A type of pasta made from flour, water and sometimes egg, the word noodle can be used to describe hundreds of different types used in cuisines around the world. Noodles are important to Asian cuisine, especially to China and Japan, and long egg noodles are eaten with stews in Eastern Europe. In Asia, noodles may be served at main meals along with other dishes or eaten as a snack, especially served in soupy broths. Short lengths of noodle may be cooked in soup or the pasta may be filled to make wontons (this was probably the original form that noodles took). In Asia, noodles are not only a staple but a symbol of longevity. Chinese e–fu noodles are eaten on special occasions such as birthdays and at New Year. Chinese noodles, unlike pasta and Japanese noodles, are very long and are never cut—this would only bring bad luck. There is also some symbolism attached to the noodle in Japan, especially soba, which are eaten on New Year’s Eve and special occasions. Japanese noodles are not made from rice, as it is too precious a commodity. Instead they are made from buckwheat and/or wheat. Choose noodles that are appropriate to the recipe if they are not specified exactly. Thin, delicate rice vermicelli will soak up Vietnamese flavours well but thick egg noodles won’t. Noodles for use in soups must be robust enough to pick up without breaking and falling back into the soup. Noodles can now be bought pre–cooked to various stages. Noodles are eaten by many of the world’s cultures and they can be made from many different ingredients, from rice and wheat to vegetable starches.