How do you fail at making noodles?
August 5, 2008 5:46 PM   Subscribe

How did I ruin the noodles from the Asian market?

I went to a new Asian grocery the other day. In search of a good noodle, I picked up a package from the refrigerated section with very little English on it, labeled "Won Ton Noodles." I had no idea what I was looking at, other than that they looked good.

These were the size and length of "angel hair" noodles, and came in little nests much like that. The color was dark tan, and the fresh-looking noodles were powdered with flour. The back of the package said that the noodles should be put in boiling water for 60 seconds, then mixed with sauce, meat and vegetables, and "served immediately." That was the sum total of English on the package. The rest was Chinese.

I wanted to have the noodles with steamed spiced vegetables and soy sauce. I gave the noodles 60 seconds in the boiling water, and dumped them into the colander. Then I took about four minutes to get everything else together for dinner. When I got back to mix the vegetables in, the noodles had turned into dough. Pure, unbenoodled, flour-and-water dough. I had already mixed in the vegetables before I realized how thoroughly this had happened, so I had to make the best of it for dinner. But it was like eating unbaked Southern biscuit dough. I was tempted to put it in the oven to see what would happen, but in the event I just threw it away.

Were these noodles meant to be eaten in soup only? The label didn't lead me to believe that. I didn't know a noodle could be so delicate. Or are you really supposed to have it all down your grocery hole before it's been out of the water five minutes? I don't pretend to know the answer, but I hope you do.
posted by Countess Elena to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
Generally in Chinese dishes if it's not a fried noodle, then it tends to be a soup noodle. I have only had won ton noodles as a soup noodle and I know that if it sits for too long it gets mushy. Generally when making noodle dishes I make the noodles as the very last item and make all the 'topping' on the side to pour over to keep them as fresh as possible. 4 minutes seems like rather quick for the noodles to turn into dough though. Sometimes after a quick boiling I run the noodles under cold running water to get some of the excess starch out and that helps with the consistency. Not sure if this is related, but with won ton noodles make sure you separate the noodles well when they come out of the package to make sure everything is being cooked consistently.
posted by perpetualstroll at 6:01 PM on August 5, 2008

Sounds like soup noodles to me, but a lot of fresh asian noodles are really starchy and really sticky. Perhaps this is sacrilege, but I put a bit of sesame oil in the boiling water with the noodles and then some more after rinsing them in the manner that perpetuaistroll described.
posted by lester the unlikely at 6:08 PM on August 5, 2008

I think the first two posts make really great points - a little oil will prevent the noodles from turning into mush, and running the noodles through some cold water will prevent them from "cooking" even after you remove them from the hot water. These were really thin noodles too, so it wouldn't take as much miscalculation to mess them up than if they were thicker.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:14 PM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: I hadn't put oil in the water like I do with Italian-style pasta, and I didn't rinse them either, because I didn't know if it was done. Next time, I'll try that! I'll also use an extremely saucy recipe for long Chinese noodles, or get short ones and put them in soup. Thanks!
posted by Countess Elena at 6:19 PM on August 5, 2008

according to my recent issue of cook's illustrated (and my own personal experience), the packaged noodles that are fresh-looking and covered in flour generally are pretty gummy and pasty. stick with dried egg or rice noodles from the asian grocery or regular ol' pasta from the supermarket and you might have better results for the dish you're cooking.
posted by gnutron at 6:47 PM on August 5, 2008

A very important tip, make sure you unroll the noodles before you put them in the water. If you just dump them in, you will get four biscuits. It also helps a lot if you have a fair amount of water.

I start water boiling and make the stuff I'm going to put on top. After that's done, I'll cook the noodles quickly and get them strained and immediately fluff them up with chopsticks. Plate the noodles, dish the toppings and sauce, and serve.
posted by advicepig at 7:22 PM on August 5, 2008

If you haven't tried it before give udon noodles a try, they're good both as a fried and a soup noodle. They're nice and thick and take a while longer to cook.
posted by perpetualstroll at 7:29 PM on August 5, 2008

Oil in the water is generally regarded as useless. All it does is float in little blobs on top of the water. That said, when I was stir-frying noodles regularly back in the day, I'd rinse them with cold water to stop cooking, which probably had the side benefit of rinsing starch off. Then I'd toss them with sesame oil, which tasted good and prevented them from sticking in a big clump. Then I could hold them until stir-frying time.

I would be inclined to use a sturdier noodle than angel-hair, and not mess with fresh unless it's seriously made that day. And either have the saucing ready before they're done or cool them down as above and reheat in the wok/skillet with sauce and other things.
posted by O9scar at 12:00 AM on August 6, 2008

You should try rice noodles! Just be sure to rinse them very well after cooking (wash them almost) and they will hold up just fine. The really fine wheat noodles tend to turn to mush very quickly.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:18 AM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: O9scar, surely the oil keeps the pasta from boiling over? That's what I use it for, and it's certainly kept away the problem -- which I observed before I figured out that the oil helped. (I just dunked these particular noodles, though.)

And, no, I hadn't unrolled them -- no idea! Fresh wheat noodles are finicky, it seems.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:42 PM on August 6, 2008

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