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A Question for Asian Cooks

I'm asking if there is a name for somthing I do with rice noodles. I use the wide noodles, but sometimes threads, and deep fry them. If no one has ever done this, it's FASCINATING! It's like popping corm. The noodles expand in a flash and fill with tiny air bubbles and become light and crisp and flaky. Wonderful as a snack. But I love using them as a base for other sauced Asian dishes. The way that those canned fried "chop suey noodles" used to be used under chop suey years ago. The fried rice noodles do turn back to soft noodles when in contact with the sauce, but I like the texture, and some of them do stay crispy. They also make a nice "drop in" addition for soups.

Is this a traditional technique I just haven't run across, and if it is, is there a name for it? I've never seen it in restaurants, but they do sometimes serve yucky hard stuff like fried stale won ton wrappers. Maybe I go to the worng restuarants?


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  1. Not with rice noodles, but Hong Kong style fried noodles are kind of deep fried and then topped. They're one of my favorite splurges. The noodles get soft with the sauce.


    My mom makes something similar w/ rice noodles.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chowser

      Thanks, Chowser, but those pan fried noodles aren't even close. I deep fry the uncooked rice noodles, the way you would deep fry French fries. And it doesn't work with wheat based noodles that I know of. The rice noodles (and I think it works with mung bean/cellophane noodles too) just super-expand with a whoooosh! when you drop them into the hot oil. But the oil MUST be deep enough for the entire noodle mass to submerge because any sections that don't go under will stay in their original hard state. It's like a magic show! If you keep rice noodles in the house, next time you're French frying something, drop a couple in and you'll see a magic show! Take them out rightr away and drain on a paper towel. Great as a snack, but if you can keep some long enough to eat them with a sauced Asian dish, they're great that way too. I like them "under" where they get plenty of sauce and "melt."

    2. i've seen martin yan do that also with cellophane noodles. Toss into the wok in hot oil: WHOOSH-PUFF! i've seen it in some pan-asian dishes --- thai? singapore? i've seen it in chinese, like chowser shows. those egg noodles are wheat-based, chowser? (btw, beautiful dish!)

      6 Replies
      1. re: alkapal


        This method you mention was popular in Cantonese cooking in my youth. The cellophane noodles would be flash fried and topped over dishes......never underneath. It was popular with a dish called "Lobster Soong", a version of Lobster Cantonese, but shelled and with the inclusion of black mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and peas in the traditional Lobster sauce of ground pork and egg. It was also served atop other more expensive combination dishes, n.g., Mixed Seafood w/ Assorted Mixed Vegetable........

        Maybe not traditional, but that's how it was done here in New Jersey/New York.

        The preparation Chowser mentions is known as "Cantonese Chow Mein".

        1. re: fourunder

          forunder, thanks. any special esoteric meaning to having pork and egg as traditional sauce for lobster?

          1. re: alkapal


            The funny thing about Lobster Sauce is very few places in the NY/ NJ Metro area serve it anymore in the traditional recipe. As I indicated in my earlier post, It is a Cantonese rendition served originally with a cut up lobster. One of the great lobster preparations of all time in my opinion, especially when served over white rice. I could not tell you how this recipe was invented, but again it was always the most expensive item on any Chines Restaurant menu. Through evolving recipes when lobster was unavailable.......someone came up with the brainstorm to substitute Shrimp..........over the years, and especially just before the British returned control of Hong Kong back to Mainland China, the influx of many Chinese families from the different provinces of China and Taiwan/Formosa immigrated to the cities and Suburban areas changing the landscape of Chinese Restaurants. The traditional Chop Suey houses changed forever. One of the casualties was the ever popular Cantonese style of cooking. The older generations of any nationality yearn for the Chinese food of old........through evolution of the Chinese Food Restaurants being opened by the many different regions of China....and including Vietnamese and Koreans opening Chinese places, the traditional recipes of Canton suffered. I can only surmise that due to the ever growing Jewish Communities and for cost reasons, the inclusion of ground pork was omitted and substituted with frozen green peas.

