Honestly, if you’d told me at the start of last year, that doing the 52 ingredients challenge would leave me with strong opinions about noodles, I would have laughed at you. But then noodles turned out to be a really easy food type to try lots of different varieties of throughout the challenge. I eat a fairly large amount of noodles in general life, so it was easy enough to just grab a different variety each time I needed more noodles.
Actually, at this point I should clarify that when I talk about noodles, I mean it in the UK sense, the kind of things you serve with stir-fry and so many varieties of East Asian food. Despite their structural similarities, I’m not talking about pasta.
Anyway, prior to doing this challenge I mostly ate two kinds of noodles, egg noodles and Udon noodles. Actually to be entirely honest, mostly I ate either those ramen noodle packets adulterated with a bunch of vegetables and either tofu or quorn, or I stuck those ‘straight-to-wok’ Udon noodle packets into my stir-fry. Either way I was pretty set in my noodle eating ways, and the extent of my noodle opinions was that I didn’t like vermicelli rice noodles. (Soggy and flavourless, they really need something as strongly flavoured as Singapore noodles to give them any taste.) So really my noodle opinions boiled down to preferring thick noodles over thin noodles.
But having tried a whole variety of noodles over the course of this challenge I now have noodle opinions. And what else do you do when you’ve got a food blog and some food opinions that few people you know in real life will care about? Well, naturally you blog about it!
I wrote about these when I tried them last summer. Substantial enough that they don’t fall apart when you’re making ramen, and as buckwheat noodles I find that they’re as wheat-y a noodle as I’m ever likely to want. Despite being fairly skinny noodles they retain decent structural integrity making them ideal for making noodles soups, so they’ve become my go-to noodles for when I want to make Ramen dishes from scratch rather than from a packet. My new favourite every day noodles.
These are essentially a whole wheat version of the kind of widely available egg noodles that are the default in most UK supermarkets – coming in neat little portion-sized nests. After the success of my adventures with buckwheat noodles with Soba, I thought these would be an easier to portion version with a similar taste. I was wrong. I don’t actively dislike them, but they are fundamentally, disappointing noodles. I was particularly disappointed because I really enjoy whole-wheat pasta so I had high hopes, but they were dashed. My strongest feeling when putting out the empty packet was one of relief.
Taiwanese Sliced Noodles
These are great. After my adventures with whole-wheat noodles I had to be careful not to overcook them, but even then they were comparatively a delight. The ones I had came in ‘nests’ though not the small neat burls of egg noodles I’m used to, instead taking the form of large ungainly slices. They’re awkward shapes that are hard to store and always give me more noodles than I could sensibly require, but they are most definitely worth it. They have that comforting gluten-y texture (and mouth-feel) that I love about Udon noodles, along with their ribbon shape giving the most unadventurous stir fry a pleasingly different aspect. Definitely the kind of noodles that I could happily eat a bowl of with just some sauce.
I’d never previously cooked Udon noodles from scratch. They’re my noodle of choice when I go out for Japanese food and as aforementioned I’m partial to their ‘straight-to-wok’ incarnation, despite their slightly slippery texture. Given my longstanding fondness for them, I figured I should actually have a bash at cooking them myself in the more traditional fashion. I must confess myself a little disappointed in dried Udon noodles, while they were definitely chunkier than either soba or standard egg noodles, they never quite plumped up to the thickness I’m accustomed to from Udon noodles. I had to cook them for at least twice the length of time suggested by the packet as prior to that they hadn’t plumped up at all. I wondered if perhaps I’d just bought a sub-par brand – they were after all Tesco Udon noodles – but the internet tells me that dried Udon are widely considered to be sub-par as a rule. They weren’t terrible noodles, they just weren’t what I was after, so I think I’ll be sticking with the straight-to-wok or ‘for soup’ varieties as they do a much better job of impersonating the kind of noodles I’d be led to expect from the fresh variety.