Noodles have been a part of many cultures around the world for centuries. From Asian to European, noodles are as diverse in their origin stories as they are in flavor and texture. Whether you’re a fan of egg noodles, rice noodles, glass noodles, or ramen, there is something unique about each type that appeals to different palates. Not only do these delicious treats bring comfort and satisfaction to our meals, but they offer some amazing nutritional benefits too!
In this post, let’s delve into the history, types, health benefits, and noodle recipes.
A Brief History of Noodles
The exact origin of noodles is shrouded in mystery, with many cultures claiming to have invented them. Watch this interesting three-part YouTube video about the history of noodles from different corners of the world.
Types of Noodles
Noodles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures, each with its own unique taste and culinary applications. Here are some of the most popular types of noodles:
- Ramen: a Japanese noodle dish made from wheat flour, water, and kansui, a type of alkaline water that gives the noodles their distinctive texture and yellow color. Ramen is typically served in a broth with various toppings, such as sliced pork, seaweed, and scallions.
- Soba: a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour, which has a nutty flavor and is often served cold with a dipping sauce.
- Udon: a thick Japanese noodle made from wheat flour and water, typically served in a hot broth with various toppings such as tempura, chicken, or beef.
- Rice Noodles: a popular ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, made from rice flour and water. Rice noodles can be stir-fried, boiled, or used in soups.
- Vermicelli: a thin, translucent noodle made from rice flour or mung bean starch, often used in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine.
- Spaghetti: a long, thin noodle made from durum wheat flour, typically served with a tomato-based sauce or meatballs.
- Fettuccine: a flat, ribbon-like noodle made from egg and flour, often served with a creamy sauce.
- Lasagna: a wide, flat noodle often layered with cheese, tomato sauce, and meat, then baked in the oven.
- Egg Noodles: a broad, flat noodle made from egg and flour, often used in dishes such as stroganoff or chicken noodle soup.
- Glass Noodles: also known as cellophane noodles, made from mung bean starch and used in many Asian dishes.
How to Cook Noodles
Cooking noodles might seem straightforward, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure they come out perfectly every time. Here are some general tips for cooking noodles:
- Use a large pot: Noodles need room to move around, so use a pot that is at least 4 quarts in size.
- Add salt to the water: Salt enhances the flavor of the noodles, so add a tablespoon of salt to the water before adding the noodles.
- Don’t overcook the noodles: Follow the package instructions carefully and check them regularly to ensure they are cooked al dente, which means they should be tender but still have some bite to them.
- Drain and rinse the noodles: Once they are cooked, drain the noodles in a colander and rinse in cold water. This will stop the cooking process and prevent them from sticking together.
- Toss with sauce: If you’re using the noodles in a dish, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce, toss them with the sauce immediately after draining. This will allow the noodles to absorb some of the sauce’s flavors and make for a more flavorful dish.
Health Benefits of Noodles
Noodles are a staple ingredient in many diets. It can be a healthy addition to your diet, too. Here are some of the health benefits of noodles:
- Provides energy: Noodles are a good source of carbohydrates, which provide energy for your body.
- Contains vitamins and minerals: Noodles made from whole grains or vegetables can provide essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron and B vitamins.
- Low in fat: Most noodles are naturally low in fat, making them a good option for those watching their calorie intake.
- Rich in fiber: Many types of noodles, such as whole grain pasta and soba noodles, are high in fiber. A high-fiber diet can help regulate digestion and prevent constipation.
- Source of protein: Some types of noodles, such as egg noodles and ramen, are high in protein, essential for building and repairing muscles.
- Low glycemic index: Noodles have a low glycemic index, meaning they slowly release sugar into the bloodstream, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Gluten-free options: If you have gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, there are now many gluten-free options for noodles, such as rice noodles and zucchini noodles.
Bonus Recipe: Spicy Korean Japchae
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for Japchae with a spicy twist- a flavorful Korean noodle dish that’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
- 8 oz. glass noodles (also known as cellophane noodles or bean thread noodles)
- 8 oz. beef sirloin or flank steak, sliced thinly
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, sliced thinly
- 2-3 green onions, sliced
- 2-3 red or green chilies, sliced
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- Soak the glass noodles in hot water for 10-15 minutes until softened. Drain and set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, salt, and pepper.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.
- Add the beef and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned.
- Add the chili and green onions and stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the drained glass noodles to the skillet and pour the sauce over everything. Toss everything together and cook for another 2-3 minutes until heated through.
- Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the top and toss everything together once more.
- Serve hot, and enjoy your delicious spicy Korean japchae.
Note: Adjust the amount of chili to your preferred level of spiciness. You can also add more vegetables, like sliced bell peppers or carrots, to this recipe if desired.
Noodles are a beloved food worldwide for a good reason. They are versatile, easy to cook, and can be enjoyed in various dishes. Whether you prefer Asian noodles or Italian pasta, there’s a noodle out there for everyone. So next time you’re in the mood for a comforting bowl of noodles, try out a new recipe or experiment with different types of noodles to find your family’s favorite.