In Asia, noodles are one of the most versatile foods, found in dishes everywhere from the fare of street vendors to the tables at lavish traditional ceremonies. Noodle dishes, symbolic of happiness, health, friendship, and commitment, are an important staple in Asian cuisines. Their sweet, salty, and earthy flavors have made them popular in the United States as well, and it’s not unusual to find some of these noodles stocked in mainstream grocery stores–especially piles of packaged ramen!
Here, we’ve put together a list of Asian noodles, some common and some a bit less well-known, as well as easy dishes for you to try them out in. And don’t be afraid to slurp your noodles as you eat—unlike in America, many Asian cultures actually encourage slurping!
Soba noodles are native to Japan, traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve as a symbol of longevity. Made from buckwheat flour, these noodles have a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture—try them warm, like in this sesame chicken dish, or chilled in a noodle salad.
Udon noodles are the thickest type of Japanese noodle, made from wheat flour, salt, and water. In order to achieve the characteristic chewiness of the noodles, it’s not uncommon for udon makers to knead the stiff dough with their feet! These noodles are most commonly served in a brothy soup, generally flavored with mirin and soy sauce.
Forget the instant kind—fresh ramen noodles have a springy bite that comes from the mixture of wheat flour, egg, and salt. There are many varieties of ramen noodle, from wavy to straight, thin to thick, and just as many variations of broth. Although the dish originated in China, it became popular in Japan in the late 1800s, and is now ubiquitous in Japanese cities.
Cellophane noodles, also known as glass noodles, are called so because they become translucent when cooked. These noodles are made from mung bean, yam, or potato starches, which means they are naturally gluten-free; they are also quite versatile, and are used in a variety of East Asian cuisines, including Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes, like our Yu Choy Cellophane Noodle Stir Fry. Try them in our cod with Szechuan sauce for another take! They’re also the noodle used for filling summer rolls.
The noodle used in Vietnamese pho, rice noodles are also common in Chinese, Thai, and Malaysian cooking. Made from rice flour and water, these noodles are naturally gluten-free—you can find them either fresh or dried in Asian markets. We usually use thin ones for Pad Thai and slightly wider ribbons for Pad See Ew, as well as an assortment for all these delicious dishes.
The word “lo mein” comes from the Cantonese term for stirred, or tossed, noodles. Contrary to popular belief, these wheat noodles are not usually stir fried, but are simply tossed with sauce after being boiled. The noodles are then mixed with meat, seafood, or veggies, like in our spring vegetable version.
These Chinese wheat noodles get their name from the dish they’re usually found in—wonton noodle soup! Known for their yellow color, these noodles have a chewiness that comes from the addition of egg in the dough. This makes them great for soaking up curries and other sauces in heartier dishes.