starch.
Fern Starch Noodles
Fem Root Starch Vermicelli -
We found these noodles made from starch extracted from bracken fern
root in one of the large Asian markets here in Los Angeles.
Humorously, the designers of the package interpreted the "rn" in
"fern" as an "m", so everywhere on the package it says fem instead of
fern. Must have been a font problem. The strands were 0.063 inch
diameter and 20 inches long, folded in the middle. Cooked, they
resemble large, dark colored bean starch noodles, but have a lightly
earthy flavor, while bean starch noodles are pretty neutral. These
come from Sichuan China, ingredients: fern root starch, rapeseed oil.
Arrowroot Vermicelli -
[242; Mien Dong Nguyen Chat (Vietnamese)]
These noodles, made in Vietnam, are a bit strange. Just soaked, they
have a somewhat unpleasant flavor. Boiled, whether soaked first or
not, mere seconds after they are tender they start becoming mush (but
the flavor is somewhat better). I can only presume this is supposed
to happen to provide a thickening effect in soup they are added to.
Ingred: pure flour of arrowroot (I presume this actually means
arrowroot starch), salt, water. 0.033 diameter, in 1.5 ounce skeins.