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Cooking fresh rice noodles


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#1 stevea

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Posted 04 November 2003 - 09:31 AM

I love Pad Kee Mauw (sp?) and Drunken Noodles in Thai restaurants and I'd like to recreate the dish at home. But whenever I attempt to use fresh rice noodles (purchased refrigerated from the Asian grocery), I end up with a big, fat congealed mess. And dried rice noodles don't achieve the same luscious texture. Does anyone know the proper technique for preparing fresh rice noodles in a stir-fry dish?
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#2 trillium

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Posted 04 November 2003 - 10:25 AM

What kind of rice noodles are you using? The kind you have to cut up yourself? If you are, then I can offer a few tips. First of all, don't refrigerate the fresh rice noodles, and try to find ones that aren't refrigerated to start with, it makes handling them more difficult then it has to be. Secondly, try rinsing them in hot running water to make them pliable enough to seperate the layers and cut into the width you want. Make sure that all of the layers are seperated and pulled apart and fairly dry. If you describe what you're doing when it comes time to cook them, maybe you'll get more specific help. Here's a start....when you stir-fry, you'll need a not insignificant amount of oil and a really hot pan. You'll also need to not overload the pan or you get steamed fun/noodles that like to stick together. At home it's usually easiest to stirfry the noodles by themselves with seasoning (soy, fish sauce) and then add back your other ingredients when they're mostly cooked.

regards,
trillium

#3 stevea

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Posted 04 November 2003 - 11:06 AM

trillium -- thanks a lot. That could really help. The noodles I last used came from a refrigerated section (I don't know of any stores in Portland that sell them unrefrigerated, but I'll certainly look harder in the future). They were in folded into a block, but presliced, sort of. That is, one big block with serrations where you could break the sections apart. I had wide, relatively thick noodles.

I tried to put the noodles in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes to loosen or cook them. Then I added them to the wok where the rest of my sauce was cooking. Bad idea!!!

So I guess I need to figure out the best way to unstick the refrigerated noodles first. Rinse with hot running water? Cold soak? Hot soak?

Then, dry and separate noodles.

Next, fry in batches with lots of oil (I'm assuming a half cup or so???) Any suggestions on length of frying?

Finally add back in with other ingredients for a final few stirs.

Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.
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#4 trillium

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Posted 04 November 2003 - 02:25 PM

Hi steve

If the Portland you mean is Portland, OR, then you're right, I haven't seen any unrefrigerated either. In other cities I've lived in I usually could find them on the counters at bakeries or snack shops. I'm sure they can be found here in Portland, maybe at the place that actually makes them, but I haven't seen them at An Dong, Pacific Supermarket, or any of the shops on Sandy Blvd or 82nd Ave. I'll confess I'm having trouble picturing a big block with serrations. The way I usually buy them is a long sheet folded into a square of several layers. This block fits onto a styrofoam tray and is wrapped in plastic. If they've been in the fridge then the block will break in the folded area, but I've never seen them serrated, sometimes just sliced. Anyway, the treatment is about the same. You don't want to precook them at all, which you learned, boiling water is too hot for them. You want to rinse them in hot running water which is comfortable to have your hands in. The idea is to get them pliable enough to pull apart but not make them waterlogged. Something to know is that they're already cooked, they're made by steaming a batter of rice flour and water, so they're very different from wheat noodles.

Try to get them into 1 or 2 layer thicknesses (1 layer is best, but sometimes it's impossible to pull them apart without breaking them) and the length that you want (by cutting or breaking the serrations). I'm guessing that your thick noodles were really more than one layer, and they needed to be pulled apart. Then pat them dry if they have a lot of water on them and toss them around so they stay fluffy not lumpy. What I do is dump them from the cutting board onto a clean dishcloth and toss and dry on that. Usually they don't have too much water because they're coated in oil so the water runs off.

