How to Make Rice Noodles
Rice noodles are a mainstay of Asian cooking, popular in Chinese cooking and Southeast Asian cuisines, like Thai and Vietnamese. They are sometimes sold fresh, but most readily available dried. Like most pastas, they last for years in the pantry. And like millions upon millions of people – we love them! For their pliable chewiness, and ability to absorb awesome flavors.
What are Rice Noodles?
Rice noodles are made from a blend of water and rice powder, also known as rice flour. They come in a variety of widths, from broad to super skinny vermicelli like strands. I go through phases deciding which skinniness or broadness I like the most at the moment.
Dried rice noodles have an off-white, slightly grayish, slightly translucent appearance. They are usually packaged folded several times in plastic bags or sometimes boxes. Rice vermicelli noodles are often sold in a kind of brick or block shape. Flat wider rice noodles might also be labeled “river noodles”.
How to Cook Rice Noodles
Rice noodles can overcook quickly, which is why the method and timing are important. There are a few great ways to soak and/or cook rice noodles. Whichever method you choose, you’ll want to pay close attention to the time.
How cooked or softened the rice noodles should be depends on how you are using them. If you are using them in a cool dish, you want to make sure they are tender before you add them to the rest of the recipe. If you know they will continue to cook in a hot dish, like Pad Thai or Shrimp with Rice Noodles, then you will want to soak them until they are pliable, and allow them to become tender as they finish cooking in the pan, often in a sauce.
Soaking Rice Noodles in Hot Water
One of the most common methods of softening rice noodles in preparation for adding them to dishes where they will continue to cook is to soak them in very hot water, or water that has been brought to a boil. The hot water is poured over the noodles, or the noodles are submerged in the hot water.
The amount of time you need to soak your noodles depends on their thickness and width. As they soak, use tongs to separate the noodles into strands. Make sure they are stirred and separated often to prevent clumping.
- Rice vermicelli noodles – 4 to 6 minutes soaking time – boiling or very hot water
- Wider flat rice noodles – 5 to 10 minutes soaking time – boiling or very hot water
- If you add the noodles to the pot of boiling water, the soaking time will be much shorter. Keep a close eye on the noodles, or they will turn to mush!
- If you know you are going to continue cooking the noodles in a sauce or a dish, then you want to soak them until they are pliable, but not fully soft. They will continue to soften in the dish as it cooks.
- If you are using the noodles in a cold dish, or any dish where they will not cook any further, you want to soak them until they are soft enough to bite into – in essence, soak them until you think they are the right texture for eating.
Soaking Rice Noodles in Lukewarm Water
Rice noodles can also be softened in lukewarm water, which will take about 30 to 60 minutes. Again, depending on whether you plan on continuing to cook them in a stir fry or other dish, you may want to take them out and rise them while they are still firm, but pliable. If you want to refresh the water with warmer water along the way, the softening will go faster.
Rinsing the Noodles to Stop the Cooking
If you have chosen to soften your noodles in boiling water and want them to stop softening immediately, it’s a good idea to stop the cooking by shocking them in cold water. You can drain them and transfer them to a bowl of cold water, or you can drain them and run cold water over them in a colander. This allows you to control the cooking process, and end up with perfectly tender but not mushy noodles.
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Keeping Soaked Rice Noodles Soft
After softening the noodles, they need to be kept moist or they will harden. Leave them in the water bath, or cover them with a damp towel if you are not going to use them right away. Or, you can keep softened rice noodles in a container filled with water in the fridge for up to 2 days, then drain and proceed with the recipe.
Why Are My Rice Noodles Hard?
Rice noodles are too hard when they are not soaked or boiled for long enough before adding them to a recipe. You can soak them in hot or warm water for longer to make them more pliable.
Why Are My Rice Noodles Mushy?
Chances are you over-soaked or overcooked them – it happens to the best of us! This will cause them to become too soft, and probably clump together. Once rice noodles become gummy and tangled it’s very hard to separate them, so err on the side of al dente and use your tongs to move them around often.
Recipes with Rice Noodles:
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How to Cook Rice Noodles
- 8 ounces rice noodles (either wide and flat, or vermicelli)
- 6 cups water (or more, as needed)
- Place the rice noodles into a large bowl. Heat 6 cups of water in a pot over high heat until the water comes to a simmer. Pour the hot water over the noodles and let sit for a few minutes. As they soak, use tongs or your hands to separate the noodles into strands.
- The amount of time you need to soak your noodles depends on their thickness and width. Rice vermicelli noodles will take about 4 to 6 minutes to soften. Wider flat rice noodles will take about 5 to 10 minutes. As soon as they are softened as much as you wish, drain them or remove them from the hot water. Depending on whether you plan on continuing to cook them in a stir fry or other dish, you may want to take them out and rinse them while they are still firm but pliable. If you are going to eat the noodles as is without further cooking, make sure they are very tender.
- Either toss the noodles with sauce or add them to a salad, or continue with the recipe.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.