Noodles have a lengthy history. The first noodles can be traced back to 5,000 BCE. By 2 BCE noodles were a part of the culinary repertoires of countless cultures. This cross-cultural experimentation gave rise to numerous varieties of pasta and noodles, each with their own unique flavour, mouthfeel and application.
While variety is most certainly the spice of life, it can also be maddening. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling lost in an aisle full of noodles, you know what we’re talking about. To help you pull the trigger confidently on all your noodle-related decisions, we’re happy to provide a rundown of the differences (and similarities) between three popular and often confused noodle varieties.
Rice noodles vary in shape and size but share one constant between them: rice flour and water. Other ingredients, such as tapioca and cornstarch, can also be added to alter the texture and transparency of the noodles.
Rice noodles are a staple in East and Southeast Asian cuisine. You may have encountered them in your favourite bowl of Pho or Pad Thai. You’ll find tiny rice vermicelli stuffed into a fresh spring roll and its broader cousin in a serving of Pad See Ew.
→ Check out our quick and easy recipe for Fresh Thai Spring Rolls here!
Soba noodles owe their café au lait hue to their primary ingredient: buckwheat. In fact, soba noodles borrow their name from the Japanese word for buckwheat. When the noodles are made using newly harvested buckwheat they are called “shin-soba”. Shin-soba is slightly sweeter than regular soba.
The buckwheat flour gives soba noodles their distinct nutty flavour and pleasantly dense texture. Their slightly chewy bite makes them ideal for serving in or with soup, as they are not liable to disintegrate. In the winter, soba is served warm in a dashi-soy sauce broth, and served chilled with a dipping sauce in the summer.
Love Soba noodles? We have the perfect recipe for you with our ultra-healthy Soba + Kale Noodle Salad!
Like soba, udon noodles hail from Japan, but unlike soba, udon noodles are thick, fat and made using wheat flour. They are creamy in colour and have a soft, chewy texture.
Udon noodles are often served hot in dashi-based soups topped with the likes of shrimp tempura, fresh scallions, slices of fish cake and marinated vegetables. You can also enjoy yaki udon, which features udon noodles stir-fried with a variety of vegetables and meats. Like soba, you can also enjoy udon noodles chilled with a dipping sauce on the side.
→ Love Japanese-inspired ingredients? Check out our handy Miso 101 here!