Noodles are not only the basis of Asian specialty dishes but are a globally celebrated source of carbs. These multi-shaped strips of goodness come in a wide range of colors and textures. No matter where you go in this world you’re sure to find some form of noodles. There are many different types of noodles making it quite difficult to tell the differences between the endless varieties available in the market.
Types of noodles
Asian culture served a plethora of noodles in varying thickness, doused in sauces and spices for the perfect marriage of salty, spicy, and savory tastes. Noodle cuisines may be divided into lightly-cooked and seasoned dishes, spicy dishes, imperial cuisines, and the refined, subtle dishes.
We’ll try as much as possible to differentiate the different types of noodles so that you’ll have an easy time taking your pick. Here is a lay down on the different types of noodles:
Egg noodles are made using wheat and eggs and are quite common in Asian cuisine and they’re also known as E-fu noodles or the Chinese egg noodles.
They come in a wide range of shapes and textures such as thin, thick, flat, round, fresh, dried, etc. Whenever you buy the fresh or dried noodles you have to boil them first before using them in any recipe. The egg noodles may be used in preparing so many different types of dishes including salads and soups.
These are popular in Japanese cuisine. They’re usually long and curly noodles that have been dried into a brick. Just like the egg noodles, ramen noodles are also made from eggs and wheat.
Ramen noodles are preserved by refrigeration until it’s time to use them. When you’re ready to use the noodles, add them to boiling water to soften them and then use the noodles in your preferred recipe immediately.
Ramen noodles are commonly used in soups besides other main course dishes. The toppings, broths, and the savory essence that sits at the bottom of the ramen bowl are all different as you move across different parts of Japan. This is all dependent on the type of tare that is used to prepare the noodles.
The four main, yet very broad categories of ramen noodles are:
- Miso ramen
The miso ramen noodles originate from the northern region of Hokkaido in Japan. They have a strong taste and rich broth. The dish is served with lots of veggies and one boiled egg. Sometimes corn is added to the dish to make it sweeter and to add a contrast in texture.
- Tonkotsu ramen
These noodles are king in Japan and are named for the pork broth that is used. The broth is made using pork bones which are left to simmer for hours until the broth turns whitish. Such a rich and savory broth is truly unforgettable.
- Shoyu ramen
These noodles are soy-based
- Shio ramen
The tare used to make these noodles is made up of a mixture of salty ingredients.
These noodles are more commonly known as white Japanese wheat flour noodles and they form a very important component of South Japanese cuisine.
Udon noodles are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There are instant, dried, pre-cooked, and shrink-wrapped varieties and they all have to be softened by boiling before they’re added to the recipes.
Udon noodles are thick and chewy, They are mostly used in soups and fresh udon noodles are the most flavorful.
Yaki udon is a simple yet delicious dish that is made using udon noodles that have been fried in butter and soy sauce then topped with scallions. Yoki udon is a top choice for bar food in Tokyo – a lot of people take the noodles with a cold beer for the full izakaya experience.
This noodle variety originates from northern Japan and is made from buckwheat. This explains why the noodles are brown in color.
Soba noodles are mostly available dried. So they need to be boiled before they can be added to many recipes. The noodles can be used in a variety of broths as well as hot and cold dishes.
Mung-bean thread noodles
Just as the name suggests, the mung-bean thread noodles made from mung beans. They are either flat or thread-like and translucent – they’re also referred to as cellophane or glass noodles.
The noodles are very hard to cut when dry but they get super soft when you boil or soak them in boiled water. One interesting fact about the mung-bean noodles is that they puff up after they’re fried.
Rice stick noodles
This variety of noodles is flat and translucent. They can either be wide or slender and sold in bundles, making them very easy to identify.
When you go rice-stick noodle shopping, pick the sizes that you want depending on the specific recipe that you’re going to use them in. The best way to use rice stick noodles is in soups, salads, and stir-fries.
These noodles are yellowish and thick in texture. They’re made using wheat flour and eggs. The Hokkien noodles are already pre-cooked and oiled before being sold. They’re used in assorted Asian delicacies although stir-frying the noodles brings out their best flavor.
Hokkien noodles are also commonly used to make curry noodles and soup noodles. For example, Hokkien Mee is an earthy, fragrant prawn stock-based noodle dish that comprises of the Hokkien noodles fried and doused in stock and served with a heap of seafood on the side.
Shirataki noodles are made of the Konjac plant and are usually thin and transparent.
These noodles have low carbs and calories so they are a very good option for people looking for a low carb and low-calorie meal.
Dan Dan noodles
These noodles are a Chinese variant and are Sichuan’s archetypal street snack. Their name is derived from a bamboo pole that was used by vendors to transport the noodles.
Dan Dan noodles involve a splutter of pork mince but they may be used in vegetarian recipes.