            The recipe for Lobster Sauce is very simple"

            Peanut Oil
            Minced Garlic
            Ground Pork.....Brown slightly
            Chicken Stock.......simmer a few minutes
            Season with salt and ground white pepper
            Cornstarch to thicken
            Crack an egg and scramble, then float on top of sauce with a quick swirl of a spoon

            You now have Lobster Sauce......Obviously, any type of Sea Foods can be added after the browning of the ground pork and before the adding of the Chicken Stock.

            1. re: fourunder

              thanks fourunder! i was also wondering whether there was some meaning to having those ingredients -- like, sky, earth, sea....

              1. re: fourunder

                How forgetful of me.....

                I forgot to add the following ingredients:

                Light soy to taste
                Cilantro (optional)
                Fermented Black Beans (optional)......definitely not traditional.

            2. re: fourunder

              I've seen it used in lettuce wraps as well.

          2. I use them in Chinese Chicken Salad for added crunch. I don't know if there is a name for them. I use Saifun noodles. I use for Chicken Long rice but not deep fried. I substitute these for yam noodles in sukiyaki-my family doesn't like yam noodles (shirataki).

            1. It is a traditional technique. Don't know if its called anything in particular.

              1. I grind it up into small half-inch long bits and roll my tempura into it prior to deep frying. Poof!

                1. On occasion (usually it was for Chinese New Year meals) my Dad would fry up some rice vermicelli for decorative platter garnish. It was super fun to watch the stuff sizzle and expand, but it's pretty tasteless though. We also fry up these colorful things called "shrimp chips" that are much better - if you can find crab flavor chips, we actually prefer that type now. Here's the first link that I found regarding the snacks:


                  1. This is an ingredient in several Vietnamese vegetarian dishes (most of which I usually see at Buddhist temples, so I'm guessing there's a Chinese influence somewhere). The one that comes to my mind first is a veggie version of bi - don't know what that's called in English but it's *basically* pork skin, pork, and toasted rice powder. The veggie version usually calls for deep fried potatoes, the deep fried celophane noodles, the toasted rice powder, and various other ingredients - as with every other [Vietnamese] dish, the ingredients/proportions/etc vary, but deep friend celophane noodles are always an ingredient.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ali

                      ah yes bi chay, vegetarian bi.

                      i was thinking Caronine's technique is usually done to egg noodles. there is the Chinese origin Vietnamese dish mi xao don, and some similar Cantonese dishes with egg noodles.

                      I have also seen it with bean thread noodles/cellophane. But never rice noodles. That sounds interesting and I'd like to try it, maybe to add crunch to some dishes like mentioned by others in this thread.

                    2. It's usually called "bird's nest" -- i.e. the deep-fried noodles resemble the nest that birds build with dried branches.

                      Old-time Hong Kong / Cantonese restaurants will have this, usually topped with (as you say) stir-fried veggies or meat.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Gee, I wonder if I can use it to make bird's nest soup? Save the swifts! '-)

                        So many traditional Chinese delicacies I guess I'll never taste. We have a Chinese restaurant here in Plano, that serves real shark's fin soup. A small bowl with shredded chicken is $35.00, a large bowl is $60.00. I never order it for fear I'll still be hungry...

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          you're not missing anything, caroline -- especially at those prices! and yes, you'd still be hungry ... and annoyed that you just wasted so much money.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Shark fin soup isn't that good. It's more symbolic than anything. Close would be mung bean noodle soup for consistency. Birds nest is just slimey. I've only had it as dessert and would rather pass except for insulting the host.

                            1. re: chowser

                              chowser, what does it symbolize, please?

