Noodles are basic food in many civilizations. Many people love them and they are regarded a high trend. Most of the people know them as instant and very cheap food.However, this dish carries a very interesting heritage.
Legend says that Marko Polo brought pasta from China, but Italy and China had already discovered them long before his journey.
Undoubtedly, China is the homeland of the noodles, where it is said that they have been discovered 4000 ago. It may sound strange to you, but this dish was regarded a lavish one.They were indeed hard-to-find and the first ones were made from millet seeds. They did not play a significant role in the history of chinese cuisine, until the second world war.
Asian noodles are divided into three basic categories: wheaten noodles, rice noodles, cellophane or glass noodles. They are made from four basic ingredients : wheaten or rice flour, or cereal starches, salr and water.They are made from dough without yeast from which thin bands and strings are created.They can be maintained in the fridge or they can be dehydrated for future use. They are cooked in boiled water, sometimes after we add olive oil and salt.
What is the difference between the chinese and the japanese noodles? Chinese dishes emphasize on the pasta. You will find a wide variety of flours (like buckwheat flour, beans flour, seaweed flour etc), that are different in the act of chewing. Also, handmade noodles are a special part of the chinese dishes with noodles, while the japanese dishes emphasize on the stock, the topping and the flavour.
If you have ever been in an Asian supermarket, you know that the wide noodles variety in the market can easily confuse someone that happens to be unfamiliar with the noodles topic and wants to prepare at home a noodles dish. There is a difference between following a recipe and buy the necessary product and trying to experiment with the noodles.
In this case, you would like to know some further information about each product, won’t you?
Asian noodles are divided into three basic categories as we have mentioned before. In many cases, each category can be served with many ways, such as in a stock, fried, cold or hot..
Wheat is the most popular cereal to make noodles in Asia and all over the world and they are mainly made with flour and eggs just like italian pasta. There is an important difference! The pasta dough is formed and then it is cut into strips, while in the most Asian egg noodles the dough is stretched.
This functions as a gluten processing just like in the formation, however, the result differs in the texture, as the noodles are more flexible than their italian relatives.
Lo Mein & Chow Mein
These are the two most common types of chinese wheat noodles. They contain eggs and they are cylindrical, just like spaghetti, but they are thicker.Both of them are available in fresh as well as in dehydrated form. If you are like enough to be near an Asian grocery, opt the fresh ones.
Both the fresh and the dehydrated varieties should be boiled for a short period of time ( the dehydrated ones a little bit more but it depends on their thickness) and that makes them lightly expand and acquire the desirable flavour that is called al dente in the italian cuisine.Once they are boiled, they are cooked with fried meat or vegetables and sauce or they can be fried themselves in order to be more crispy.
Chow mein are usually more crispy while lo mein are softer. So, if we can have a choice, the fresh ones are more preferable for lo mein. In addition, we can often replace them with the italian vermicelli, or angel hair pasta.
Another variety of egg noodles that are quite popular are the Japanese ramen the procession of which occurs with an alkaline water, called kansui, that makes them curly.Κansui contains sodium carbonate, potassium carbonate and usually a small amount of phosphoric acid. Thinner than the chow mein and the lo mein, the ramen are traditionally served in a stock flavored with salt, soy sauce, miso (soy beans sauce with plenty of valuable probiotic) or pork along with different kinds of vegerables, meat and other toppings.
Ramen noodles, should not be overboiled, as they are quite thin and are soften very easily. The variety of instant ramen is undoubtedly quite attractive if you take a look at the shelves of the supermakets in Asia and in all over the world. The authentic ramen restaurants, serve them fresh and are available in asian grocery.
Many years ago, when China and Japan were rivals (in the early 90s), Japan was starting to build an empire and tried to be imposed on china. At that time, the Japanese familiarize themselves with Shina Soba, or ‘China soba,’ noodles that were more yellow and longer than theirs. During that period, selling food on the streets was forbidden, so the so called ramen were solding illegally and in a short period of time they were in great demand.
They started as a chinese soup that some people claim that reached Japan through the Asian traders in 19th century and as many favourite foods they were initially a cheap food for the workers and the farmers.Then, it became a national food and during the 80s it was a Japanese national fad that continues up to now.
A remarkable fact, is that in Yokahoma city, there is the ramen museum, that is dedicated to our favourite noodles soup, a faithful representation of Tokio in 1958, the year in which Nissin Food company added some extra ingredients and made the noodles instant.
This was the biggest food invention in the 20th century!
The Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi took with him instant noodles when he went to the space in 2005.The Nissin Food company invented again anti-gravity noodles in the shape of a ball in order to be consumed more easily by the astronauts.
