Noodle soup is a beloved dish in many cultures around the world. In Asia, chilled noodle soup is a refreshing meal perfect for hot summer days. While there are many types of noodles that can be used in this dish, two of the most popular options are rice vermicelli and somen noodles. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two kinds of noodles and how to use them in chilled noodle soup.
What are Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodles?
Rice vermicelli and somen noodles are both thin and delicate noodles commonly used in Southeast Asian and Japanese cuisine, respectively. Rice vermicelli is made from rice flour and water, while somen noodles are made from wheat flour and water.
Despite their similarities in appearance, rice vermicelli and somen noodles have distinct differences in taste and texture. Rice vermicelli has a slightly chewy texture and a neutral flavor, making it a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, such as soups, salads, and stir-fries. On the other hand, somen noodles have a delicate texture and a slightly sweet flavor, which pairs well with light sauces and toppings like grated ginger, scallions, and bonito flakes.
The Origins and History of Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodles
Rice vermicelli has been a staple in Vietnam for centuries, and is also popular in other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Cambodia. Somen noodles have been a part of Japanese cuisine for over 1,000 years and were originally served as a delicacy to the upper classes.
Rice vermicelli is made from rice flour and water, and is often used in dishes like pho and bun cha. It is a versatile ingredient that can be served hot or cold, and is a popular choice for salads and spring rolls.
Somen noodles, on the other hand, are made from wheat flour and are thinner than udon or soba noodles. They are often served cold in the summer months, and are commonly eaten with a dipping sauce or in a salad. Somen noodles are also used in hot dishes like soups and stir-fries.
Nutritional Comparison of Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodles
Both rice vermicelli and somen noodles are low in fat and calories, making them a healthy choice for noodle soup. Rice vermicelli is slightly higher in carbohydrates, while somen noodles are higher in protein.
However, rice vermicelli is a better source of fiber compared to somen noodles. Fiber is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system and can also help in reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
On the other hand, somen noodles are a good source of iron, which is important for the production of red blood cells. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, and weakness.
Texture Comparison: Rice Vermicelli vs Somen Noodles
Rice vermicelli is translucent and has a soft, slippery texture. It’s often used in dishes like pho and bun cha. Somen noodles are white and have a firmer, chewier texture. They’re often served cold with dipping sauces.
Another difference between rice vermicelli and somen noodles is their cooking time. Rice vermicelli cooks quickly, usually in just a few minutes, while somen noodles take a bit longer to cook, around 5-7 minutes. This makes rice vermicelli a great option for quick and easy meals, while somen noodles are better suited for dishes that require a heartier texture.
Additionally, rice vermicelli and somen noodles are made from different types of flour. Rice vermicelli is made from rice flour, while somen noodles are made from wheat flour. This difference in flour type gives the noodles their distinct textures and flavors. Rice vermicelli has a mild, slightly sweet flavor, while somen noodles have a nuttier, wheat flavor.
The Best Ingredients to Pair with Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodles
Rice vermicelli and somen noodles work well with a variety of ingredients. For rice vermicelli, try pairing it with grilled meats like pork or shrimp, fresh herbs like mint and cilantro, and crunchy vegetables like bean sprouts and cucumbers. For somen noodles, try dipping them in tsuyu sauce and serving them with toppings like grated ginger, green onions, and nori.
Another great ingredient to pair with rice vermicelli and somen noodles is tofu. Tofu is a great source of protein and can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as pan-fried or grilled. It also absorbs flavors well, making it a great addition to any noodle dish. You can also add some spice to your dish by including chili peppers or sriracha sauce. These ingredients will add a kick of heat to your dish and complement the flavors of the noodles and other ingredients.
Cooking Techniques for Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodles
Rice vermicelli and somen noodles are both quick-cooking and easy to prepare. To cook rice vermicelli, simply soak the noodles in hot water for 5-10 minutes until softened. To cook somen noodles, boil them in salted water for 2-3 minutes until tender.
Once the noodles are cooked, they can be used in a variety of dishes. Rice vermicelli is commonly used in Vietnamese dishes such as pho and bun cha, while somen noodles are often used in Japanese dishes like cold somen noodles with dipping sauce.
When using rice vermicelli or somen noodles in a dish, it’s important to not overcook them as they can become mushy. It’s also important to rinse the noodles with cold water after cooking to stop the cooking process and prevent them from sticking together.
Top Tips for Preparing Chilled Noodle Soup using Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodles
To make chilled noodle soup using rice vermicelli or somen noodles, start by cooking the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Then, arrange the noodles and toppings in a bowl and pour cold broth over the top. Garnish with fresh herbs and lime wedges. For added flavor, consider adding soy sauce or chili oil to the broth.
Another tip for preparing chilled noodle soup is to use a variety of toppings to add texture and flavor. Some popular options include sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, and sliced scallions. You can also add protein such as cooked shrimp, sliced chicken, or tofu to make the soup more filling.
When serving chilled noodle soup, it’s important to keep the broth and noodles separate until ready to eat. This will prevent the noodles from becoming soggy and the broth from becoming diluted. You can also chill the bowls in the refrigerator before serving to keep the soup cold for longer.
Variations of Chilled Noodle Soup using Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodles
Chilled noodle soup can be customized with a variety of ingredients and flavors. For example, you can use different types of broth like miso or coconut milk. You can also add proteins like tofu or sliced beef. The possibilities are endless!
Another way to add flavor to chilled noodle soup is by incorporating different herbs and spices. Thai basil, cilantro, and mint are popular choices that can give the soup a refreshing and aromatic taste. Additionally, you can add chili flakes or sriracha sauce for a spicy kick.
If you’re looking for a more filling meal, you can also add vegetables like cucumber, carrot, and bean sprouts. These ingredients not only add texture and crunch to the soup, but also provide essential nutrients. You can even top the soup with a fried egg or crispy shallots for added flavor and texture.
Cultural Significance of Chilled Noodle Soup in Asia
Chilled noodle soup is a staple dish in many Asian countries and holds cultural significance. In Vietnam, it’s often served as a meal during the hot summer months. In Japan, it’s a popular dish during the summer festival season.
In Korea, chilled noodle soup, known as naengmyeon, is a traditional dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. It’s made with buckwheat noodles and served in a cold broth made from beef, chicken, or dongchimi (radish water kimchi). Naengmyeon is often garnished with sliced pear, cucumber, and boiled egg, and is considered a refreshing and healthy meal during the hot and humid summer months.
In China, chilled noodle soup is known as liangpi and is a popular street food. It’s made with wheat or rice flour noodles that are served cold with a spicy sauce made from chili oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. Liangpi is often topped with sliced cucumber, bean sprouts, and shredded chicken or pork, and is a favorite dish during the summer months.
How to Store Leftover Rice Vermicelli and Somen Noodle Soup
If you have leftover rice vermicelli or somen noodle soup, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. To reheat, simply microwave or reheat on the stove with additional broth.
In conclusion, both rice vermicelli and somen noodles are great options for chilled noodle soup. Whether you prefer the soft texture of rice vermicelli or the chewiness of somen noodles, there are endless possibilities for customization and delicious toppings to create the perfect bowl of noodle soup.
It’s important to note that when reheating the noodle soup, you should add additional broth to prevent the noodles from becoming too dry. You can also add fresh herbs, such as cilantro or basil, to enhance the flavor of the soup.
If you want to make the noodle soup ahead of time, you can prepare the broth and noodles separately and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. This way, the noodles won’t become too soft and the broth won’t become too salty from the noodles absorbing all the liquid.