While you might be able to spot noodles easily when shopping for groceries, you might not know that noodles can be made from various types of flour.
You might also not know that pasta and noodles are words that are commonly used interchangeably but they’re not the same thing.
What’s the difference between noodles and spaghetti?
Both of these foods are long and cylindrical, but noodles are thinner. While spaghetti is usually made of wheat flour, noodles can contain different ingredients, such as rice flour, rice starch, and potato starch.
While you might think that there’s one type of noodle, there are many different types of noodles in different regions of the world – and they’re enjoyed in very different ways. With that in mind, let’s explore all the types of noodles.
What Are The Different Noodle Categories?
The main categories of noodles are those made of wheat or rice, but noodles can also be made from other ingredients.
Let’s see what noodles fall under these categories.
Wheat noodles contain wheat flour and sometimes egg. These are called “mien” in Chinese cuisine but they go by different names in different regions of Asia.
Wheat noodles come in different types and they all vary in texture and taste.
Examples of wheat noodles include:
Lo mein. These are soft noodles that are yellow in color and look a bit like thick Italian spaghetti. They’re ideal for eating with thick sauce and gravy, as these cling well to the noodles.
Yaka mien. These are machine-made Westernized Chinese wheat noodles that are sometimes informally called Chinese spaghetti. They are fat and chewier than lo mein.
Misua. These wheat noodles are thin, almost like vermicelli. This makes them produce a thick mass that’s useful for combining lots of ingredients in a dish.
Chow mein. Sometimes called Hong Kong-style pan-friend noodles, these noodles are crispy and added to fried dishes to provide a wonderful crunchy texture.
Me Pok. These are thin, flat, and firm noodles enjoyed in meals such as soups or stir-fries. Their width is great for clinging onto sauces.
Wonton noodles. These popular noodles can be round or flat, but they’re soft and tender. They’re ideal for use in stir-fries and soups.
Udon. These are the thickest noodles available, and they’re popular in Japanese cuisine as a result of their chewiness.
Ramen. These are also well-known noodles that are a classic Japanese food. They’re made with wheat flour and an alkaline agent. This helps to make the noodles take on a springy and wavy texture. This also ensures that the noodles remain firm, even in hot meals like soups and broths.
Soba. These are Japanese buckwheat noodles that are nutty and savory in flavor. They’re usually served cold, such as in a cold broth.
Somen. These are also Japanese noodles but they have been enhanced with oil to make them a bit more delicate. They don’t taste as nutty as soba noodles.
There are many different varieties of rice noodles and these are generally bland in taste.
This is so that they work well as a carrier for the other ingredients used in dishes.
These are thin white noodles that are used in stir fries and other dishes.
They are soft and chewy when cooked, which makes them ideal for soups and spring rolls. They’re also delicious when enjoyed in seafood dishes.
This is a thicker version of vermicelli rice, which makes it better when used with bolder flavors.
It’s a popular staple in Singapore street food and features in dishes such as stir fries, spicy soups, and coconut laksa.
These rice noodles are shiny, wide, and flat. They are a staple in Cantonese cooking and easily become soft and disintegrate when used in hot broths, providing a silky texture.
You can also use these in stir fries.
This type of rice noodle is made with tapioca starch and rice flour.
The tapioca gives the noodles a slippery texture and firm bite, so they work well in dishes such as stir fries and casseroles.
These are noodles that are also made from tapioca starch and flour, but they’re long and thin.
They are springy and slippery so they’re great with stir fried noodles, seafood, and in soups.
Other Types Of Noodles
Besides rice and wheat noodles, you can find noodles made from other ingredients.
An example is mung bean threads. These are noodles made with mung bean starch paste. They’re also called crystal or glass noodles because they’re transparent.
These noodles are a classic ingredient in a variety of Vietnamese and Thai soups and stir fries. They can also be cooked with ground pork, chili paste, and chili oil. In some dishes, they can be deep-fried.
How Did Noodles Come About?
There are conflicting ideas about how and where noodles originated. Some say that noodles actually come from Italy.
However, some food historians insist that noodles originated in the Near East (Turkey, Asia, and Egypt) where durum wheat was cultivated for the first time before spreading west and east.
There is also a legend that Marco Polo discovered pasta in China and brought the idea back home with him to Italy.
However, pasta was already a part of ancient Greek and Roman cuisine, so it evolved independently of China.
The earliest mention of noodles is from a 3rd-century A.D. dictionary in China. These noodles were made into small shapes from bread dough and thrown into a wok containing boiling water.
They were called mian pian, and amazingly they’re still consumed in China today.
Other sources confirm that Chinese noodles originated in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.), where they were referred to as cake.
Noodles that were cooked in soup were called soup cake, and there was a variety of noodle shapes available, such as strips and sheets.
Why Are Noodles So Important In Asia?
Different countries in Asia have different types of noodles, and noodles are a staple in the region. However, they also have great symbolism.
Noodles are involved in rituals for honoring the dead, celebrating birthdays, and marking other celebrations. When a child is born, the mother’s famly will send gifts to the new mother, and this includes noodles.
Similarly, New Year feasts make use of noodles as a way to wish people happiness and long life. They are even brought to graves of deceased loved ones on the 24th day after the first of every lunar month.
Interestingly, Chinese Emperor Chu Yuan-Chang of the Ming Dynasty, which occurred from 1368 to 1644, built a shrine to imperial ancestors where he would make offerings of food that included noodles with sesame oil.
How Noodles Are Enjoyed Around The World
Noodles are enjoyed in many regions and countries of the world, so let’s take a look at some of the most popular noodles found in different places.
Some of the most common noodles found in China are lamian, which are hand-pulled noodles.
The technique of stretching and folding dough into strands to make lamian originated in China.
Cantonese cuisine enjoyed in Hong Kong contains yi mein noodles.
These are flat egg noodles that are made with wheat flour and carbonated water.
A thin noodle known as idiyappam is a popular type of noodle that’s made with rice flour.
It’s commonly served with curry.
The most common type of noodle in Thailand is rice noodles.
These are found in a variety of sizes and shapes, and rice vermicelli is particularly common.
Here, vermicelli is popular.
It’s broken into smaller pieces and fried in oil until they’re browned.
Noodles called lapsha are popular in Russia.
These are long, chewy noodles made with eggs, water, flour, and butter.
The noodles enjoyed in Germany are known as spätzle. These are soft egg noodles made with flour, salt, and eggs.
The dough can be cut into long strips, or run through a grater.
What country has the most noodles?
China is the world’s leader in noodles. There are more indigenous noodles in China than any other country.
Can you use pasta as noodles?
Pasta and noodles are similar so you can usually substitute noodles for pasta in dishes such as stir fries.
There are many different types of noodles to know about, so if you’re only using one kind of noodle in your cooking you should broaden your horizons and try different types.
In this article, we’ve featured the different types of noodles and how noodles are enjoyed in different parts of the world.
Nicole Dowdy is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. [He/she] has dedicated nearly all her life to learning popular recipes from across the globe as well as developing new ones. Using Food Migration, Nicole Dowdy shares the very best recipes for just about every home cook looking to try something new in the kitchen. Pro chefs can also learn a few tricks on the website.Looking to improve your kitchen? You will also find awesome and high-quality kitchen utensil recommendations as well as buying guides on this website.