Here’s a quick guide to thin Asian rice noodles, which are marketed under a dazzling number of names: rice-sticks, rice vermicelli, bifun, mei fun, mi fén, bun, sen mae, mai fun, bee hoon, and more.
Imported from Asia under any of these names, these fine noodle usually come in 8-ounce packages or boxes. They’re used extensively in many Southeast Asian cuisines, most often in stir-fries, soups, and in summer rolls.
Thin rice noodles have the same mild flavor as white rice and a tender texture when cooked. Those who are wheat- or gluten-intolerant can use these noodles as a substitute for wheat noodles in Asian recipes.
Where to find them: Thin rice noodles can be found in the global foods aisle of well-stocked supermarkets as well as natural food stores and Asian groceries. Just as they’re marketed under various names, there are dozens of brands, imported from Thailand, Vietnam, China, and other Asian countries.
This is just one of many, many brands
How to cook thin Asian rice noodles
There are a few ways to cook these noodles. One is to soak the bundles in cold water for 15 to 20 minutes, then separate the noodles and into manageable lengths.
The second way is to simply immerse the bundles in boiling water and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, or just until done. Whichever method is used, these noodles cook quickly and should be tested frequently to avoid overcooking.
Drain the noodles in a colander, then transfer to a cutting board and cut here and there to shorten them. Use right away in your recipes before they have a chance to clump together!
Are these noodles good for you?
For the most part, this type of noodle is made from white rice, so it lacks fiber and many of the nutrients present in whole grains and other kinds of pasta. The brown rice variety of thin Asian rice noodles has become more widely available, and you can opt for it if you want to boost the nutritive value of your dishes.
To be very honest, these noodles have little nutritive value, as you can see here. Nevertheless, they’re an offbeat product to use on occasion in recipes that are rich in vegetables and/or plant proteins.
Ideas for using thin Asian rice noodles
As a bed for stir-fries: Rice noodles can be used as an offbeat (and very quick-cooking) alternative to rice as a bed for stir-fried vegetable dishes.
In cold salads: Combine cooked rice noodles with matchstick-cut crisp vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and bell pepper. Add thinly sliced bok choy and scallions, and dress in sesame-ginger dressing. This is just one idea!
In Asian-style soups: Rice noodles make a nice addition to Asian-style brothy vegetable soups. Add a quantity of noodles, cooked as described above, to a soup just before it’s done, and serve right away.
In summer rolls: Rice noodles are a common ingredient with which to fill refreshing Asian summer rolls. See a link to a recipe in the listing below.
Recipes using thin rice noodles
Fast and Easy Vegan Laksa Soup: This soup is made super easy courtesy of Indian simmer sauce. It features rice noodles in a coconut-curry base with vegetables, chickpeas or tofu, and tasty toppings.
Thai Vegetable Stew with Coconut-Peanut Sauce: In this Thai vegetable stew, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and peppers are enveloped in a rich coconut peanut sauce. Served over Asian rice noodles, it’s a delectable one-dish meal.
Vegan Singapore Noodles (Yellow Curry Rice Noodles): Characteristic of some Southeast Asian cuisines is the overlapping of Asian and Indian influences. This is true here in this tasty and pleasantly offbeat noodle dish that is seasoned with both soy sauce and curry. Thin Asian rice noodles are now available in a whole grain variety.
Vegan Pad Thai (with Brown Rice Noodles): From The Honour System, fast and easy Vegan Pad Thai made with wholesome brown rice vermicelli instead of wide rice noodles. Peanut-free, this version is spicy and full of flavor.
Vegan Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Tofu: From Feast Glorious Feast, these Vegan Vietnamese Summer Rolls are the super tasty vegan version of classic summer rolls. Naturally gluten free, spicy and packed with flavor, they’re easy to make, light. and fresh.
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