Every time I visit our local Asian supermarket I am blown away by the sheer volume and range of noodles on offer. Of course we usually buy the dried versions but increasingly I have noticed the variety of fresh noodles, wild stranded bags neatly stacked in the fridge – so cheap, tasty and with little preparation required they are a standout for a quick weeknight dinner.
Across Asia countries showcase noodle dishes of unique flavours, textures and cooking styles each a reflection of the place it comes from. The history of noodles in Asia is a rich one, beginning in China where this staple food is also considered a symbol of longevity. The Chinese take the prize for being the first to develop the art of noodle making, sometime before 200BC. The simple perfectly proportioned flour and water dough can be, pulled with finger looms, rolled and cut or shaved straight into a boiling cauldron Shanxi style
The Chinese introduced noodles to Japan hundreds of years later, where it’s simple brilliance combined with new techniques, ingredients and customs. Japanese Soba (buckwheat) noodles are popular in Japan, especially on New Years’ Eve as it is believed to bring good luck for the year ahead. Handmade soba are rolled out into a very thin dough before being precisely cut with a guillotine style soba knife. The brilliance of Soba is in its simplicity, served with a few slices of seaweed, spring onion and soba sauce it is something unusual and quite delicious. Try Kurt’s version http://ourkitchen.fisherpaykel.com/recipe/toshikoshi-soba/
Ramen, with Chinese roots has become a Japanese culinary icon. Ramen is served in a variety of delicious broths from family run shops on every corner as well as global ramen chains stretching to the far reaches of the globe. Try my version of pork ramen http://ourkitchen.fisherpaykel.com/recipe/pork-ramen/
South Korean Dangmyeon noodles look similar to Soba, but are thicker and have a chewier texture these unique characteristics addition to buckwheat have the addition of starch from arrowroot or sweet potato. This month Kurt has tried his hand at cooking Japchae (watch this space), the stir fried Dangmyeon noodles considered to be one of Koreas national dishes. Let me say it makes a delicious lunch – thanks Kurt!
South East Asia is the adopted home of rice noodles (they too originated in China) and in fact have only been part of south east Asian cuisine for a little over a century, after they were introduced by Chinese migrant workers. Char kway teow is a popular dish in Malaysia, Thailand and especially Singapore, where it is considered a national favourite. There is debate over which country penned the original, authentic version (dare I say it maybe it was China?). Regardless of where you are Char kway teow is often fried with cabbage, chives, sprouts, chicken or pork and egg. Then according to local preferences other additions are made such as Chinese sausage in Singapore and fresh prawns in Thailand. The game changer however rests in the sauce, Dark soya, oyster sauce and chilli sambal in Malaysia, sweetened with sugar in Singapore and the Thai version features chilli, tamarind and fish sauce. No matter the style it’s always the chefs stir frying technique that determines the success of the dish.