The simple noodle. In Asia, it’s the base of aromatic dishes — savory, sassy, and at times spicy. It’s something every foodie traveler dreams of. But what’s the difference between them? And no matter what vacation destination you order it in, how can you be sure what you get is authentic and traditional? Here’s a primer on five popular noodle dishes that are absolutely worth ordering on your next vacation with RCI.
What Is Pho?
It’s pronounced “fuh,” and this aromatic Vietnamese soup is eaten with a spoon in one hand, chopsticks in the other. Probably created when the French were in Hanoi in the 19th century, traditional pho is beef broth laced with ginger, cloves, and star anise. It’s often served with a plate of herbs like basil and cilantro that you sprinkle in yourself as you eat. The must-have: flat, translucent white rice noodles.
What Is Ramen?
Forget those cheap packages at the supermarket. Real ramen is a Japanese-style noodle soup that takes hours, not minutes, to prepare. Mineral water called kanui is mixed with wheat to create the signature curly pasta. They often swim in a pork, chicken, beef, or fish broth — or a miso broth made with fermented soybean paste — that’s simmered for as long as a full day to develop a rich flavor.
What Is Pad Thai?
In Thailand, you’ll find shrimp, chicken, and beef pad thai varieties on a single menu. In the U.S., tender chicken strips with a couple of shrimp are the sidekicks to wide rice-tapioca noodles in this, the national dish from the Land of Smiles. The noodles are stir-fried with tamarind paste, sugar, and chiles, creating a subtle yet multidimensional flavor. Scrambled eggs and roasted peanuts top it off. Bonus: a spritz of lime.
What Is Curry Laksa?
If you seek burn-your-throat heat with your steaming-hot noodles, try curry laksa — or its Siamese or Assam cousins. This Malaysian meal-in-a-dish is a culinary wonder — lemongrass and chiles, cumin, and dried ground prawns, all ultimately simmered with coconut milk. Puffy tofu squares, egg halves, chicken, and skinny vermicelli rice noodles are stirred in.
What Is Yaki Udon?
The udon noodles used in this Japanese favorite are made with white wheat flour and they’re thick, so each strand has real substance — udon has chew, so to speak. A bowlful of yaki udon is a hearty meal even before considering the mix-ins like cabbage and onion, which are stir-fried with soy sauce for a salty, silky snack.
How To Use Chopsticks In 4 Easy Steps
While tots are often handed cheater chopsticks tethered together with a rubber band, the rest of us have three choices: struggle, ask for forks, or master the use of the twin thin sticks.
- Bend your ring finger and pinky. Balance the middle of one chopstick on top of the bent ring finger, with the thin end pointed away from your palm. Rest the wider area in the valley between your thumb and index fingers.
- Rest chopstick No. 2 in the same valley over the first chopstick, but rest the thin end on your middle finger.
- Firm up your hold on the top chopstick with three fingers: the thumb on one side, the middle and index on the other, but with the middle finger under the chopstick, the index over it, as if you’re about to write with a pen.
- From here on, the bottom chopstick stays still. To eat, move the top chopstick up to allow food in and down to lock it into place until it reaches your mouth. Repeat.
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