Noodles are just as versatile and satisfying as pasta and are terrific for soaking up the flavour of the sauces they are cooked in or served with. In Australia, we're really lucky to have so many different types and textures of noodle available on the market. So don't be afraid to be adventurous.
Hokkien noodles are perhaps the best known of the egg noodles. Sauces really stick to these noodles so they are great in stir-fries and laksas. They don't need cooking, you just cover them in boiled water for about a minute. Loose-packed Hokkien noodles are likely to be fresher than the vacuum-packed, though they won't keep as long. Avoid the really bright yellow variety as their colour is likely to be produced using food dye. There are all sorts of other fresh egg noodles on the market. They suit stir-fries, soups and braised dishes. You can also deep fry them as in chow-meins. Dried noodles are great because you can keep them on hand in your pantry whereas fresh will only last around a week in the fridge.
Wheat noodles also come in fresh and dry varieties. They're a thin, pale, egg-free noodle originating from China. Egg noodles can also be substituted for wheat noodles but are a little bit richer in flavour. If you don't know which one you've got, chances are it doesn't really matter.
Fresh rice noodles are found most commonly in Asian supermarkets. They have a silky, slippery texture that dried varieties just can't match. Pete likes to buy rice noodle sheets, which can be cut into fat ribbons. They are delicious in soups and stir-fries and are best eaten when really, really fresh.
Rice vermicelli is a dried rice noodle that you can find throughout Asia in spring rolls, soups and stir-fries and they can even be deep-fried as in the traditional Thai dish, Mee Grob. You don't cook these noodles, you just soak them in boiled water for six to seven minutes.
Another common vermicelli noodle is made from mung beans, sometimes called Glass Noodles. They're great in warm salads and also as a bed for prawns or beef.
The Japanese also produce some delicious noodles, the most popular being Soba or Udon. Udon are a generous, fat noodle with a glossy finish. Soba is a dried or fresh wheat noodle, usually eaten in a soup but also eaten chilled with a dipping sauce.