These noodles are from South Korea – a country with a staggering wealth of noodles. The noodles are clear, chewy noodles that have been tossed I sesame oil, sesame seeds, a little sugar, soy sauce, and then stir-fried with lots of vegetables. This combination is pretty amazing.
Japchae may be eaten hot, warm, or cold and with lots of sriracha sauce on top or the spicy jjolmyeon sauce.
Other types of noodles …
Apart from the 10 types of noodles we just mentioned, there are here are other types of noodles and popular noodles dishes that are commonly found in Asia.
Pho is the thread that twines together the whole of Vietnam. The traditional pho dish is considered to be one of the best noodle soups in the world. It’s made up of beef, broth, and rice vermicelli noodles. However, these ingredients may change depending on what part of Vietnam you are in.
There’s nothing more deliciously satisfying than a hot bowl of pho topped with beef and chilies. That’s why pho tops the list of the best Asian noodle dishes.
There are two main iterations of pho. There’s the pho bo that contains beef and the pho ga that contains chicken.
- Pad Thai
This is literally Thailand’s most famous noodle dish. It made up of rice noodles with eggs and chilies that are mixed together in fish sauce. The toppings used are cilantro and peanuts. If you like you can also add a squeeze of fresh lime to bring all the beautiful flavors together.
- Mohinga – Burma
This fish broth-based dish is Myanmar’s most populous meal. The dish comprises noodles soup made with lemon-grass, flour, stems of a banana, and fish sauce although the condiments may vary from one recipe to another.
- Bakso – Mee Goreng
This Indonesian dish is a favorite among many people not only in Indonesia but also in Malaysia and Singapore. Although every vendor and chef has their own special way of making these noodles, it’s usually made using meatballs in a savory broth with thin noodles.
The best bakso version is spicy, tangy, and a little sweet, cooked with chicken and topped with a fried egg. Eat this dish by the roadside off a vendor’s cart and you’ll be on cloud nine.
This is one dish we guarantee that you’re going to fall in love with in Malaysia.
Laksa is a coconut-milk based noodle dish with fish balls, egg, and sometime shrimp. Some of the spice ingredients added include ginger and turmeric that are smoothened by the creamy coconut milk.
Malaysian Chicken Laksa comprises of thick rice noodles in a spicy and creamy broth. The dish has so much depth as the ingredients come together harmoniously. You’ll keep on slurping until the very last drop.
- Kao Piak Sen – Laos
This rice noodle soup is one noodle dish that you ought to try. The noodles are very soft but still chewy and drenched in a light broth. You may serve the noodles with anything from chicken to beef to pork sauces.
- Chow mien
This delicious fast food is quite cheap and easily available. The Chinese chow mien noodles are stir-fried with vegetables in a simple yet satisfying way.
If you have a craving for the vegetable chow mien you can order in every now and then.
Omusaba is a popular bar food in Japan. It’s made by wrapping yakisoba noodles in an omelet and topping it with a sweet and tangy sauce that’s similar to Worcestershire sauce. The dish is hearty, filling, and worthy to be shared amongst friends and family.
- Mee Krob
This is delicious central Thailand dish is almost certainly the be-all and end-all of Thai noodle dishes. It’s made using thin, sticky noodles that have been fried until they’re crisp.
- Khao Suey
Khao Suey is another very popular noodle dish that’s believed to have originated from the northern part of Thailand. It’s made using chicken noodles with a coconut milk base.
- Yen Ta Fo
Yen Ta Fo is a reddish broth with flat noodles. The dish is seasoned with tofu, fish balls, fish cake, blood, and crackers.
If you’re planning to visit North Thailand, you ought to try the mondhi which is a dish made of noodles that have been twined around pieces of fish and/or chicken.
- Sen Jan Phat Puu
This dish comprised of thin rice noodles mixed with crab.
Different types of noodles depending on how they’re made and on how they look
Noodles may also be categorized depending on how they’re made, how they’re shaped, and how they’re served. Here’s a list of 20 types of noodles followed by a short description of each:
- Hand-pulled noodles
These are known as lā miàn in Chinese.
This is one type of noodles that you’ll most probably find in different parts of China. When you visit most restaurants, you’ll have the pleasure of watching as the dough is stretched several times and cut to make the delicious noodles.
The hand-pulled noodles are paired with beef considering the fact that most of these hotels are owned by Muslims who don’t eat pork.
- Knife-cut noodles
These are known as dāo xiāo miàn in Chinese. Making these noodles requires mastery of the special noodle making-art that only a few chefs have mastered.
They’re legendary noodles that are quite popular in Shanxi province. To make these noodles, take a knife and use it to cut dough that had been rolled out flat, into short flat noodles. The noodles are then put into a pot of hot water.
- Hot-dry noodles
These are known as rè gān miàn in Chinese and are a specialty in Wuhan.
The noodles are quite different from other types of noodles that are cooked in soups. These noodles are first mixed with oil and then dried. Just before serving, the noodles are put back in hot water to be mixed with other ingredients.
