Sunday, March 08, 2015

Chinese Noodles 101

Chow mein/source: eat2am
I grew up in the restaurant business. Ever since I can remember, I've been a big fan of noodles.

Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, Filipino, you name it, there are few kinds of noodles or pasta I haven't tried.

For those noodle novices looking to venture beyond chicken or beef chow mein, here's a basic overview:

Filipino version of chow mein: pancit.
Japanese version: yakisoba

beef chow fun / source: eat2am
Chow fun is a flat, wide rice noodle. It's a staple in many Chinese and Thai restaurants.

The Thai version of chow fun is pad see yu. For me, I prefer pad see yu over chow fun because the taste is smoky, and usually not as oily as chow mein and chow fun often can be.

Next, are noodle dishes not as common but those experienced with Asian cuisine will recognize.
Singapore Fried Rice Noodles (mai fun) / source: dishmap

Mai fun, or rice stick noodles, is the Chinese equivalent to Italian capellini (also known as angel hair). It's my favorite due to the taste and versatility.

Soak mai fun in water, it can be used for cold dishes and pasta salads. Deep fry mai fun, it will expand 2-3 times in size. It's often used as garnish for Mongolian beef or Chinese chicken salad.

My first love of mai fun came in college when Dad brought me back an order of Singapore style noodles (curry based) when he and Mom came back from Sunday lunch. He ordered for me it so much I stopped eating it for a few years. I didn't have it again until I moved to San Francisco.

gee mein (Hong Kong style) / source: Chinese Cookbook
The last fried noodle from this rudimentary tutorial is the Hong Kong style noodle (also known as gee mein or cake style).

Because the noodles are deep fried and portion size is usually for 2 or more people, I only eat these kind of noodles at group meals or banquets.

Confused? Can't say I blame you. But if this helps you during those times when a pink, red or green take-out menu without pictures is all you've got, then I've done my job.

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