All You Need to Know About Chinese Noodle Varieties

You may think noodles are just noodles and are all the same, right? Wrong! Just like Italian pasta, there are so many different types of Chinese noodles. They come in all sizes, lengths, thicknesses, colors and ingredients, so it’s important to know the differences to make sure you get the right ones at your next meal. Especially for hot pot or Malatang.

Rice Noodles

Rice Vermicelli Noodles 米粉

Rice noodles are obviously noodles that are made from rice flour and water, sometimes adding tapioca or corn starch for texture and flavor. Vermicelli is a thin, long, white noodle that is often found in soups, stir-fries and salads in Chinese cuisine. When cooked they become soft and glutinous.

Shahe Fen 沙河粉

Shahe Fen are another type of noodles made from rice that are white, broad and slippery. The noodles are cut or shaved from large rice cakes to the desired width, length and thickness. They are typically eaten fresh as they don’t keep well in storage. In Chinese cuisine, they are typically stir-fried with seasoning, vegetables and meat.

One example of Shahe Fen in Chinese cuisine is in Beef Chow Fun 干炒牛河.

Starchy Noodles

Cellophane Noodles 粉丝

Not to be confused with Rice Vermicelli, Chinese cellophane noodles are made with flour or starch from mung beans as well as potato starch or canna starch and water. The noodles can be a variety of thicknesses from long, skinny and round to short, flat and wide. When they are cooked, they have a translucent color instead of white like the rice vermicelli.

Cellophane noodles, or glass noodles, can be found in many Chinese dishes, such as Spring Rolls 春卷, Ants Climbing a Tree 蚂蚁上树, Fried Tofu with Thin Noodles 油豆腐线粉汤

Potato Noodles 土豆粉

Potato Noodles were originally just for the Ming Dynasty emperors to eat, but after the dynasty the noodles spread to everyone all over China. Made with just potato starch and water, the production process utilizes a combination of hot and cold water to get the noodles to be short, round and thick. After being cooked, their white coloring become brighter and their texture gets much softer and chewier.

Flour Noodles

Sliced Noodles 刀削面

Sliced noodles originate from the Shaanxi Province and is made in a unique way. The dough is made of just flour and water, but it is kneaded into a large and compact block of dough. From there, the chef will use a special slicer to shave short, flat pieces off directly into the boiling water at a fast rate.

Pulled Noodles 拉面

Pulled Noodles are the Chinese version of Japanese Ramen. Similar to Sliced Noodles, the ingredients are simple wheat flour and water, but how they are made is what makes them special. The dough rolled out instead of packed tightly and then the chef will take the dough between their fingers and pull really wide. The noodles become round and stringy. When cooked, they turn a nice light yellow color and are firmer than the vermicelli and cellophane noodles.

Flavored Noodles

Egg Noodles 鸡蛋面

There are a few different variations of Egg Noodles based on how they are shaped. They can be either wide and flat or thin and round, but both varieties maintain a vibrant yellow color. They are made with flour, water and eggs, which is where it gets its coloring and taste from. Egg Noodles are often used in Cantonese dishes.

Spinach Noodles 菠菜面

Originally from Shaanxi, Spinach noodles have a distinct coloring from the ground spinach. Chefs use a grindstone to grind spinach into the wheat flour to make the noodles. They are typically made long, straight and skinny, and have a very fragrant flavoring, unlike other noodles that are quite plain. These noodles are seen as healthy due to the added spinach and supposedly help with high blood pressure.

Meat Noodles

Fish Noodles 鱼面

Fish Noodles are noodles made from minced fish (such as Yellow Croaker or Japanese Mackerel) that is turned into a paste and added to potato starch. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, fish noodles are a very popular noodle for hot pots.

Shrimp Roe Noodles 虾子面

Shrimp Roe Noodles are popular in Hong Kong and Guangdong and made from flour, lye-water and shrimp roe. The noodles have a natural shrimp flavor so the most common cooking method just involves boiling them, while maybe adding soy sauce after. You can tell if the noodles are shrimp roe noodles from the tiny black spots in the noodles.


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