Acoording to chefs, there are two basic stocks that are used for ramen. In Japan they are called kotteri (rich,thick) and assari (light). The thick and creamy kotteri stocks are made from bones that have been slowly boiled for some days.The transparent and light stocks assari are made from boiled bones, vegetables or fish that have been slowly boiled, but for a shorter period of time so that the stock will not blur. The stock varieties are used depending on the region as well as the season.
Udon noodles are another favourite variety in Japan, but οpposite to the ramen, udon are thick and gooey and make your mouth feel filled. Generally, they are accompanied by stock and are usually seld freshand while they are available in a dehydrated and frozen form in the market as well, the fresh ones have a better texture.
Soba in Japanese means buckwheat, while nagano soba is the combination of buckwheat and wheat. Soba noodles are a special product for a number of reasons. One of them is the buckwheat flour that whether it is added to the wheat flour or is used on its own, it gives them a special flavour, texture and colour.Another reason, is that, instead of being served hot, they are usually served cold, along with a tasty sauce. Cold soba noodles, which are used cooled down with ice before being served, are a favourite refreshing summer dish in Japan.
Note: somen noodles are similar to soba. Their difference is that they are made exclusively with wheat flour without buckwheat, so their colour is white and not brown and they have a softer texture. They are usually served cold as well.
Rice noodles consist the second biggest variety of Asian noodles. They are made from rice starch, they are available in all the lengths and widths and are seen in the cuisines of all the asian countries. They have a tight, flexible texture – the more wide and thick, the more flexible and tight- and in that way they can absorb easily the flavors of the stock and the sauce, which are served with them.While there are fresh noodles in most of the asian groceries, the number of dried varieties is bigger. Most of the them are flat and wide just like linguini, while their width can reach up to the 1 cm.
Rice noodles are a healthier alternative instead of eating egg noodles and they can be used almost in all the traditional asian recipes. They contain no wheat and gluten, which makes them appropriate for celiac people.Keep in mind that the dough that is used for the rice noodles is the same dough that is used for the leaves of the spring or summer rolls with which we wrap them.
Glass noodles or cellophane noodles are a big category in which we use all kinds of starch except for wheat starch and rice starch. Mung bean noodles, tapioca beans and sweet potato starch beans are quite common. Despite their different origin, the process of those noodles includes the starch isolation, so that they won’t keep any flavor and their name is ifluenced by the fact that they become transparent once they are boiled.
Their texture is quite flexible and before the cooking they have to be soaked. However, if they are going to be fried, they are very crispy.Once they are soaked, they need 3-6 minutes in order to be cooked. Once we strain them and cool them down with cold water, we add olive oil to them so that they won’t become sticky. We should not omit adding salt to the water that we will use, as they have no flavor and they absorb the flavor of the stock or the sauce that accompanies them.
Besides the fact that they are tasty, cellophane noodles contain no sugar, which makes them a good choice for people that suffer from diabetes. In addition, they have no fat, so they can be included in a low-calorie diet.
We could say that they way we are eating noodles has been well-established. We should enrich our diet habits. This is the way they consume noodles around the world: Pink phosphorescent noodles in Thailand. The dish is called ‘Yen ta fo‘,and it is a famous one that contains soya paste that has been fermented. Fermentation accounts for its colour and its sweet flavor.
In Korea they add ice in the dish with the noodles. A very popular dish to deal with the summer heat, naeng myum is served with ice and refreshing accompaniments such as cucumber and pickled radiant.
In China they consist a symbol of longevity. That’s why, very long noodles that have not been cut, are served in birthdays (lots of times they replace the birthday cake), or in the Νew Year’s Day dinner in order to pray for longevity. The longer the noodles, the more the years they will live.
In Japan ramen with curry are so delicious! Just imagine, a warm, tasty dish with ramen noodles. Instead of using a pork or vegetable stock, add a thick Japanese curry and a perfect ramen dish with curry is ready! It is very delicious and filling.
Τhe pork blood aspic is a very common accompaniment. Whether you are eating this dish in Thailand, Vietgman, Hong Kong or somewhere else, you may see a brown cube resembling a gel, being served with your noodles. Yes, it is pork blood. If you overcome this disgusting detail, you may find it delicious!
Savoir vivre during a meal, does not allow us to make noise by guzzling our soup in front of other people. In this case it is quite the opposite: guzzling your noodle soups with satisfaction is a sign of kindness. It shows that you appreciate the dish and the time devoted to be prepared.
Ok… who is ready for a delicious noodles dish?