Glass Noodles and Ramen
There are oodles of noodles to taste from all over the world, and although most might look almost identical, there are many differences to observe in these culinary creations. For instance, many countries may use the same type of noodle, call it by different names, and use different key ingredients to make it. Still, the common name of the noodle will remain the same regardless. One such variety of noodle that is used in many different Asian countries and goes well in numerous dishes is the glass noodle.
For this article, we’re going to take a look at glass noodles and ramen noodles, what they are, how they’re similar, and how they’re different. In the end, we’re hopeful you can decide which one is best for you!
Glass noodles, or cellophane noodles, are white when dry and clear when cooked. These transparent noodles are comprised of a starch and water. Although they only have two main ingredients, glass noodles can be made from many different starches, such as mung starch, sweet potato starch, tapioca starch, potato starch, or canna starch. The noodles themselves are commonly eaten in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The literal meaning for their name is ‘flour thread’, which is due to the fact that they look like threads of flour before being cooked (though rest assured, there is no flour in their ingredients list).
It’s because of their light taste that glass noodles are used in many different dishes and are more likely to be found in stores in a solid, dry form. The noodles are meant to be taken home – or to a restaurant – to be soaked and reconstituted before using in soups, spring rolls, salads, or stir-fried dishes. They can be thick, thin, wide, flat, chewy, or any such combination, though they all have an amazingly unique taste no matter how they look.
Ramen noodles are a staple of the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese diet. They’re eaten almost daily by ramen lovers in countries around the world, and are most recognizable by the signature dish they’re usually present in: ramen. They can be served hot or cold with a beef, chicken, vegetable, or seafood broth, and have a list of acceptable toppings that keeps stretching on as more flavorful ingredients are added. Ramen has a rich history full of innovation, creation, and authenticity. Throughout the years, this seemingly simple dish of broth, noodles, and toppings has become the symbol of Japan and represents everything Japanese to those living outside the small island country.
Ramen noodles are made from wheat flour, water, salt, and mineral water. On occasion, rice flour can be substituted for the wheat flour, which in turn makes the noodles gluten-free. You can read more about gluten-free ramen noodles in our article “Gluten-Free Ramen” if you want to find out more! The noodles can be thick, thin, curly, straight, chewy, or soft. As there are many different styles of ramen noodles, it’s not uncommon for chefs and ramen eaters alike to have their own preference on which suits a particular ramen broth the best.
Both noodles are a solid color when dried, and are commonly bought and sold in a dehydrated variety to be prepared at home. They don’t need to be cooked for very long, and are an excellent addition to already delicious dishes. When used in soups, both noodles need to be eaten rather quickly in order to ensure that they don’t soak up too much broth and become soggy. The noodles are meant to carry the flavor and taste of the broth instead of standing out on their own, and are meant to be an extension of the dish’s flavor.
Using very simple ingredients, it’s not hard for people to make their own glass noodles or ramen noodles at home; that is, so long as they can make it through the rigorous process of preparing the noodles themselves after mixing the ingredients. They both have very different styles and varieties depending on the region they are made and served in. Many Asian countries have different names and preferences to how they serve either of the noodles, whether it’s spicy ramen or cold glass noodles. Both have even evolved to be used in salads. Hawaiians have perfected the ramen salad, and as such it holds its own against many glass noodle salads.
Ramen noodles are generally only used for ramen dishes, whereas glass noodles can be used for a large variety of meals. Although ramen has evolved in some degree to break free from just being a noodle for a soup, it can’t hold a candle to the versatility of glass noodles. Ramen noodles are completely visible when present in a soup (unless the broth is so thick that you can’t see anything else in the bowl either), whereas glass noodles are almost completely invisible in a broth. Glass noodles don’t need to be alkaline due to the fact that the majority of dishes the noodles are prepared for already have more than enough of the mineral.
Along those lines, ramen noodles can in fact stand out on their own if eaten separately from the dish they’re paired with. Glass noodles, in comparison, have a more delicate flavor that’s harder to detect when added into a dish. Ramen noodle recipes have been passed down for generations, and are taken very seriously and have to be strictly followed. To mess up a ramen noodle recipe that your grandparents perfected is almost seen as a dishonor to your family, but the sanctity of glass noodle recipes is nowhere near as do-or-die.
Which Is Better?
If you’re looking for the perfect noodles to add to a bowl of soup, both are decent choices, but the ultimate decision is up to the person eating the soup. Need to add noodles to a salad? You’re more likely to reach for glass noodles than ramen, even though both can work just fine. In the end, the best noodles for the job are usually – and rather simply stated – the best noodles suited for the dish. It’s ultimately up to personal preference on what works best for a dish, though you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better noodle suited for ramen then good old-fashioned ramen noodles!
If you’re just dying to try a bowl of delicious ramen straight from Japan, you can always head over to our subscription page and order a box of authentic, Japanese instant ramen to be delivered every month straight to your door! Hurry now and get yourself all set up to enjoy our hand-selected instant ramen meals no matter where you are in the world!