X

Subscribe to Kosher Like Me weekly newsletter so you won't miss a thing.
We promise that it's painless and we'll NEVER share your info.

EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Oodles of Noodles and How to Chose

Oodles of Noodles and How to Chose

Contributed by Katy Morris

There are oodles of noodles out there – all with different sizes, textures and characteristics.  So where the heck do you start when choosing the perfect kind for a much-needed cold summer salad as the temps continue to rise?

Don’t sweat it. We’ve got you covered.

Noodles vs. Pasta

Photo: Liz Rueven- Ristorante Cantinone, Italy
Photo: Liz Rueven- Ristorante Cantinone, Italy

First things first: “noodles” and “pasta” technically mean different things.  A lot of people use both the terms and products interchangeably – but that shouldn’t be the case.

Simply put, pasta is a type of noodle but noodles are not a type of pasta.

Now, Asian and Italian varieties are also distinctive. Asian noodles are made with softer wheat, giving it a silky, light feel. They can also be made with rice, buckwheat, yam and even mung bean and generally never with eggs. The length differentiates them, too; in many Asian countries like China, this staple symbolizes longevity, which is why they are almost always super long.

 

Photo: Liz Rueven-making pasta in Piedmonte, Italy
Photo: Liz Rueven-making pasta in Piedmonte, Italy

The wheat used in Italian pasta is firmer and stronger. Italian pasta dough is typically made with durum wheat, flour and egg using an extrusion-method (like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube) whereas Asian noodles are made using a traditional “roll and cut” method, which is time-consuming but allegedly helps produce the best flavor.

It’s all about the wheat!

Photo: Liz Rueven; whole wheat shells
Photo: Liz Rueven; whole wheat shells

We generally try to go for the whole-wheat vs. white pasta. Why? Short answer: it’s much more nutritious and has a nice nutty, hearty flavor compared to processed white. Now, you’ll probably see “durum wheat” on many the ingredient list of boxes at the store; this is a very hard type of wheat that is high in protein and gluten and is used in almost all pastas. It makes dough less elastic than bread dough and easy to shape into macaroni and shells, for example.

Cecily Gans, a passionate CT foods educator and chef also goes for the whole wheat. What are her top picks when making the best pasta salads? She advised to try DeCecco, Ezekiel, De Boles Whole Wheat plus Golden Flax  or Bella Terra 8 Whole Grain Penne with Sprouted Wheatgrass (all are kosher certified).

Regardless of which type you choose, she added, “Use the right pasta shape for the right task. Noodles are designed to compliment and/or hold the other components of a salad, soup or sauce.”

What are some good gluten-free options?

Photo: Melissa Roberts: Rice Noodles
Photo: Melissa Roberts: Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are a great choice when it comes to naturally gluten-free noodles. They are made with rice instead of flour and can be comparatively bland to regular pasta, which make them perfect for dishes with bold flavors. These thin, delicate noodles are great with shredded or sliced cabbage as in Melissa Roberts’ recipe for  chilled “Pad Thai” rice noodles here.   Note that rice noodles cook super quickly so it’s best to have the rest of your ingredients prepped at the same time so the noodles don’t sit too long waiting and bind together.

Photo: Marcia Selden Catering- Chilled Sesame Noodles using Shirataki rice noodles
Photo: Marcia Selden Catering- Chilled Sesame Noodles using Shirataki rice noodles

The method for cooking rice noodles can vary depending on the brand so be sure to read the package instructions to be safe. There are plenty of other gluten-free brands out there too – taking a simple stroll through the Whole Foods aisle will give you loads of options. We particularly love Shirataki, which can be ordered easily online. Check out this Chilled Chinese Sesame Noodle recipe, courtesy of Marcia Selden Catering.

 

What about the rest? Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular types of noodles out there:

Product shot

 

Spelt: Spelt-based pasta is a great way to jack up the nutrition in your dishes. Spelt is a nutty grain that’s super high in fiber and protein. Compared to wheat, spelt also has more iron, potassium & B-vitamins. We love MagNoodle’s certified kosher, spelt-based pasta – be sure to check them out!

Soba: Soba means “buckwheat” in Japanese, which is the main ingredient in this type of Asian noodle. They are thin and long uncooked and have a subtle nutty flavor and are a perfect choice for a filling, summer salad given their firm, plump qualities. When buying, make sure the package says they are made from buckwheat flour just to be sure. We suggest washing them well after cooking so that they don’t get stuck together (this rubs off excess starch). Dried soba noodles should be cooked for about 6 minutes.

Photo: courtesy of GMonkey
Photo: courtesy of GMonkey

 

Our friends at GZen love them for cold noodle salads in spring and summer because they’re more satisfying than just a salad alone-while still keeping the dish light and refreshing. Their famous Feisty Monkey Peanut Soba Noodle salad with homemade soba noodles is their best seller on their GMonkey truck.  Learn more here!

And we’ve posted Melissa Roberts’ easy one dish soba noodle salad with crisp spring/summer veggies and miso dressing (next post, scroll down) or click http://bit.ly/1Ji1Bd1

 

Photo: Liz Rueven
Photo: Liz Rueven

 

Udon: These Asian noodles are wheat-based, thick, dense noodles that pair well with both simple dressings and hearty curry sauces. Although typically served in hot soups, Udon noodles are great to bring as the chilled veggie contribution to your next backyard cookout.  Simply simmer in water for about 5 minutes, drain and then rinse with water.

 

Lo Mein: These Chinese egg noodles are very dense and great paired with thick sauces or large pieces of veggies in either stir-fries or cold salads. Because of their density, they retain flavor for a while so are great to store in the fridge after mixing with veggies and sauce even for a couple days.

 

Glass Noodles: Otherwise known as cellophane or Chinese Vermicelli noodles, these translucent noodles can be found in Asian specialty markets and are made from mung bean flour. They are wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and somewhat chewy and are great at absorbing sauces and broths quickly. We like to make a lot at once so we can store in the fridge and save for tossing in leftover veggies for a quick and easy lunch. They usually cook in about 4-5 minutes and should be rinsed after cooking.

 

Here are a couple more tips for making cold noodle salads:

Photo: Liz Rueven; brown rice gluten-free spaghetti
Photo: Liz Rueven; brown rice gluten-free spaghetti

 

Add more salt in the pot than you usually would and cook the noodles a little longer (a minute or so longer without letting them get mushy). This will allow the noodles to get a bit softer and well-seasoned when cooled.  Once done, coat them with a little bit of olive oil as they cool. This is important! Tossing the noodles with a bit of olive oil will stop them from absorbing too much of the main dressing or sauce and will keep your chilled salad nice and moist.

We’re still working our way through this aisle! Which noodles do you prefer and why? 

Photo: Liz Rueven; Pasta aisle at Whole Foods, CT
Photo: Liz Rueven; Pasta aisle at Whole Foods, CT

 

 

One Comment

Leave a Reply