The name says it all – rice noodles are noodles made using rice flour and water. However, sometimes other ingredients such as corn starch or tapioca may be added to improve the noodles’ gelatinous and chewing texture or their transparency. Rice noodles are delicious, nutritious, and very easy to make. A half-cup of rice noodles contains 96 calories, 0.15g of healthy unsaturated fats, 0.9g of fiber, and 3mg of folic acid.
They’re common in a lot of Asian cuisines especially in East Asia and Southeast Asia. There are different varieties of rice noodles available in various forms such as frozen, dried, or fresh. All these forms also come in different shapes, textures, and thicknesses. You may also find another variety of rice noodles that’s brown in color. This is made from brown rice and is a great alternative to wheat flour-based noodles for people who have wheat or gluten allergies.
Different types of rice noodles
All rice noodles start as a mixture of flour and water as the main ingredients. These two are made into a paste that is then rolled out on a flat surface and heated with steam. Once it has cooked through, it’s then cut up into pieces. The rice noodles can be cut into a wide range of shapes from thick folded sheets, fat fettuccine strips, thin spaghetti-like strands, to vermicelli also known as rice sticks.
After being cut into the different forms, the rice noodles are then sold either fresh or dried.
Fresh rice noodles
These are highly perishable and only last for a few days before going bad.
When fresh noodles are left to sit for a day or two, they tend to become hard and this makes them quite difficult to work with. To makes sure that they don’t lose their tenderness, wrap them in a plastic bag and store in the fridge. Whenever you need to use the frozen noodles just warm them in the microwave for about a minute.
When making fresh rice noodles, you don’t need to soak them as they’re “ready-to-cook” all you need to do is blanch the noodles briefly for about a minute or two in boiling water. This not only helps to soften them further but is also helpful in preserving the nutrients and color.
The next step is to drain the boiling water. Refresh with cold water and then drain again. The noodles may then be used in stir-fries and other dishes.
Dried rice noodles
Drying the noodles helps to remove the moisture content and, therefore, extends the noodles’ shelf life. The dried rice noodles have a clear appearance but when they’re cooked they turn white and have a distinctive chewiness.
How to make rice noodles: The cooking basics
Rice noodles are used in a lot of East Asian recipes. The dishes may be served hot, cold, in soups, in salads, or rolled up into spring rolls. They’re highly preferred over their wheat counterparts due to their lightness and chewy texture.
The only problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to prepare them properly for cooking but we’re here to help.
Should I soak or boil dried rice noodles?
Dried rice noodles are prepared in a slightly different way as compared to fresh noodles. If you stir-fry them directly they’ll be too crunchy and inedible. There are two main methods that are preferred in the preparation of dried rice noodles before cooking them.
Here’s how you should soften the dried noodles into the perfect softness for popular dished like pad Thai and spring rolls:
For thinner noodles:
Place the dried rice noodles in a bowl and add hot water over them until they’re completely submerged. Allow the noodles to soak for about 5 minutes. When they become soft, you can then drain the water, refresh with cold water and then drain again.
The noodles are now ready for use in different recipes.
For thick noodles:
Add the dried rice noodles in a pot of boiling water. Stir the noodles for about a minute to loosen them up and then turn off the heat. Allow the noodles to sit in the hot water for another couple of minutes until they achieve the desired tenderness. This might take upwards of 10 minutes depending on their thickness.
Drain the hot water, refresh with cold water, and drain again. The noodles are now ready for use in recipes as directed.
Other preparation tips:
Rice noodles are so easy to prepare that a lot of people hardly think of it as cooking. Here are a few extra tips to help you cook rice noodles:
- A lot of packages give instructions that the noodles should be soaked in cold water to make them soft. This will take an eternity and doesn’t in any way contribute to a better texture so it’s best if you just use boiling water.
- Try as much as possible not to snap the noodles as you’re removing them from the package
- Be very careful when boiling the noodles as they can get mushy so easily. As they’re boiling, keep testing the consistency until they become as soft as you want them to be. if you miss the transition window you’ll end up with a goopy and gloppy mess
- As you’re softening the noodles in water, keep stirring to make sure that they’re not stuck to each other. This keeps the noodles evenly spread out in the pan. You may use a spatula to separate them.
- Refresh the tender noodles with cold water to stop further cooking
- Don’t boil the noodles for too long as this will cause them to release too much starch. This is what helps the noodles to maintain their structural integrity
- Toss the rice noodles with sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together if you’re not going to use them immediately. The oil makes the noodles slippery so instead of sticking together they slide against each other. However, you will notice that even with the oil the noodles tend to clump up a little. Don’t worry – they’ll loosen up again when added to the dish.
