Slurptastic Asian noodle bowls
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
Let your creativity loose with Asian noodles. Udon, rice, and soba noodles are the foundation of these delicious - and healthy - noodle bowl recipes.
Among Asian cultures, noodles are a ubiquitous part of daily life. From Korea to Northern Thailand, bowls packed with noodles and an array of vegetables, broths, and sauces are enjoyed by millions of people as a great sense of comfort. And now the rest of the world is catching on that these noodle bowls provide complex textures and tastes that are worth exploring.
From a nutritional point of view, noodle dishes infused with an Asian vibe can deliver a hearty dose of vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins. When you use items such as soy sauce and fish sauce judiciously, sodium levels can be kept in check.
Ready to think beyond Pad Thai and takeout General Tso? Take a trip to your local Asian market, grab a pair of chopsticks, and slurp up these enticing Asian-inspired bowls of noodle goodness.
Packing Asian noodle salads for lunch?
Keep the sauces separate so the noodles don’t get soggy. If cooked noodles stick together upon sitting, simply rinse them again in cold water to loosen.
Unlike other types of pasta, you should rinse cooked Asian noodles with cold water to remove excess starch. It’s also best to stir the noodles often during the first minute of cooking to prevent them from clumping together. A set of tongs are very helpful in dividing noodle mixtures among serving bowls.
Not your average noodle
These Asian noodles are a world apart from the pasta served up by Italian grandmas. Happily, many grocery stores now carry a wider array of Asian-style noodles.
Rice noodles: These can be either wide and flat or very thin, with the latter often called vermicelli. Great news for harried cooks is that rice noodles often just require a soaking in boiled water for a few minutes to soften. It is becoming easier to locate ones made with brown rice for an added nutritional punch.
Soba noodles: A traditional noodle in Japan, soba noodles are made with whole grain buckwheat, a relative of rhubarb, not wheat, despite the name. Its nutty flavour and fast cooking time is worthy of two chopsticks up. Soba noodles also tend to be higher in protein than others. Keep in mind, however, that a number of soba noodles are prepared with a combination of wheat flour and buckwheat flour. So if you’re after a gluten-free noodle bowl, opt for those made solely with buckwheat.
Sweet potato noodles: Used often in Korean dishes such as Japchae, these translucent noodles are made from sweet potato starch and have a wonderful chewy texture. On their own, they don’t have a lot of taste but can really soak up the flavours of any accompanying sauces. Look for dried sweet potato noodles at most Asian supermarkets.
Udon noodles: Not for those avoiding wheat, Chinese udon are chewy and soft wheat-based noodles. If possible, look for freshly made noodles, which tend to be a little less dense than their dried counterparts. Also keep an eye out for those made with whole wheat flour for a bump in nutrients.