If you're frying 1 lb of noodle and you have a nice big frying pan (12 inches or more) then you can do them all at once if you make certain your pan is preheated and you let the oil get hot enough as well (peanut oil works well because it has a very high smoking point). To give you an idea of timing for preheating a pan on my stove you could go look at the numbers I gave for stir frying veggies in the southern Chinese cooking class here. A well seasoned cast iron pan or iron pan or wok works best, the stainless steel will be too sticky and the nonstick will not let you get as nice of a sear. If you're having tons of trouble you could start out with nonstick and then switch once you get comfortable. I don't think you'll need 1/2 cup of oil, although it might be easiest to start out with that amount, but you'll end up with very greasy noodles. I probably use 1/4 - 1/3 cup of oil total for both the noodle and the other ingredients, but when I just started I remember I used a lot more oil. You want to fry them until they're soft, and it's better to underestimate their doneness and add the rest of the ingredients, then to overcook them and end up with a soggy, oily mess. I've never timed it, but they're done pretty quickly when you're tossing them around at a high temp.

There are some very accomplished cooks around and hopefully they'll add their advice to mine. Cooking fresh rice noodles at home does take a little practice, but I'll bet it will go much better next time.

regards,
trillium

#5 ecr

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Posted 04 November 2003 - 11:37 PM

I'll add my two cents from observation (I've not cooked fresh rice noodle Thai dishes, though I have cooked chow fun): when I order guaytiaow phad kee mao at my favorite place in Bangkok, they bring the noodles out from the kitchen/washing up area in the back in a plastic basket --- already pliable in a little pile so I'm thinking they dip or rinse them with hot water. The wok jockey up front adds what looks like 1/4 cut oil to a VERY hot wok, oil heats up and is swirled around a bit, and when smoking noodles go in with a wee bit of fish sauce. Stirred around vigorously for just about a minute. Noodles come out, rest of ingredients go in with just a little more oil. When their cooked noodles go back in to be mixed with the rest, another wee bit of fish sauce, and that's it. Basil leaves are added at the last minute. If phad siiew, a good Tbsp of black soy is added to the wok WITH the noodles on their first fry, so that the soy soaks into and flavors them.
Trillium is right --- heat is crucial. Not only so that the noodles don't stick but also so that they get sufficiently smoky in taste.
BTW, what are "Drunken" noodles?
Good luck.

#6 stevea

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Posted 05 November 2003 - 04:53 PM

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I will be itching to try out both of your suggestions. Yes trillium, I meant Portland OR. I believe the fresh noodles I bought were similar to what you bought, just my description of them differs. I usually shop at Uwajimaya (if I happen to venture to the west side) or the store on SE Powell (An Dong, I think), which is closer to home.

Drunken noodles, from the little I've seen and read, are similar to Pad Kee Mao. That is, wide fresh noodles, stir fried in a spicy hot sauce with a meat, often bean sprouts, red peppers, sometimes an egg at the end, and lots of thai basil. The experts will have to chime in with the specifics because I'm just learning and experimenting at this point.
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#7 pim

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Posted 06 November 2003 - 03:19 PM

Pad Kee Mao is “drunken noodle” as “Kee Mao” means a drunk in Thai. A lot of dishes as so called “kee mao” because we Thais believe that certain spicy dishes are good with alcohol.

Pad kee mao
ingredients: meat (chicken, beef, shrimps, etc.), oil, some garlic and chilli chopped together, fish sauce, a tiny pinch of sugar, a wee bit of Chinese dark soy sauce (optional), egg (optional, most likely none), a big handful of Bai Krapow (holy basil) and kway teo (flat rice noodles). Also optional, onions, bell peppers, and other vegetables (Americanized version).
Into a very hot wok or large sautéed pan goes the oil, then the garlic and chillis, stirring very vigorously to avoid burning them. As soon as you can smell the garlic, throw in the meat, stir a couple times, then add fish sauce (and dark soy sauce) and a pinch of sugar, stirring again vigorously too cook the meat. When the meat is almost done, stir in the noodles, keep flipping, then at the last minute add the basil.