- Move fast and cook the meal on medium to high heat so that the moisture evaporates quickly. Once the noodles have softened remove them from the boiling water quickly.
- If you want to use the noodles in a stir-fry dish, you might have to undercook them a bit. As they cook in the stir-fry dish, they’ll absorb moisture and cook the rest of the way through. When you boil the noodles until they’re perfectly cooked before using them in the recipe, they’ll be overcooked by the time you’re done
- Lastly, if you want to use the rice noodles in a soup, they’re no need to soften them up first. Just add them directly into the broth; that way they won’t overcook
How do I correct overcooked rice noodles?
Rice noodles are very time-sensitive when they’re being cooked. The quantity of water and the amount of stirring also affect how the noodles come out.
They can get overcooked very easily and end up with an unpleasant and mushy texture. When you’re a bit slow in the cooking and somehow the noodles boil for too long, they get soggy. But that doesn’t mean that you have to throw them out. This happens because the noodles change their glycemic index which alters their overall nutritional value.
How do you save the overcooked noodles from the sticky situation?
- For starters, you can fix them the old fashioned way using water and ice. Do this by rinsing the overcooked noodles with cold water. Put some ice cube on top of the noodles and continue rinsing them to help make the water even colder. This works by immediately stopping the cooking process and rinsing away the starch coating which would otherwise cause the noodles to get stuck together
- If the noodles are overcooked but they’re not mushy or falling apart, you can fix them by adding a little oil and allowing them to air dry. Lay out the moist noodles in a single layer on a large plate then leave them out for about half an hour.
Although they won’t completely return to their original state, they’ll be much better.
- You can mask the mushiness by covering the noodles in a rich sauce and mixing them well. The sauce helps to take away the slimy look and taste leaving you with delicious and slightly soft noodles. Adding crunchy vegetables to the dish is also very helpful in adding texture to it and masking the mushiness
- Another way you can save the situation is by throwing the overcooked noodles in a pan with a little butter or oil and sautéing them on low heat. This makes the noodles crispy and voila – dinner is saved
- Have you ever heard of a noodle pancake? Yes – you can make these out of overcooked noodles. If you like, you can add eggs to the noodles and mix well. Fry the pancakes using butter or olive oil. In no time you’ll have yourself a delicious meal.
What are some rice noodles serving suggestions?
Rice noodles are a very filling meal and there are several ways to serve rice noodles. The different dishes are predominantly eaten using chopsticks although you may use a spoon especially if there’s some soup in it.
Rice noodles are the main ingredient in so many Asian-inspired stir-fries like pad Thai. The other common ingredients used in making the dish include eggs, fish sauce, red chili pepper, tamarind juice, among other proteins and vegetables.
The partly cooked noodles are added to the stir-fry ingredients shortly before serving. So you should make sure that everything else is fully cooked.
In soups and sauces
Rice noodles also work very well with a lot of Asian-inspired soups. The best way to make the noodle soup is to add the dried noodles directly to the broth and keep watching the noodles so that they don’t overcook. Alternatively, you can add the partly cooked noodles to the hot broth but remove them from the heat so that they can finish cooking without direct heating.
When it comes to making saucy noodles, you should also add the noodles just before getting the pot off the heat and serving. Just allow a little time so that the noodles can soak up the sauces.
You can put fresh or fully-cooked rice noodles in salads together with mixed fresh leafy vegetables and a tangy dressing. The rice noodles add an amazing texture to the salads
As spring rolls
Spring rolls are a large variety of filled and rolled appetizers common in Asian cuisine that may either be served fresh or fried. Although the kind of filling used varies, rice noodles are quite commonly used. They’re preferred because their stickiness helps cement the filling together and glue the wrappers together. The wrappers aren’t very thick ad so they turn out to be very crispy.
Another reason why rice noodles are used in making spring rolls is that they stretch the ingredients without competing with flavors. The spring rolls easily soak up all the tantalizing flavors of the dipping sauce.
Rice noodles can either be made fresh at home or bought from the store. Thanks to their distinctive texture and delicate taste, they may be used as the base in a wide range of savory dishes.
The noodles are usually long and thin which makes them very delicate and fragile as compared to their wheat counterparts. The noodles cook notably fast meaning that one has to be extra careful when cooking them to avoid making a noodle mush by cooking the noodles for so long. The tips we gave are also applicable when cooking other types of noodles such as the potato starch noodles and the glass noodles.
We hope that now you’re in a better position to make rice noodles that come out tender yet firm every time.