Thinking Noodles? Think Asian!

Asian noodles are appearing in more and more grocery stores, but many people don't know how to prepare them.

Since they're not quite the same thing as pasta, they're not in the Italian pasta sections of stores, but you can find them in the "ethnic" or "Asian" sections.

With Asian noodles, you can greatly expand your kitchen repertoire, and prepare some tasty meals to boot!

Asian noodles have a different flavor and texture from Italian pastas. Although some, like Italian pasta, are made from wheat flour, other types are made from rice or mung bean flour. They come in a variety of widths, and can be prepared in many of ways.

In The Early Show's "Five-Minute Cooking School" Thursday, cookbook author and cooking teacher Tori Ritchie served up recipes using three types of Asian noodles for three different dishes: a Chinese stir-fry, the popular Pad Thai, and a Japanese soup.

She offered her lesson in the flagship store in Manhattan of specialty home furnishings retailer and The Early Show partner Williams-Sonoma.


This uses the familiar noodle — the egg noodle — made from flour and eggs just like Italian pasta. But this dish is stir-fried. You toss the noodles with some sesame oil so they don't stick together. Unlike traditional pasta dishes, for which you spoon the sauce over the noodles, this stir-fry (and most Asian noodle dishes) calls for mixing the noodles directly into the sauce, then serving all together.

Ritchie uses a wok to make this dish. Although you don't have to use one for any of the three dishes Ritchie discussed Thursday, she finds it's easier to work in a pan with sloping sides.


This dish is made with dried rice "ribbons": thick, flat noodles called sen lek, made from rice flour and water. Rice noodles tend to have a more delicate flavor than traditional pasta, and are slicker and chewier. You can substitute egg noodles for the rice noodles if you choose.

Rice noodles are sold dried. But, unlike traditional pasta that you boil, these noodles simply need to be soaked in warm water for about 15 minutes.


This Japanese soup is called Beef Sukiyaki and is made with cellophane noodles, sometimes called glass noodles because they're relatively clear. The noodles are made from mung bean starch and water, and are often found inside spring rolls. These noodles also need to soak in warm water before being used.

Typically, Ritchie finds that cellophane noodles work best in soups. If a recipe calls for cellophane noodles, you really need to use them. Substitutes rarely work.


Chili-Garlic Prawns with Chinese Noodles

A member of the Chinese cabbage family, bok choy has a mild, chardlike flavor and a crunchy texture. This recipe calls for baby bok choy, which is about half the size of regular bok choy and is more tender.

8 oz. dried or 1 lb. fresh chow mein or other
Chinese noodles
1 Tbs. sesame oil
2 Tbs. peanut or canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, both white and light green portions, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 lb. large prawns, peeled and deveined
2 heads baby bok choy, steamed and cut
diagonally into 1/4-inch strips
1 bottle chili garlic wok sauce
1/4 cup water
Thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer the noodles to a bowl and toss with the sesame oil. Set aside.

Heat a large wok over high heat until very hot. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the garlic and green onions and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the prawns and cook, stirring constantly, until just opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bok choy and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 1 minute. Add the chili garlic wok sauce and water, stir to combine and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and toss with tongs until the noodles are hot and well coated with sauce, about 1 minute.

Transfer the noodles to a platter and garnish with thinly sliced green onions. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

For more recipes, to go Page 2.