Pad see ewe ingredients: meat, oil, some chopped garlic, Chinese dark soy sauce, Chinese broccoli, fish sauce, egg, a biggish pinch of sugar, and kway teo.
Pad see ewe is made with pretty much the same method.

As for the noodle, your best bet is to find fresh, unrefrigerated ones, though I’ve once had to use the noodles that had been previously refrigerated. I found that steaming them first helped me to loosen the sheets.

Edited by pim, 06 November 2003 - 03:20 PM.

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#8 Ondine

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 06:43 PM

I have to say I do agree with everyone here - unsticking the noodles with hot water before continuing to cook them is the way to go. I am not too fond of the copious oil that the fresh noodles are packaged with (to keep them separate in the bag presumably) so what i tend to do is to soak the whole lot in a large pot of boiling water (which helps to soften them too) and worry the noodles apart with a pair of chopsticks. Then I pour off a good half of the water, which carries most of the oil off.
I don't personally feel you have to dry them before frying - in my experience the conjunction of the wet noodles and the hot pan helps prevent the noodles from sticking in the first few minutes before they get coated in the hot oil from the pan. But then again i tend to make noodle dishes that have a bit of sauce/gravy like kwaytio rad naa or saar hor fun.
Give things a try and find out what works for you!

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#9 stevea

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 12:20 PM

I bought more noodles today to give it another try. However, I asked the lady at the grocery store how to prepare them so they don't stick or clump together. She told me to microwave the entire package (noodles in a folded block, sitting on styrofoam and wrapped in plastic wrap) for one minute. Then pull apart the noodles and add directly to the already stir-fried vegetables.

Anybody heard of or had experience with this technique?
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#10 stevea

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 04:12 PM

Well, I'd have to say that the results of my latest rice noodle experiment were disappointing and frustrating. I tried running hot tap water over the noodles, but they remained brittle and stuck together. I then tried the microwave technique for one minute. I was only able to dislodge bits and pieces of the noodles. I nuked the noodle mass for another minute and the heat had its effect, as the noodles softened but were very hot. Still I was able to separate the individual noodles after much tedious work (about 15 minutes for a pound of noodles).

It's worthy of a note here, though perhaps everyone else knows this. A pound of fresh noodles does not equate to a pound of dry rice noodles. Dry has no water, ergo more noodles per pound, D'oh! So with all that work, I really didn't end up with enough noodles.

Anyway, I heated the peanut oil in my wok to the smoking point, and dumped in the noodles. After about four seconds, they began sticking and clumping, even with my stir-frying like crazy. To prevent the inevitable congealed mass of rice I knew I would get, I turned off the heat and poured in my already prepared sauce with stir-fried pork and vegetables. Done.

The result was good, but the noodles were not what I wanted. The rice noodles themselves were too thin and silky, no better than dry rice noodles and nowhere near the chewy resistance that wide restaurant noodles have.

So I remain perplexed. I presume there is some technique improvement that would improve my results, but I don't think the noodles I got were anything like the noodles that every Thai restaurant in Portland seems to be able to get. And I'm sure they don't spend 15 minutes per pound to prepare them for frying.

So I still seek the secret of home made Pad Kee Mau and Pad See Ewe noodles.
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#11 kangarool

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 08:36 PM

But then again i tend to make noodle dishes that have a bit of sauce/gravy like kwaytio rad  naa or saar hor fun.

Ondine, or anyone on this board, do you have a favourite recipe for the sauce for Saar (also called Char?) Hor Fun? Living in Melbourne, and working in Footscray, I'm lucky to have literally dozens of Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asian shops, bakeries and noodlemakers all around, so the fresh noodles are easy to come by. But I’ve yet to find a recipe for the beautiful eggy gravy in seafood hor fun.

I’ve gotten very close just replicating by taste. After I give the noodles a quick wokking with a bit of soy, I’ll take them out, cook a bit of seafood and veggies, then add a sauce of chicken stock, a bit more soy, white pepper, cornflour/corn starch and after that’s cooked and thickened, a bunch of minced garlic at the end, so that it doesn’t cook too much. And the beaten egg… but I’m unsure when to add. I’m guessing also at the very end, so that it doesn’t cook too long and stays somewhat ‘liquid’ for want of a better word.

