Mesmerized by the Chinese noodle soup you had in a restaurant and fantasized making them at home? Let me introduce a few that I grew up with.
This noodle is known to me as 熟面 (shu mian) but the more accurate name should be 福建油面 (fu jian you mian) or Hokkien Egg Noodles.
It is a type of cooked noodles and it is fairly oily. It is yellow in colour and thick. To use, parboil for 2 minutes before serving in soup to get rid of the excess oil. It is used in prawn noodle soup 虾面汤 (xia mian tang), 炒粿条 (chao guo tiao) and 福建炒面 (fu jian chao mian) (also known as fried dark hokkien noodles).
This type of noodle is made with wheat flour and water, and sometimes eggs are added. There are many variations in terms of thickness. Handmade noodles such as 拉面 (la mian) is a recent favourite. Another perennial favourite is instant noodles.
Wheat noodles can be sold in dried form or fresh form. They are very versatile. Cooked in soup, stir-fried, deep fried and even baked.
Here's a recipe using fresh egg noodles and store-bought roast duck.
My most loved noodle is flour vermicelli or 面线 (mian xian). It literally means wheat threads because the noodle strand is very thin.
It is one of my favorite noodles as I like the soft smooth silky texture. It is almost always served in thickened soup because the noodles themselves is starchy. Leave a bowl of mian xian soup for a while and the mian xian will expand and turn the soup thick. Love it!
This is made from rice flour and are available in broad sheets, round threads, or vermicelli (like angel hair pasta).
The broad sheets is known as 粿条 (gou tiao) in mandarin, great in fishball soup. The vermicelli is known as 米粉 (mi fen) in mandarin.
Rice vermicelli is usually sold dried while the broad sheets are usually sold fresh. All rice noodles have a translucent appearance and will turn white when cooked.
This noodle is made from mung bean starch and water. Common names include bean threads or glass noodles. The most common name is cellophane noodle because they resemble cellophane after they are cooked. In mandarin, it is known as 粉丝 (fen si).
I like mung bean vermicelli in hot soups, Vietnamese spring rolls and salads. Grandma also like to stir-fry it with mixed vegetables. It needs to be parboiled or soaked to soften it if used in non-soupy dishes.
Bean threads should not be confused with rice vermicelli 米粉 (mi fen). Both have thin hairlike threads but rice vermicelli is made from rice flour and are whitish in color even after it has been cooked.
Glass noodles are commonly used in soups, mixed vegetables dishes and more recently, salads.
I grew up with one type of mung bean noodle -- the thin hairlike threads that resemble vermicelli. In recent years, there are many more varieties from Thailand, Vietnam and Korea that have appeared in Singapore. These may not necessarily be made from mung bean. Some of them are made from potato and tapioca starch. They look similar and have similar texture and bounce.
The recipe below is a simple cellophane noodle soup with some ground pork and bok choy.
I thought I know a lot about Chinese noodles until I started writing this page. I know so little. Trying to find English equivalent names and grappling with bad translated versions has been frustrating. I'll come back to work on more details in the future. In the meantime, if you have questions, just ask.