Learning How To Use Rice Noodles opens up a world of possibilities to everyone, especially those who must eat gluten free. Commonly used in Asian cuisine rice vermicelli is the filling in those fresh tasting Vietnamese Salad Rolls while wider noodles are more common in dishes like Thailand’s famous Pad Thai. These are two well-known dishes you can make at home and this is only the beginning. Welcome to the world of rice noodles.

How to Use Rice Noodles
How to Use Rice Noodles -photo credit Jim Little

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Buying and Storing Rice Noodles

White rice noodles are used extensively in Asian cuisine and deserve a place in every gluten free pantry. I can buy fresh rice noodles but I prefer the convenience of dried noodles. They are available in a variety of widths broadly classified as thin, medium and wide. In my pantry I always keep two widths; thin vermicelli noodles to make soups and salads plus one wider variety for stir-fry recipes.

Rice noodles are also called rice sticks, vermicelli and other variations of these words. The noodles are naturally gluten free with a typical ingredient list of rice flour and water. Vermicelli actually refers to the width of the noodle rather than the flour it is made of. You can buy wheat noodles called vermicelli but Asian recipes calling for vermicelli generally mean rice vermicelli.

If possible I buy the wider rice noodles in packages I can use for one meal. I just open the whole package into a large bowl and pour the water on top.

Thin vermicelli noodles however, come in large packages that need to be opened and separated to get the amount you need. When you take them out of the package they break and fly onto the kitchen floor so here is my solution to this problem.

A Little Pantry Tip – Transfer the whole package of thin rice vermicelli noodles into an extra large resealable plastic bag. To use them pull off as many noodles as you need right inside the bag. When the bag is empty I discard the broken pieces but you can use them in soup if you are thrifty.

Buying and Storing Bean Thread Noodles

Although these are not rice noodles they are also gluten free noodles and can be purchased in Asian stores alongside the rice noodles. Bean thread noodles are made from mung bean starch alone or combined with potato starch. These translucent noodles go by many names; bean threads, mung bean threads, glass noodles, cellophane noodles, transparent noodles and Chinese vermicelli.

Unlike rice noodles, bean thread noodles are tough and difficult to cut or break in their dried state. For that reason they are sold in packages containing several small bundles like skeins of wool, making it easy to remove a single bundle to use.

Buying and Storing Rice Paper Wrappers

Rice Paper Wrappers are made from a mixture of rice flour, tapioca starch, water and salt that is then rolled and dried into very brittle, thin shapes. The round papers are used for salad rolls and spring rolls, while the triangular ones are traditionally used at the table to wrap grilled foods. The wrappers are sold in plastic containers and should be stored flat in the container or an airtight plastic bag. If left open they will curl up and loose their shape.

How To Use Rice Noodles

Cooking instructions for rice noodles vary quite a bit and according to some, overcooking them is the greatest error a cook can make. I have both overcooked and undercooked rice noodles many times but I can always eat what I make. It just takes practice to figure out when your noodles are cooked.

This is my preferred method of cooking rice noodles with boiling water.

  • Place rice noodles in large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Five minutes is good if the noodles will get additional cooking time in a stir-fry. Eight to ten minutes is best for a noodle bowl or cold salad where there will be no further cooking. The time varies depending on the thickness of the noodles so just taste them and decide what you call cooked.
  • Noodles can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated.

Tap Water Method – Many recipes call for soaking the noodles in warm water for 15-20 minutes to avoid over cooking. I get better results using the boiled water method above so just try both methods and see what works best in your kitchen.

Deep Frying – Dry rice vermicelli noodles puff up when deep-fried and can be used as a garnish on salads. Simply toss them into hot oil and watch them instantly puff up, then turn them over to cook the other side for a few seconds. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and use within a day or two.

How To Use Bean Thread Noodles

Bean thread noodles take slightly longer to cook than rice noodles.

  • Place bean thread noodles in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • After soaking cut noodles into shorter lengths with kitchen scissors and use in soup or stir-fry dishes.

Deep Frying – Bean thread noodles puff up when deep-fried and turn a brilliant white colour. Toss the noodles into hot oil and watch them instantly puff up. Turn them over to cook the other side for a few seconds and remove to a paper towel lined plate. I use these crunchy noodles for an impressive garnish on salads. They are best eaten the day they are fried. Here’s a video showing how I deep-fry mung bean noodles in my wok.


How To Use Rice Paper Wrappers

Soften sheets of rice paper one at a time in a shallow bowl of hot tap water. Slip the wrapper into the water for less than a minute until it becomes flexible enough to work with. Place the wrapper on the counter or a cutting board and add a small amount of filling on the bottom third of the wrapper. Fold the bottom up to cover the filling. Next fold the two sides into the middle and finally roll the filling up until you have a small sausage-shaped salad roll. As you make salad rolls the water cools so half way through the process I empty the bowl of water and start with fresh hot water.

Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham dipping sauce.
Vietnamese Salad Rolls -photo credit Jim Little

Expect some wrappers to tear as you learn to roll them. Once you’ve mastered the technique you can use different fillings and even deep-fry them for a gluten free spring roll.

Let me know in the comments below if I inspired you to try a new dish using rice noodles.

The Recipes – How To Use Rice Noodles

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Soup
Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Soup -photo credit Jim Little

Noodle Soup with Peanut Sauce

A bowl of Noodle Soup with Peanut Sauce surrounded by optional toppings.
Noodle Soup with Peanut Sauce -photo credit Jim Little

Everyday Vegetable Stir Fry

A bowl of my everyday Vegetable Stir Fry served on rice
Everyday Vegetable Stir Fry -photo credit Jim Little

Shrimp Pad Thai

Shrimp Pad Thai topped with cilantro, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.
Shrimp Pad Thai -photo credit Jim Little

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl with Lemongrass Chicken, pork and shrimp served with nuoc cham.
Vietnamese Rice Noodle Bowl with Lemongrass Chicken -photo credit Jim Little

Garden Greens with Crispy Bean Thread Noodles

Garden Greens with Asian Dressing and Crispy Bean Thread Noodles
Garden Greens with Asian Dressing and Crispy Bean Thread Noodles -photo credit Jim Little

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