Rice Noodles - Rice Stick
Noodle Skein [Chao Ching (China)]

Rice noodles are widely used in every Asian region where rice is grown and eaten. Not long ago, even here in Los Angeles, they were available in only a couple sizes and only dried. Now vast quantities of fresh noodles are produced in Los Angeles and Orange counties and every Asian market has at least one or two varieties - others have more than ten varieties. Dried are available in a dozen or so sizes as well, imported from Thailand, Vietnam and China.

The photo shows a typical form, a 2.67 ounce skein of 0.027 inch / 0.75 mm diameter "rice stick", from a bag of 6 skeins. These were made in Thailand. Caution: these must never be confused with the similar appearing bean thread noodles - the two have very different cooking properties. Read the label.

These products are generally labeled in Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and English, but the names I give are English and Vietnamese (accents omitted) because the Thai and Chinese characters are uninterpretable to me.



Cooking Rice Noodles

Whether fresh or dried, rice noodles need only enough cooking to heat them up - unless you want mush, which is sometimes actually the case.

Dried:   If the recipe calls for fresh, use half the weight dry. Soak in slightly warm water for at least 20 minutes if noodles are very thin, or at least an hour if thicker. They can be held in the water for hours.

Fresh:   If the recipe calls for dry, use twice the weight in fresh. Separate the noodles well while still cool - there will be no time later.

Boiling:   Both fresh and soaked dry rice noodles need only a moment in boiling water if thin, and barely longer if thick. The way I do this is to have a strainer over a heatproof bowl or pot, drop the noodles into the boiling water, then immediately dump them out through the strainer. Water in the catch bowl can be returned to the pot if you need to do more noodles. Noodles are taken immediately from the strainer to the serving dish.

Stir Fry:   This is tricky because the noodles will start to stick to the pan immediately. Basically, you just stir them in with the other ingredients long enough to warm them up and coat them with sauce - then serve. Soaked dry noodles are a little easier to handle than fresh ones and thicker easier than thin.

Varieties

Fresh Rice Noodle Sheets   -  
Fresh Rice Noodle Sheets These are found in markets serving Asian communities from Korean on south to Indonesian. The Korean markets around here generally have only the sheet form which you can cut to whatever width you desire and then unwrap. Markets serving Southeast Asian communities may have more than 10 varieties, some of which are shown below.

The photo shows uncut sheets called Rice Roll. These are very thin and coated with oil so they can be unwrapped from the bundle. Some makers sell this form as large sheets folded up, others as a stack of single sheets. In eather case they are very thin, with different brands varying in thicknesses from 0.015 to 0.02 inches. I prefer the thicker ones if I can get them.

Buying & Storing:   These are intended to be purchased and used on the day they are made, but will still be OK the following day or a little more if unopened - then they will start to mold and get a strange flavor.
Do not refrigerate.   Refrigeration changes the texture of the noodles and they will break up when you try to peel them off the bundle, even if you have warmed them back up. A major battle was fought over this here in California, with the Health Deprtment finally yielding on refrigeration.

Dried Rice Noodles   -   [220]
Dried Rice Noodles 220 Dried rice noodles are found in a wide variety of shapes and forms. The most common form is shown in the photo in the header of this page, 0.040 / 1 mm diameter in 4 ounce skeins. The photo specimens, made in Thailand and called Banh Pho, are the widest commonly found, 0.34 inches by 0.025 thick in 4 ounce skeins. This noodle will expand to about 0.58 inches wide when fully soaked in warm water.

Buying & Storing:   These will be found in any market serving an East or Southeast Asian community. Store in a sealed bag to prevent entry of moths and they will last indefinitely.

Bánh Trang - Spring Roll Wrappers   -   [221]
Banh Trang 221 These are used in Thailand and Vietnam to make various spring rolls, both fresh and deep fired. They are extremely thin and take practice handling. The photo specimens are 8-1/2 inches diameter and 0.007 inch / 0.18 mm thick (yes, that's 7 thousandths of an inch).

Buying & Storing:   These will be found in any market serving an East or Southeast Asian community. Store in a sealed bag to prevent entry of moths and they will last indefinitely.

Cooking:   These are first moistened just enough to make them flexible. I do this either by laying them on a damp cloth and brushing them with water or setting them on a plate full of water (one at a time). In a few seconds they're ready to use. They are then folded and rolled into packets which may be served as-is or deep fried depending on the recipe used. Handling them takes a little practice.

Rice Flake - Bánh Uot, Bánh Cuôn
Rice Flake 219 These are easily available in Los Angeles but may be scarce in other parts of the country. The photo specimens, made in Thailand, are Bánh Uot, 2 inch x 2 inch random squares 0.025 inch thick. I have also found Bánh Cuôn, made in Vietname, which are 1.3 x 1.9 inch random rectangles 0.020 inch thick. Both of these are excellent for the famous Thai Beef with Broccoli and are easier to work with than fresh rice noodles.

All buying, storage and cooking considerations are exactly as for regular rice noodles described above.

Rice Noodle - Fine - Bun Que Lam   -   [222]
Fine Rice Noodles 222 These are 0.04 / 1 mm diameter similar to the skein form shown in the header photo but straight and cut to a length of 7-3/4 inches. These were made in China but clearly intended mostly for Vietnamese cuisine. All buying, storage and cooking considerations are exactly as for regular rice noodles described above.

Rice Ovals   -   [336, Rice Ovalettes, Rice Cake; Nian Gao (China); Dduk (Korea)]
Oval Rice Noodles 336

Originally developed in Ningbo in Zhejiang, China, these are now very popular through China, and especially Korea. They are often used in stir fries and soups. They are available fresh, dried, and, most commonly semi-dried in vacuum packs, refrigerated or frozen. The semi-dried are usually simmered for about 10 minutes to prepare them for stir fry, the fresh several minutes less. The dried needs to be soaked over night, then cooked like the semi-dried. The photo specimens, semi-dried, made in USA, were typically 1.9 inches long, 1 inch across and 0.19 inch thick, cut diagonally from a 1 inch diameter cylindar. Sweet Rice, Salt, Water, Wheat Starch (wheat starch is gluten free, but versions without that ingredient can be had).

Rice Cake Sticks   -   [345, Tteokguk-yong-tteok (Korea)]
Cylindrical Rice Noodles 345

These are quite popular in Korea, where they are made up with a mild chili sauce and sold by street vendors as a snack. The photo specimens were 2 inches long and 1/2 inch diameter, purchased from a Korean market in Los Angeles, refrigerated in a 23 ounce vacuum packed bag. Ingred: Rice, Salt, Water.

Fresh Rice Noodles - precut
Precut Rice Noodles These are precut fresh rice noodles. They are just like the more common sheet form but precut to a particular width - you just need to unfold and fluff them for use. All other conditions and handling are exactly as for the sheet form described above.

Rach Gia - Cheesecloth Noodles
Cheesecloth Noodle Sheets This Vietnamese form is a bit unusual. It's sold in folded sheets just like other fresh noodle forms but the sheets are composed of a roving of thin strands - it looks a lot like a folded up sheet of cheesecloth.

I'm not sure yet just how this one is used, officially, but in one of my experiments I deep fried it to produce something very like vegetarian pork rinds.

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