A quick guide to noodles for sensational Asian cooking

It’s the new year… 2020! Bring it on.

And usually it’s when everyone feels guilty about their December fun and (over) indulgences so try for all things ‘January’or ‘-uary’

  • Veganuary
  • Dry-January
  • Meat-free January
  • Ginuary (personal favourite)
  • January-fitness challenge

… you get the drift.


I’m not going to give up meat.

But, as a family, we had already begun reducing our meat last year and going back to having meat as a treat.

We’ve always sourced locally (and in 2019 we reared our own pig).

For me, January is just January but like everyone else, I do feel the need to re-group a little.

So, I’m focusing on Asian recipes this week.

Light and packed with flavour

Refreshing flavours, spicy kick and packed-full with veggies to help you feel cleansed from the Xmas festivities.

Later this week I’ll share a great recipe for Japanese Pork.

But first, a little background on the types of noodles that are out there.

Noodle groups

Three types:

  • wheat noodles (4 types)
  • rice noodles
  • glass or cellophane noodles

Great in broths, stir-fries, deep-fried, hot or cold.

The basics about wheat noodles

There are 4 types of wheat noodles…

  • Ramen – a thin, curly wheat noodle.
  • Somen – a thin wheat noodle that isn’t curly.
  • Udon – a thick wheat noodle.
  • Soba – a buckwheat noodle that can be gluten-free

All these can be served hot, cold, boiled, fried, and topped with various vegetables, meat, or fish.

Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are actually a Chinese invention that the Japanese took to.

Think ‘instant noodles‘. This is th emost common you’ll find.

They’re thinner than Udon noodles and are treated with an alkaline ingredient called kansui, which makes them curly.

Best served in a broth flavoured with salt, soy sauce, miso, or pork, along with various kinds of vegetables, meat, and other toppings.

Ramen noodles are thin so don’t overcook them.

Cook as per packet instructions but fresh noodles cook for approx 3 minutes.

Substitute: Ramen are thinner than udon (although you could use instead of) but try rice noodles, vermicelli pasta, or thin spaghetti.

Udon noodles

Udon noodles are fat and chewy.

Best to used in a broth much like ramen.

Cook Time: 5–10 minutes (fresh), 8–12 minutes (dried)

Substitute:  Udon noodles are uniquely springy and slippery so the next closest are Soba noodles but you could also use ramen but these are much thinner.

Soba noodles

Made from wheat and buckwheat flour which makes them light to dark brown.

They also a nuttier flavour and are more spaghetti-like.

Best served cold with a dipping sauce.

Substitute: Udon but these are a bit thicker

Somen noodles

Somen are white Japanese noodles and are very thin.

After boiling (takes about 1 minute) you always need to rinse them. 

Best served cold with a dipping sauce called tsuyu.

Substitute: Try angel hair pasta, rice sticks, vermicelli

The basics about rice noodles

Made from rice starch

Not technically a noodle

Their texture is firm, springy and come in all kinds of lengths and widths

Best used for stir fry’s e.g. a classic Pad Thai

Thinner rice noodles are sometimes called rice sticks and go in dishes such as Vietnamese pho, a noodle soup.

Substitutes: For thin rice sticks use glass or cellophane noodles or rice vermicelli and for medium use wide rice noodles OR linguine.

The basics about glass or cellophane noodles

Made from mung bean, potato, sweet potato or tapioca starch.

More pasta type than noodle.

They are white, pale brown or grey and turn translucent (glass-like) after soaking in water.

Often muddled with rice vermicelli.

Boil for 3–5 minutes or soak 10–15 minutes.

Substitutes: Rice vermicelli, soba noodles, angel hair pasta.

So that’s a quick overview of noodles and what to best use them for and can be substituted with.

Check out my pork ramen recipe coming on Thursday…

Do you have any great tips for noodles? Drop me a line…