Like I said, it’s close, but something’s missing… anyone suggest anything?

And Steve, on the noodles, it still sounds as if they’re not getting a proper ‘breakdown’ in the hot water. I always found the packaged rice noodles far more rubbery than fresh, as if they’d been ‘preserved’ somehow, or reconstituted at best. All I can suggest is, rather than hot tap water or microwave, try dunking them in rolling boiling water for a minute or two at least. I reckon that the frying part of fresh noodles is to coat them in flavour, not really change their texture substantially. So, if they’re not soft and supple and slippery before they go in the wok, they’re not going to be when they come out. You may want to experiment with different noodle-softening techniques, and dispense with the rest of the dish until you’re happy with your noodles.

BTW, I’ve found this book, Noodle, by Terry Durack helpful in noodle technique and description, plus lots of good recipes (but not for saar hor fun!) Good luck mate

#12 Shiewie

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 09:01 PM

Ondine, or anyone on this board, do you have a favourite recipe for the sauce for Saar (also called Char?) Hor Fun? Living in Melbourne, and working in Footscray, I'm lucky to have literally dozens of Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asian shops, bakeries and noodlemakers all around, so the fresh noodles are easy to come by.  But I’ve yet to find a recipe for the beautiful eggy gravy in seafood hor fun.

I’ve gotten very close just replicating by taste.  After I give the noodles a quick wokking with a bit of soy, I’ll take them out, cook a bit of seafood and veggies, then add a sauce of chicken stock, a bit more soy, white pepper, cornflour/corn starch and after that’s cooked and thickened, a bunch of minced garlic at the end, so that it doesn’t cook too much. And the beaten egg… but I’m unsure when to add. I’m guessing also at the very end, so that it doesn’t cook too long and stays somewhat ‘liquid’ for want of a better word.

Like I said, it’s close, but something’s missing… anyone suggest anything?

Saar Hor Fun is the Cantonese name for flat rice noodles. 'Char' means fried in Hokkien.

The seafood hor fun you've described is the Cantonese style of cooking saar hor fun. You might like to try browning the garlic lightly first before adding the seafood and veggies - I think cooking the garlic last does not allow its flavours to quite develop. I'd also use a combination of salt and soy sauce in the gravy and not just soy sauce alone as Cantonese style noodles are always lightly coloured and shouldn't be too brown.

Edited - forgot about the egg - yes add it last, give it a couple fo quick swirls in the wok and serve.

What we cook at home usually won't taste exactly the same as what's served in the restaurants - wok burners at home aren't as powerful as the commercial ones so we can't get the same wok hei ... and there's always the missing ingredient - MSG :smile:.

Edited by Shiewie, 19 November 2003 - 09:09 PM.


#13 stevea

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 11:34 AM

Well, the microwave technique worked no better than the hot water technique or any of the others. Way too tedious and the end result was not worth it. I have come to believe that I do not have access to the right kind of noodles (or I'm a complete idiot and can't perform a simple kitchen task, but I hope not).

My next plan is to visit as many Thai restaurants as possible and ask where they get their noodles and how they prepare them. At least I'll get to eat out a lot!
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#14 kangarool

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 04:40 PM

Stevea, I’m sure it’s the quality of the packaged noodles getting in the way, not your ability to set the cooking time on your microwave! :raz:

Depending on how keen you are, you could attempt to make them yourself. I’ve never attempted it, so I don’t know how tricky or possibly even impossible to make at home, but it sounds as if you’re close to the noodle breaking point!

There’s a thread on eGullet forums that delves into do-it-yourself-noodling, Cooking Fresh Rice Noodles

Shiewie even linked a recipe and technique to make your own, which doesn’t appear to require any overly-exotic ingredients or techniques. Shiewie seems the font of wisdom on these topics, so she may be able to point you to other resources, Google doesn’t return a plethora of Fresh Rice Noodle Making recipes, to my surprise.

