Hello and welcome to our guide to types of Chinese (mostly) noodles and wrappers. There are lots of different types of noodles used in Chinese cooking (this is an understatement) and we will use several of them in our recipes. We created this resource so Mala Eats users can find information about the different types of noodles used in our recipes. Each time we use a new type of noodle or wrapper we will add a short description and picture to this page.
History of Chinese Noodles
Archeologist unearthed evidence that noodles were being made 4,000 years ago in China, suggesting that noodles were invented in China not Italy. A paper published in the journal Nature stated that archeologist uncovered a sealed earthenware bowl containing well preserved noodles at the Lajia archeological site in Northwestern China. The noodles resembled la-mian, or hand-pulled noodles. Lajia is close to Jie’s hometown of Lanzhou which is famous for their Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup (兰州拉面), which uses hand-pulled noodles.
The first written record of noodles dates to the Eastern Han period (25-220 CE), but we can see from this discovery they were being consumed way before this time period.
Wheat Flour Vegetarian Noodles (egg free)
Wheat flour vegetarian (egg free) noodles are a staple in China and can be found in numerous small shops. Most restaurants make them themselves or buy from a local vender specializing in fresh noodles.
There are a multitude of varieties (too many to count or talk about), including hand pulled noodles and shaved noodles. Fresh wheat flour noodles should be springy and bouncy when cooked. Generally, they are made with wheat flour, salt, and water. They can be made with high (bread flour) and lower (all-purpose flour) gluten varieties of flour depending on the desired texture. Some noodle recipes add an alkaline agent to give them some extra bounce and the perfect chew.
In the West, fresh noodles can be found in the refrigerator section of your local Chinese or Asian grocery; there are numerous dried varieties as well. Cooking times can vary from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Any time we use fresh (homemade or store bought) or dried wheat flour vegetarian noodles we will list them here.
Store bought Fresh Wheat Flour Vegetarian Noodles (egg free)
Can be flat, round, skinny, or wide.
How they are used
The noodles pictured above are an example of fresh wheat flour noodles that can be found at your local Chinese or Asian market. We used these noodles in our dan dan noodle recipe. Noodles like these can be found in many different shapes and sizes. They are all made with wheat flour, salt, and water, although they will vary in texture and jiao jing (chewiness).
Drop in a pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. Make sure not to overcook to get them perfectly chewy and springy. Follow the directions on the package to cook for the appropriate amount of time - usually 2 -4 minutes. The taste test is the best method for determining when they are done. Taste after one minute of cooking and remember they will keep cooking after removing from the boiling water.
Another important step is to dunk your cooked noodles under cool water right after removing from the pot. This will arrest the cooking process and will keep the noodles from sticking together in a starchy mess.
Some common varieties of egg noodles include chow mein, lo mein, and wonton mein. These noodles are typically made with wheat flour, water, salt, and eggs, which give them their slight yellow appearance. Egg noodles are more common to southern areas China, such as Guangdong Province, but they can be found in dishes all over China.
Thin and round
How they are used
Chow mein (炒面) means pan fried noodles. The cooking method is generally straightforward and the ingredients not very complicated – simple veggies, soy sauce, and a little sesame oil. These noodles are commonly used in a dish called supreme soy sauce noodles (鼓油王炒面).
Fresh, un-steamed noodles are usually steamed for about 10 minutes and then dunked under cold water to stop the cooking process. They are then set aside until ready to stir-fry.
Fresh, pre-steamed noodles need to be put in boiling water for about one minute to help separate them. They should then be dunked under cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside until ready to stir-fry.
Chow mein is usually stir-fried in a very hot wok to give them a slight crispiness.