The main ingredients are soy sauce and vegetables.
- Fried noodles
These are known as chǎo miàn in Chinese.
The dish is one of the few that are found on menus in almost all hotels found in Western China. It’s also a popular street food dish that’s pretty affordable and very delicious.
- Cold noodles variety 1
These are known as liáng miàn in Chinese.
This is simple dish is very popular on the streets. It is served with chopped cucumbers and a little chili sauce. If you like sesame sauce you can add it too for an even tastier dish.
- Cold noodles variety 2
These are known as liáng pí in Chinese.
This is another variety of cold noodles that has a lot of similarity to the first variety. The main difference is that the noodles used in this case are flat and thicker. The noodles used in liáng miàn are skinny and string-like.
- Cat ear noodles
These are known as māo ěr duo in Chinese.
This dish is from Shanxi and gets its name from the noodles shape – they look like the ears of a cat. Unlike other noodle dishes that are popular in Shanxi province, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find this variety outside the province. This means that if you have a craving for māo ěr duo, you might have to go all the way to Shanxi to enjoy the dish.
- Fried sauce noodles
These are known as zhá jiàng miàn in Chinese.
The noodle dish is very common in Beijing. It’s made up of noodles made from wheat with Zhejiang sauce topping. To make the sauce, you can either stir-frying minced beef or pork in a paste that’s made from fermenting soybeans. The dish is commonly served with chopped vegetables like cucumbers to add to the texture.
This noodle dish is something you have to try several times to get acquitted to the taste.
- Yunnan rice noodles
These are known as yún nán guò qiáo mǐ xiàn in Chinese.
The dish is quite a feast –you are given several plates of different condiments then you can do the mixing how you like it.
- Guilin rice noodles
These are known as mǐ fěn in Chinese.
The noodles originate from Guilin and are pretty popular across the region. You will most likely find this dish in every corner of the streets. Once you order the noodles, you’re at the liberty of mixing them with whatever ingredients that you like. The main ingredients used include scallions, peppers, and pickled vegetables.
Each type of noodle has a unique shape that adds to its special qualities. The shape determines what cooking method is best applicable, what ingredients should be added and what sauces to pair them with. Despite the shape, most noodles are made using similar ingredient meaning that their nutritional value is essentially the same.
Here is a list of eight types of noodles based on their shapes:
Zoodles are a popular noodles alternative among the health-conscious community. These spiralized vegetable noodles are long, thin strips of zucchini that almost look like spaghetti. Replacing noodles with zoodles is a great way to boost the nutritional value of a dish.
They cook for approximately 5 to 10 minutes and are best paired with meat, pesto sauces, or tomatoes.
Penne is a pantry staple. They are short with a tube-shape and are suitable for a wide variety of sauces and pairings, from chunky meat sauces to delicate creams and vegetables. Penne cooks in about 9 to 13 minutes.
The name pappardelle is derived from the word “pappare” which means gobble up. Although pappardelle is not a popular household staple, these flat noodles are popularly used for popular dishes like Bolognese among other hearty meat sauce dishes.
The cook time is approximately 7-10 minutes.
The name orecchiette means “little ears” attributed to the concave shape that resembles human ears. These noodles work very well with whatever they’re served with be it vegetables, meats, or white wine sauces.
Orecchiette noodles are a great carrier for stronger flavors and cook in approximately 9 to 12 minutes.
These fun-shaped noodles are very versatile and can be used in most recipes that call for short noodles.
Farfalle pairs pretty well with tomatoes sauces, light vegetable sauces, as well as meat sauces. The cook time is approximately 13 to 15 minutes.
Fusilli noodles are spiral-shaped and they give an unexpected twist to any dish. These noodles also pair pretty well with any type of sauce including meat and cheese sauces. They make great summer salads and you can enjoy them while you’re out on a picnic with your loved ones. The cook time is between 11 to 13 minutes.
These noodles are flat, ribbon-like and resemble pappardelle. The only difference is that pappardelle is wider. Fettuccine is quite sturdy and can hold up a variety of sauces.
Fettuccine also cooks for about is 11 to 13 minutes and one of its most popular dishes is the Fettuccine Alfredo.
Capellini is very thin with a diameter of between 0.85 and 0.92 mm. Long and delicate strands of capellini should be paired with light sauces; if heavy sauces are used the noodles will get lost in there.
These noodles cook for about 5 to 6 minutes.
It’s so hard not to fall in love with a bowl of nicely done noodles. No matter where you travel to in this world, you’ll be sure to find a variety of noodles that’ll seduce your taste buds –the varieties are endless. In this article, we’re pretty sure that we didn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg. The types of noodles are far too many to try and cover in one blog post
You can never go wrong with pasta. From hosting a dinner party to feeding your kids, pasta is a crowd-pleaser through and through — in part because of its versatility and endless flavor combinations. Did you know, it’s estimated that there are 350 different types of pasta? That’s a lot of noodles!