As for the Thai restaurant visits, my bet is that they’re either making their own noodles each day or week, in which case they might be happy to sell you a pound or two for a buck or two, for you to take home and cook yourself.

And, never having been to Portland, I don’t know, but surely it’s geography and history means there’s a Chinatown or at least predominantly Asian area of town of some size? If so, you’ll almost certainly find some Asian grocers or shops, and in at least a couple of these you’re almost sure to find boxes of variously-sized rice noodles and rice noodle sheets.

There are few things in life I love more than a big bowl of fresh rice noodles cooked in almost any manner, so best of luck on the hunt.

#15 byrdhouse

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Posted 11 July 2004 - 05:25 PM

Does someone have a technique for making rice noodles?

I'm unable to find a recipe for chow fun noodles. Not recipes using them, recipes for making them (GOOGLE is no help except for one photograph of a Vietnamese noodle factory).[URL=http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000507YK/wwwlink-software-21/202-6898583-9487023.

We make perfectly wonderful fresh pasta with semolina flour or durham wheat, but rice flour has less gluten, if any. Also the house-made noodles I remember from Hong Fat in New York were pale in color, which probably means no eggs. If not, what kind of binder, corn starch?

#16 Ben Hong

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Posted 11 July 2004 - 08:02 PM

I have tried various recipes at different time tryng to make rice noodles. I gave up after many experiments that came up short on the satisfaction scale. Real rice noodles that you get at the larger noodle houses are usually made on premises where they grind/mill their own rice flour using a large mill with real millstones and lots and lots of water. It's involves a skill and equipment that many amateurs can't acquire practically.

As to cooking sa ho fun I have found that it is best to enjoy the treat eating the real McCoy at a restaurant, once in a while. Most cooks use way too much oil in the dish for me to eat it too often. As for preparing a reasonable facsimile at home, I have been known to take a few shortcuts and adaptations.

If I'm using refrigerated or frozen fun, I'll thaw and soak the block in warm water for about an hour, until the noodles are pliable and can be separated easily. I'll then drain the noodles, and keep it at the ready. Then, I'll make my "topping", usually beef, green peppers, celery, green onions, in a black bean sauce. Just before the topping is done, toss in the noodles and stir cook it until the noodles are soft and smooth. Top with a drop of sesame oil and scallions and you're good to go. Not at all oily, not authentic, but genuinely good :rolleyes: . The only thing missing is the "fried" taste of the noodles which of course, comes with a humongous amout of oil. :wacko:

#17 trillium

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 10:43 AM

Does someone have a technique for making rice noodles?

I'm unable to find a recipe for chow fun noodles. Not recipes using them, recipes for making them (GOOGLE is no help except for one photograph of a Vietnamese noodle factory).[URL=http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000507YK/wwwlink-software-21/202-6898583-9487023.

We make perfectly wonderful fresh pasta with semolina flour or durham wheat, but rice flour has less gluten, if any. Also the house-made noodles I remember from Hong Fat in New York were pale in color, which probably means no eggs. If not, what kind of binder, corn starch?

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table has a recipe for making your own rice noodles.


regards,
trillium

#18 Andrea Nguyen

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 11:14 AM

Stevea,

I've tried all the techniques you've mentioned and yeah, it's disappointing. Fresh, unrefrigerated rice noodles are a rarity, even in Northern California where I live. I don't rinse the noodles. I just cut them (if necessary) and gently pry them apart, breaking them into 4-inch lengths. For a dish like beef chow fun, here are the general concepts that I follow to deal with the rice noodles:

1) Don't try to cook a ton of noodles at a time. If you're cooking with a 14-inch work or 12-inch skillet, use 1 pound of rice noodles. Too much gets in the way.

2) Use a little oil but lots of heat. For the quantity above, use 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat it up over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the noodles and here's the key -- SPREAD them into a layer. Go up the side of the wok if you have to. Cook them UNDISTURBED for 1 minute, or until they're slightly crusty. Flip them over and do the same if you want extra crustiness.

