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Rice noodles--what gives?

  • c

I had a recipe that called for rice noodles (thickness of linguine) to be soaked in warm water for 15 to 30 minutes. I took "warm" to mean "not boiling", so I heated some water in the microwave and poured it over the noodles.

Thirty minutes later, the noodles were still too crunchy. I added more heated water and waited 15 more minutes. Exact same texture as before. I got frustrated and microwaved the noodles in the water for 1 minute. Exact same texture. Two minutes. Exact same texture. Finally, I got frustrated and microwaved it for five minutes. Finally, the noodles were soft enough to eat.

So were the instructions wrong, or is there something else weird going on?

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  1. p
    Professor Salt

    Rice noodles come in many forms. If you're talking about Japanese udon noodles (white, about linguine shape, maybe slightly thicker) they need to be boiled.

    If you're talking about translucent "glass noodles," which come in various strand thicknesses, they may or may not need boiling. Depends on the product. For these, I use boiling water to soak, not hot tap water.

    What's your recipe, and what kind of noodles did it call for?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Professor Salt

      Udon noodles are made from wheat. "Glass noodles" are made from mung beans or potato starch.

      As for thin rice noodles, I've had success soaking the noodles for 10-15 minutes in hot(near boiling) water.

      1. re: Professor Salt

        My recipe was a Bittman recipe calling for "rice noodles, fettuccine width".

        The noodles I bought are labeled "Chantaboon Rice Stick", and the ingredients listed are rice flour and water. They're about linguine-width.

        The recipe called for the noodles to be soaked until soft, then added to a stir fry of garlic, oil, chiles, fish sauce, sugar, and ground pork. They were to be tossed to mix with the stir-fry ingredients, then basil and vinegar added, then served. I don't think the minute or so they were in the wok would have been enough cooking time to make crunchy noodles soft.

        So it sounds like I should have used boiling water, which I'll do next time. The dish turned out fine, with the soaking of the noodles being the most difficult part. Thanks to everyone for the help.

      2. Sounds like the recipe meant to use fresh rice noodles as opposed to dried. These still moist, but as sold are rather too stiff to use directly. Generally you can't even separate them without tearing the without the warm water soaking that you describe.

        For fully dried rice noodle you probably need to boil them or soak in hot water to the desired hydration.

        1. They're not "instant" noodles like some of the ramem-type things. You soak them to hydrate them, then cook them, not as long as for wheat-based pasta of similar size and shape.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Michael

            This is right. After soaking, rice noodles will NOT be edible-soft. You fry them with oil and optionally a little bit of flavoring liquid (soy or fish sauce or lime juice or tamarind water, etc.) and they become the right consistency: chewy but not hard and not mushy.

            If you soak or boil them to softness, they turn into mush when pan-fried.

          2. I think you used mung bean noodles. The term "rice noodles" (for some) seems to include all transparent noodles.

            1. I would interpret it as bringing the water to a boil and then dumping it over the noodles in a bowl off the heat. So the water isn't actively boiling anymore, but it's still hot enough to do something. But I agree that the directions are pretty vague.