Asia's Finest Noodles: Delightful & Delicious Delicacies
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Asia's Best Noodles: Delightful and Delicious

Noodles. Such a simple, easy store cupboard staple. Something that here in the UK we take for granted and yet hardly understand. We all remember the instant noodles that were pretty much the “go to” quick and cheap meal we resorted to when we were first setting out in our own place. Those same instant noodles kept us going through the afternoon when the only thing we had at work to make hot food with was a kettle. Many of us even have find memories of instant noodles – and those instant noodles remain a tasty, quick meal option to this day.

But there is so much more to noodles than that. Many of us do not even know what type of noodles we were eating from those instant noodle cups. Indeed, many of us were only vaguely aware that there were many kinds of noodle. For what it’s worth, those instant noodles were almost certainly Ramen, but Ramen is only the tip of Asia’s noodle iceberg – as a trip to any Asian supermarket will quickly demonstrate.

After all, when you think of the food cultures of Asia Noodles are one of the first things that come to mind. Asia is the home of some of the most delicious and delightful noodles that the world has to offer. From the delicately thin rice noodles of Vietnam to the thick and chewy wheat based noodles of China, there is an Asian noodle style for everyone to enjoy.

Perhaps the best known is a relative newcomer to the field. Ramen is a Japanese wheat based noodle style popular in noodle soups and is the “go to” noodle style for instant noodle products too. With a pleasingly chewy texture and relatively mild flavour Ramen noodles are a fantastic base for all manner of dishes because they allow the flavours of other ingredients to shine.

Also popular in Japan are the thick, wheat based Udon noodles which are often used in stir fried dishes and hot soups. Like ramen noodles Udon noodles have a subtle flavour which makes them fantastic flavour carriers for other ingredients. Their thickness makes them much more chewy , and means that they add a satisfying bite to a dish.

Perhaps less well known in the UK, Soba noodles are a Japanese noodle style which is made from buckwheat, rather than wheat flour. They are typically thinner than Ramen they still have a pleasant, slightly chewy texture. This noodle style can be eaten either hot or cold, and is often served with a dipping sauce called tsuyu. This noodle style is an excellent source of dietary both fibre and protein, with the added advantage of also being low in both calories and fat.

Popular in Southern China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Wonton noodles are a type of Chinese egg noodle with a long history – they are believed to have originated in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). Often served in a hot broth, garnished with leafy vegetables and wonton dumplings. The types of leafy vegetables used are usually gai-lan, also known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale for a healthy and hearty dish.

Asian supermarket

Also popular in China is the wheat based noodle known as Biang biang. These thick, wide noodles are celebrated for their chewy texture and distinctive shape, which is created with a traditional rolling pin. Like other wheat flour noodles Biang biang noodles are fabulous carriers of flavours and are often served in soups or stir-fries, as a Lamian noodles, a long and thin spaghetti like wheat flour noodle that is very popular in China.

If we head south from China into the Korean peninsula you will discover an entirely different kind of noodle. Jajangmyeon noodles are thick, black noodles which are made using wheat flour and kansui. They are often with a black bean sauce, while Naengmyeon noodles, made with buckwheat flour and water have a slightly nutty flavour and are often served in a delicious cold noodle soup made with a beef broth and vegetables – an entirely different noodle experience.

All of this and we have not even scratched the surface of the noodles which enrich and enliven the many food cultures of Asia. Noodles are one of the two main carbohydrates in Asian cuisine (the other being the many and varied varieties of rice) and provide up to twenty percent of the calories consumed across the continent of Asia.

But just as there is more to potatoes and bread in European food culture, noodles are about more than just calories. Like spaghetti in Italian food noodles are often used as a delivery system for strongly flavoured sauces, providing texture, structure and body to dishes which might otherwise feel unsatisfying, however tasty they might be. In more subtly flavoured dishes noodles can often add additional notes of flavour which add to the complexity of a dish.

Of course, you may find that your local supermarket, much like this article, cannot offer the full range of Asian noodle styles because they simply do not have the space. If you really want to explore the complexities of Asian noodles you will need to pay a visit to a really good Asian supermarket – either in person or online - where you will be able to source every kind of noodle you could possibly need. More than that you will also be able to speak to people who can help you find the noodles style you need for the dish you want to make. This is important because while noodles are incredibly versatile there are some dishes that really do call for a particular noodle variety.

That said, the versatility of noodles also means that you can have a lot of fun experimenting and inventing your own dishes. Rehydrated in hot water and then stir fried with whatever vegetables and proteins you have to hand noodles can be delightful and delicious in a quickly improvised evening meal. Add tofu and vegetables for a satisfying vegetarian meal. Switch out the tofu for chicken, pork, beef, lamb or bacon – each will give you an entirely different flavour experience.

Then there are the many variations on sauce. Everything from broths, which turn noodles into a tasty and satisfying soup style dish, to thick or sticky sauces that cling to the noodles for an entirely different experience of flavour and texture. Fried noodles can even be crispy to add yet another layer of texture. Truly, the possibilities are endless and the only limit is your imagination.

This, really, is what makes noodles so appealing. They can be used as part of traditional recipes for an authentic meal experience that diners across Asia would recognise. Or you can bring your own tastes and food culture to bear and create something that is entirely new and exclusively yours. Either way you will end up with some delightfully delicious meals that you can create in minutes but that will more than deliver in terms of flavour and satisfaction.

So take a trip to your online Asian supermarket and discover just how delightful and delicious meals made with noodles can be.