Noodles are an almost-universal way to turn a clear, delicate broth into a hearty soup. From the familiar chicken noodle soup of American childhood to the trendy pho of chic Asian restaurants, the concept is the same although the ingredients differ. For example, Vietnamese pho uses delicate rice noodles instead of the wheat pasta commonly found in Western cuisine. Usually called banh pho in Asian markets, the noodles are sold in dried or fresh form. The fresh noodles are ready to use, but dried noodles require a modest amount of preparation.
Open the package of dried noodles and place the bundle of noodles in a large mixing bowl. Cover the noodles with cold, fresh water and let them sit for 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of your meal.
Bring a wide pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer.
Drain the noodles in a wire-mesh strainer or heatproof colander, and shake out as much cold water as possible. Dip the strainer full of rice noodles into the pot of water, and stir the noodles with a fork or chopsticks to separate and loosen them.
Simmer the noodles for 15 to 20 seconds until they begin to soften, then drain them thoroughly. Once cooked, the noodles should be immediately placed in your soup or stir-fry dish before they become mushy.
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- Epicurious: Vietnamese "Pho" Rice Noodle Soup with Beef
- The Asian Kitchen; Lilian Wu (Ed.)
- Purchase rice noodles, not the similar-looking "cellophane noodles" made from mung bean starch. Cellophane noodles don't have the correct flavor or appearance when they're cooked.
- Cooking your noodles at a full boil will rapidly make them mushy. Reduce the heat to a simmer -- approximately 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit -- for a more consistent result.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.