                              1. re: alkapal

                                I don't know historically, but culturally, it's expensive/rare and hard to prepare and if you're hosting a meal, you want to show your guests how much you appreciate them by providing them with the best. So, a banquet (usually a wedding but can be anything celebratory) will have courses like shark fin soup, abalone, shrimp, lobster, crab, whole fish and not much filler like rice, except noodles for long life. I have ethical issues with shark fin soup but have to weigh it with insulting the host.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Spot on chowser. Shark's Fin Soup was one of those expensive delicacies served up at weddings to ostentatiously impress guests and let everyone know that the host had the dough - same idea with how many times the bride would change outfits over the course of the evening. Backlash against it in Hongkong in the last few years as both a wasteful and ecologically unsound food. But back to caroline1 - thanks for the great addition to my

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Shark fin soup symbolizes excess wealth -- e.g., I've got enough money to burn and I want to make sure you know it.

                                    Shark fin, by itself, really has no taste. It's just very gelatinous and really just acts like corn starch in soup.

                                    As to bird's nest dessert, I actually like it. :-)

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Back in the 80's, my relatives in Taiwan ate 24k gold threads as part of the noodles. Because they could. XO by the 8 oz glasses. I don't know if they still do.

                                      Glad to hear ScoopG that it's changing in Hong Kong. I don't think it's changed much here, at least w/ my inlaws and their friends.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Whoa, 24k gold threads? I didn't think gold of that quantity was digestible. I bet that would make for some very valuable excrements. :-)

                                        I have heard of restaurants dusting certain dishes, e.g. abalone or sea cucumbers, with gold dust ... but whole threads of gold?? Wow.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          24k Gold is quite edible. There's an interesting Polish liqueur called Danziger Goldwasser that has flakes of 24k gold floating in it. You can catch a glimpse of it here:
                                          At one time, it was all but unavailable in the U.S., and I made a bottle last for years by just serving everyone a single liqueur glass full after Christmas dinner to make a toast.

                                          Gold has been used for centuries, if not millenia, to decorate food. Roast peacocks with their heads and tails protected during cooking were served at banquets with the tails fanned and the heads completely covered in gold foil during hmmm... I think that was around the 14th or 15th century in Europe.

                                          You can buy gold foil for decorating food in cake decorating supply shops today. Not as expensive as one might think. Gold is the only metal that is maliable enough that it can be made so thin it is only one atom thick. At least that's what I was taught in my college geology class.

                                          It's tasteless, but you don't want to use anything less than 23k or the impurities might be bad for you. I'm not absolutely positive, but I think using gold to decorate food is pretty much universal at one point in history or another.

                                        2. re: chowser

                                          It started with a backlash against Disney serving it up at their HKG hotel wedding banquets.


                                          Even NBA star Yao Ming vowed two years ago not to eat it anymore - even though it was served at his wedding in Shanghai!

                            2. If you watch the Four Seasons, you can see Alan Alda do just what you're describing.

                              1. they do fried cellophane noodles at almost every chinese i've ever been to out here in seattle...almost always served under mongolian beef, i find the styrofoam texture of the noodles to be oddly satisfying...:o)

                                1. You should try this with the thick round/cylindrical rice cake (sometimes called rice noodle).
                                  Soak the rice cake for a couple hours to soften it, then let the surface dry.
                                  After the surface dries, pop them in hot oil until golden brown for some crunchy goodness.

                                  1. Yes I've done it for different dishes but Mongolian beef being my favorite.

                                    1. In the 70s, my mom took a Chinese cooking class in Philly and was taught this recipe ... she likes to remind me often about that class. I know I had to eat it once or twice growing up, but I don't remember it until eating out as an adult...sorry, Mom.

                                      1. The tiny Thai restaurant we like here in NH serves a Crispy Pad Thai. I think the noodles are probably deep fried as you've described. Great when first served but I think it tends to taste greasy after awhile.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: dfrostnh

                                          Actually, they puff up so quickly that 85% of the noodles are immediately out of the oil in a big curly puff ball. Draining gets rid of almost all oil left.