Sen Mee เส้นหมี่
Rice vermicelli is my choice of noodles for a quick meal. The vermicelli is the small round noodles. It comes in a plastic bag with 4 flats inside. It's easily cooked. Pour hot boiling water over the noodles and let the noodles soak for 2 minutes. Drain and fluff the noodles. The noodles should be flexible and al dente. The noodles are available at Asian stores and some American markets. The noodles are called ‘sen mi’ or ‘me kow’, in Thai.
Fresh Flat Rice Noodles
sen yai กํวยเตี๋ยวเส้นใหญ่
I remember seeing a fresh rice noodle machine once when I was a kid. It reminded me of a printing press, where the paper or noodles move from one spot to another and finally pile up in a receiving tray.
The noodles are made by steaming rice flour mixture on a flat surface. The noodles are soft and sticky. These are available in sheets or cut, about 3/4 of an inch wide. They are made fresh locally and don't keep very long, 3-4 days maximum, in the refrigerator. However, you can freeze the whole tray and thaw the noodles in the microwave. At my local Asian markets, the noodles come in white foam tray with plastic wrap. They are on shelves, not in the refrigerator. The noodles get hard when they are cooled in the refrigerator. If you are planning on stir frying them, heat them up in microwave for a few minutes and pull apart the strands. Otherwise, they will clump together, more difficult to season.
When ordering noodles in Thailand you will be asked what kind you want - this one is called "sen yai".
fresh egg noodles
Bamee or Mee Leong บะหมี่, หมี่เหลือง
When I was growing up, every kid had a favorite type of noodles that they always ordered. I was never the egg noodles girl. But a friend of mine was. She ate the egg noodles with such gusto. Day after day of watching her, I finally broke down. I had to order the noodles too. I had to see if it was as good as she enjoyed it. I had that craze for the next 10 years. So, I made Ba Mee Moo Dang quite a bit.
Egg noodles is basically eggs and wheat flour, just like fresh pasta. These egg noodles are not your normal American wide egg noodles. They are freshly made and kept well in freezer for a long time.
The egg noodles are the size of angel hair pasta. In the old days, (I'm sure it is still made this way in some places in China) it was made by pulling the dough until getting the desire thickness instead of by extrusion or cutting. Making the noodles by pulling the dough is a real skill. This type of noodles is called ‘bah mee’ or ‘mee leong’ in Thai. Look for egg noodles in a refrigerated section of your Asian grocery stores. They come in a plastic bag with a few bundles in a bag. A bundle is good for one person.
woon sen วุ้นเส้น
Clear noodles are also known as cellophane noodles, bean thread noodles, transparent noodles and glass noodles. There are a variety of sizes from vermicelli to linguine size but the most common one for Thai cooking is the vermicelli size. The noodles are whitsh in color (not off white like rice vermicelli). They come dried in small and large bundles. The one that I buy comes in a bag with 8 small bundles inside (2oz. each). Each bundle is good for a dish.
Clear noodles are made from mung beans. Many Thai people who are on a diet, substitute clear noodles for rice noodles.
Soak in hot, warm or cold water (depending on what you are making) before cooking. The hotter the water, the more water the noodles soak up and the softer they become and the stickier the outside surface. This leads to some rules of thumb about what kind of dish takes what kind of soaking. For casserole type dishes (where the water in the noodles can get baked out) soak in hot water. For re-cooked dishes, like Thai spring rolls, use warm water. For stir fried noodles, soak in cold water otherwise the noodles will be overly sticky. The noodles are done soaking when they become opaque and are soft (like cooked spaghetti). After the noodles are cooked they will become clear. High quality noodles should not keep on expanding if soaked in water or soup for a long time.
Thin Rice Noodles
Khanom Jeen ขนมจีน
These noodles are sometimes also called "Khanom Jeen Noodles". Traditionally, these are made from a rice batter made with freshly milled rice flour. There are two types of batter: the fresh and the fermented. The fermented batter is made and let sit until the batter is slightly sour (doesn’t take too long in hot and humid Thailand). These noodles are made at feasts by 4-5 people in a production line. The noodle maker will take a tin can that has tiny holes in the bottom that the batter/dough can pushed through. The noodle maker will hold the can over a boiling pot of boiling water and move it around so that the batter flows out through the holes in a steady stream and turns into noodles when it hits the water. The noodles are then fetched out after a couple minutes and then put in cold water. Then the noodle makers will form the noodles into a set of flat nests about 3 inches in diameter.
Now, the noodles are made by machines. And the batter is usually fresh as opposed to fermented. I personally like the fermented batter better. The sour flavor makes the noodles more interesting.
Outside of Thailand, if you are lucky, there are dried khanom jeen noodles at Asian stores. However, those are hard to come by. I ended up using somen which is Japanese wheat noodles. Somen tastes close to the fresh batter khanom jeen. Somen is available Asian stores. You cook somen in boiling water, the same way that you cook spaghetti.