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What Are Rice Noodles? Learn All About This Amazing Noodle

You’ve probably been eating at Asian restaurants for years, maybe unknowingly eating some of your favorite dishes with rice noodles. If you’ve always wondered what are rice noodles, well, you’ve come to the right place to learn more. 

Rice noodles make a great alternative to your traditional dinners of meat and potatoes or regular semolina wheat pasta. From vermicelli in Vietnamese soup called pho, to Thai delicacy pad see ew, you may have been enjoying them for years and never knew it.

This option is a staple in many areas worldwide because of its ease of use, affordability, and versatility. 

Here, learn about the difference between rice and wheat noodles, the different types of rice noodles, how rice noodles and rice “sticks” are the same, and the best way to cook rice noodles. 

What Are Rice Noodles?

So what are rice noodles, exactly? 

These types of noodles consist of rice flour and water to create an alternative to wheat pasta. 

You can find them in Asian markets as a common ingredient for many dishes. 

Rice noodles can also carry other names, including Asian noodles or rice sticks. 

But they differ from cellophane noodles and glass noodles, although they may look and seem the same. These are often called the same but are very different from one another.

While rice noodles use rice flour as the main ingredient, cellophane and glass noodles require starch from tapioca, mung bean, or potatoes as the base.

Types Of Rice Noodles

Rice noodles come in various sizes to make dozens of easy recipes. 

The type of rice noodles you choose will depend on the dish you are creating. 

They come in different sizes, making them ideal for Asian cuisine dishes, including noodle soup and rice noodle dishes. 

The varieties of noodles you can purchase include:

  • Flat rice noodles
  • Thick rice noodles
  • Thin noodles
  • Asian vermicelli noodles 
  • Rice sticks
  • Rice noodle rolls

Each type is associated with signature Asian cooking dishes as the many varieties can complement the flavors or add chewy rice noodles texture. 

Of course, in any Asian supermarket, you will find dozens of rice noodle brands to choose from, making the decision more difficult for anyone new to cooking with this food item. 

Check out this list of rice noodles available on Amazon, but you can often find A Taste Of Thai brand at your local grocery.

Are Rice Sticks The Same As Rice Noodles?

Because there are so many types of noodles to choose from, you may wonder if rice sticks are the same. 

Generally speaking, yes, rice sticks are the same as the traditional rice noodle products in consistency and texture. 

Rice stick noodles will come in a package of various sizes to choose from, depending on the type you want for your next meal. 

They are available in different lengths and thicknesses to create the perfect rice noodle dish.

The benefit of rice sticks is that they are not as long as standard types, like rice vermicelli noodles. 

This element can make it easier to eat when you are enjoying a dish that requires rice noodles. 

What Do Rice Noodles Taste Like?

Rice noodle taste will often take on the dish’s flavor by absorbing the sauces and spices you use. 

With very little sauce, they carry a mild rice flavor because of the rice flour content. 

When cooked properly, thin rice noodles will be delicate and light. 

Conversely, thick, flat, or wide rice noodles, like those you use for Pad Thai, will have a soft and chewy texture that is slightly firm, also known as al dente. 

How Are Rice Noodles Made?

Rice noodles use two main ingredients, rice flour, and water. As a result, the process of making fresh rice noodles takes longer than you may think. 

The rice has to sit for approximately nine months in storage to allow it to harden. 

This waiting period is vital to ensure that the rice allows for a more chewy texture later. 

After this time, the rice is cleaned and steeped in the water for several days. 

This soaking encourages fermentation with the naturally present microbes in the rice grains. 

After fermentation, the rice is wet-milled by grounding it with water to create rice flour. 

Then, boiling water is incorporated to allow the starch to activate and bind together, also known as pre-gelatinization, making the dough. 

Sometimes tapioca or cornstarch is added to give a more chewy texture to the noodles. 

The resulting dough is then forced through a mold to create round rice noodles or pressed flat in sheets to cut flat rice noodles or rice sticks. 

