Types of Asian Noodles and Their Cooking Times

Bowl of Hanoi pho in mid-bite
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Cellophane, ramen, egg and rice noodles – Asian cuisines have a large variety of noodles for you to slurp up, and enjoy. When it comes to preparing them yourself, it can be a bit daunting. Differences in ingredients, thickness and consistency can make for a wide variety of eating experiences. (Though all are delicious!)

Keep in mind that the preparation times here are just recommended times and approximations. The actual cooking time will vary, especially depending on your own tastes. If, for example, you like your noodles al dente, then you might want to cook them for a little bit shorter of a time than what is recommended here. If you like your noodles softer, cook them a little bit longer. 

Cellophane Noodles

Cellophane Noodles are also known as Chinese vermicelli, bean threads, bean thread noodles, crystal noodles, glass noodles, and mung bean noodles. These noodles – which are made from the starch of the mung bean, potato starch, and water – are transparent when they're cooked.

Before they're cooked, these noodles are solid and dry. Before cooking, you should soak cellophane noodles in warm water until they soften, usually around 15 minutes. After that first step, prepare them however you like, whether it's boiling them in water, stir-frying them, adding them to a soup or deep frying them and use them as garnish for a dish.

Boiling the cellophane noodles takes between 3 to 5 minutes. Stir-frying them will take 8 to 9 minutes and deep-frying only takes about 1 to 2 minutes until they are crispy.

Another interesting fact about cellophane noodles is apart from stir frying them or adding to soups, a lot of vegetarian dumplings, pastries or wontons in the East use chopped cellophane noodles as a main ingredient for the fillings.

Egg Noodles

This noodle is made of egg, wheat flour, and water. You can use this noodle for stir fries or making noodle soup. To prepare this noodle, if it’s a fresh noodle, you need to boil it in boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes until it’s al dente. If your egg noodles are dry, you'll need to boil them for 4 to 6 minutes until they're al dente.

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are made of rice, flour, and water and sometimes other ingredients like tapioca or corn starch. The addition of the tapioca or corn starch will change the noodles themselves including the transparency and texture.

You can use rice noodles to make rice noodle soup, stir-fries or boil them in stock and mix with sauce. You need to soak rice noodles in warm water for about 10 minutes to soften them before cooking them. Stir-frying should take you about 8 minutes. If they look like they're getting a little dry while you fry, feel free to add in some water or stock. If you boil them in soup it should only take 1 to 2 minutes for them to be ready.

Rice Sticks

Rice sticks are a thinner and wider version of rice noodles. You can use them in soups or stir fries. No matter which way you decide to eat them, you'll want to soak them in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes first. After that, they cook pretty much the same as rice noodles.

Rice Papers

Rice papers are made of rice flour and water. You can use them to wrap spring rolls. Make sure to dip them in warm water before using them.

Wheat Flour

These are made of wheat flour and water. Wheat flour noodles have many different forms in the East. They can be very long strips, cut into waves, helixes, tubes, strings, shells or folded over. This is the most commonly used noodle in the East.

You can make noodle soup, chow mein, boil it in stock, or mix with some delicious sauce.

If you boil fresh noodles it'll take around 2 to 3 minutes. Boiling them from dry will take 4 to 6 minutes. Of course the cooking time depends on the shape and thickness of the noodle you’re working with.

Substitutions

Italian pasta makes a good stand-in for egg and wheat flour noodles. Which pasta you choose depends on the shape on the shape and thickness of the noodle you are replacing. For example, you can use thin angel hair pasta to replace rice noodles and cellophane noodles, while fettuccine makes a good replacement for wheat flour noodles.