3) Now add the other goodies (which you may have already stir-fried), the sauce elements, etc. to finish the dish.

Restaurants have the benefit of high butane burners and they're not afraid of using tons of oil. Following the steps above, I've more or less been successful with dealing with the rice noodles.

One thing though, restaurants often have thickish rice noodles whereas the ones sold in Asian markets tend to be thin. They'll always have something over us so that we remain their patrons...

Good luck!

Andrea
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#19 abooja

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 06:12 AM

I tried making Drunken Noodles for the first time ever last night using a package of dried 1/4" rice noodles. It tasted pretty good, but the noodles themselves, which had soaked for 15 minutes then were briefly boiled, fell apart once mixed with the rest of the ingredients.

Is there any way to avoid this happening with dried rice noodles? Or is there a foolproof recipe out there for homemade rice noodles that might be a bit sturdier than the dried variety? I searched, but there's very little information out there. I did find a reference to a recipe in Chinese Snacks by Huang Su-Huei that involves 3 cups non-glutinous rice flour, 3/4 cup cornstarch and 6 cups water, but nothing beyond that. 6 cups of water also seems ridiculously excessive. I would make this in my Kitchen Aid and use the pasta cutters if I could, but hear this may not be possible. Am I fooling myself?

#20 muichoi

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 06:16 AM

Don't boil them. If you soak in cold water for 15 minutes they will be ready to use.

#21 abooja

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 06:28 AM

Don't boil them. If you soak in cold water for 15 minutes they will be ready to use.

View Post

Hmmm, thanks. I suspected that, but was going with instructions from this recipe.

#22 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 12:00 PM

I'm bumping this up as I've got a pound of fresh rice noodles for dinner tonight. I bought them yesterday and, seeing the package instructions, stuck them in the fridge for overnight. Then I read this topic this morning. Sure enough, they were a solid mass this morning.

However, I decided to try a slow defrost and just left them on a sunny window sill, giving them a bend every hour or so. They're softening up and seem to be unfurling into sheets. Maybe a little patience -- as opposed to hot liquids -- is the way to go....
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#23 jmolinari

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 08:53 PM

Resurrecting this thread...i've had similar issues with my fresh rice noodles. I have to spend 15 minutes unsticking them from the mass they come in....
Chris, how did taking them out early work? (as if you could remember 2 years ago:) )

#24 Dejah

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Posted 23 February 2011 - 05:00 PM

There are differences between brands of rice noodles. The ones I get in the local supermarket are usually packed tightly onto styrofoam trays. When I can't get to the city for the Chinese supermarket, these are what I have to contend with. Like Chris, I take them early, in the morning for supper. I go one step further and take them out of the package, separate into as many layers as I can, then cover loosely with saran wrap. If I am in a hurry, then I take them out of the package, separate layers as best as I can, then mixcrowave for a couple of minutes. Take the plate out and remove pieces that are soft and separate each strand. Return the rest for another minute. It's tedious but well worth the effort if you want good noodles.

The ones in Chinese grocery stores, the YEO or YOUNG brand from Vancouver (all the way to the Canadian prairies), are looser, and easier to separate. I follow the same proceedure as above.

However, I don't rinse with water, neither hot nor cold. This rinses off the oil which will keep it from sticking to the pan and to each other. Rinsing will also make the noodles softer and you lose that "chewy feel".

I like them dry-fry with a light splash of soy sauce. My kids love it with loads of oyster sauce. So, I take mine out, the bottom layer with the crunchy bits, then ass the sauce for the rest.

My favourite way is topping with fermented black bean and garlic stir-fried wirh bitter melon and beef.
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#25 sheetz

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 05:02 PM

I'm like Dejah and usually just spend the time picking the layers of noodles apart. I've never tried soaking/rinsing them w/ water to separate them, but I'd think if you did that you'd want to make sure to air dry them very well before using.

To prevent the noodles from sticking when stir frying them I spray the noodles with non-stick spray and rub it all over with my hands. Works like a charm.