These end products are what you see in the store.

How Do You Cook Rice Noodles?

The cooking process for rice noodles is simple once you get the hang of it. 

The first mistake beginners make when cooking rice noodles is leaving them in hot water too long. 

When you overcook rice noodles, you end up with too soft noodles and can be mushy. 

On the other hand, if you do not cook them long enough, they will be stiff or rigid and not ideal for your dish. 

Here are the steps to cook rice noodles perfectly

  1. Boil a pot of water.
  2. Turn off the heat.
  3. Immediately add rice noodles to the pot of boiled water.
  4. Use a fork to swish the noodles around and separate them for even cooking. 
  5. Soak them for three to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Rice vermicelli noodles require only three or four minutes, while thicker or wide rice noodles will need more time to cook. 
  6. Drain the noodles.
  7. Rinse them briefly with cold water (optional).
  8. Enjoy them in your favorite dish!

Ways To Use Rice Noodles

Although rice noodles are featured prominently in many Asian cuisine dishes, they are highly versatile. 

Rice noodles can replace wheat flour noodles in various dishes when you want a different texture or flavor to your meal. 

There are hundreds of rice noodle recipes on the internet to provide you with an abundance of ways to use this versatile noodle. 

This guide can help make your meal choices easier.

Extremely Thin Vermicelli Rice Noodles

These very thin noodles are similar to angel hair pasta and are ideal for salads, soups, spring rolls, and stir-frys. 

In addition, you can enjoy vermicelli noodles in hot or cold dishes, giving you so many recipes to choose from in Asian Cuisine. 

Use them in this Thai Noodle Soup for a warm and filling lunchtime option. 

Or enjoy them cold as part of a Shrimp Vermicelli Salad for a refreshing meal choice.

Thin Rice Noodles

These thin noodles resemble spaghetti and work best when using them for soups. 

When you are short on time, try this 15-Minute Garlic Fried Noodles recipe using thin rice noodles. 

For a flavorful and filling dish, this Chicken Stir Fry with Rice Noodles is the perfect solution.

Medium Width Rice Sticks

Rice sticks fall between thin and thick noodles, providing the perfect medium thickness for pho dishes like Pad Thai. 

In addition, they can be terrific to add to stir-fries or soups since they will absorb more flavor from spices and sauces. 

Try out this Rice Stick Noodles Stir Fry recipe for a quick and easy meal tonight. 

If you want a spicier alternative to spaghetti night, use this Thai-Style Spaghetti recipe for a change.

Thick and Wide Rice Noodles

Extremely thick or wide rice noodles will add a chewy texture to your dish while helping to bring out all the flavors. 

They are great additions to soups or saucy stir fry dishes, like Pad See Ew

Try making this simple Thai Soup recipe if you have wide rice noodles in your pantry you want to use up.

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The bottom line

Like wheat pasta, rice noodles come in various sizes and thicknesses, making them versatile ingredients for many recipes. They even come in brown rice varieties.

The meal you create will determine the type of rice noodle you use. 

Rice noodles are easy to cook, terrific hot or cold, and a tasty way to add texture to your meal. 

You can find them at many Asian supermarkets or the Asian specialty aisle in your neighborhood grocery store. You can even buy them off of Amazon.

Once you incorporate them into your meal planning, you will want to discover more dishes to try using rice noodles.

How to cook rice noodles

How to cook rice noodles

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes

This is an easy method for cooking plain rice noodles, which can then be added to a hot or cold dish with other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of rice noodles

Instructions

  1. Boil a pot of water.
  2. Turn off the heat.
  3. Immediately add rice noodles to the pot of boiled water.
  4. Use a fork to swish the noodles around and separate them for even cooking .
  5. Soak them for three to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Rice vermicelli noodles require only three or four minutes, while thicker or wide rice noodles will need more time to cook. 
  6. Drain the noodles.
  7. Rinse them briefly with cold water (optional).
  8. Enjoy them in your favorite dish! 

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