What Are Glass Noodles?
Glass or cellophane noodles are noodles made from mung bean, potato, sweet potato, or tapioca starch and are frequently used in Asian cuisine. They are commonly available dry in packaged bundles and are often imported from China and other Asian countries. Glass noodles appear white or pale brown or grey, and opaque in the package and turn translucent and glass-like after soaking in water. They are sometimes confused with rice vermicelli, but are made of different ingredients and are clear when cooked. If you are not sure whether they are rice or glass noodles, just check the ingredients.
Glass noodles taste similar to wheat noodles but are softer and slightly heavier in texture. In restaurants, the noodles are usually served at the bottom of the platter or serving bowl with the other ingredients served on top. The noodles easily absorb liquid, so you can be liberal with sauce when stir-frying. They commonly appear in soups, hot pot, stir-fries, salads, spring rolls, and as a filler for vegetarian versions of dishes.
You can buy the noodles in any Asian specialty store. Glass noodles are a popular cuisine component in China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, The Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia. If you do not have an Asian market near you, you can find the noodles easily online. Glass noodles tend to be affordable, with a similar price point to other pasta.
How to Cook Glass Noodles
Glass noodles can be boiled like regular noodles or soaked in warm or hot water. If boiling, only cook them until they are transparent and soft enough to eat, which should only take about three to five minutes. Drain well and rinse through with plenty of cold water to remove the excess starch. To keep the noodles from sticking together, toss the noodles with a small amount of oil. If stir-frying, you may want to cut the noodles before stir-frying, as they can be very long and hard to toss in the pan otherwise.
Alternatively, the noodles can simply be soaked in hot water for about 10 minutes and drained before using. If you plan to add the noodles to a soup, a very wet sauce, or stir-fry, be careful not to overcook the noodles since they will continue to soften in the hot liquid or pan. Read the instructions on the box for best results.
There is a wide variety of cellophane noodles, with different regions and brands using different starches to make their noodles. The end result is fairly similar, with thin glass noodles the most commonly available. Chinese glass noodles are also available in a wide, flat variety called mung bean sheets that can be used similarly to standard glass noodles. A thicker variety popular in Korea called sweet potato noodles or dangmyeon is made with sweet potato starch and is commonly stir-fried with sesame oil, beef, and vegetables.
Nothing is quite the same as glass noodles, with their translucent appearance and unique texture, but they can be replaced in most recipes in a pinch. For soups, cold salads, and spring rolls, try thin rice vermicelli. For stir-fries, use thin egg noodles, soba noodles, or angel hair pasta. Note that most glass noodles are gluten and grain-free, while some of the substitutions are not. Glass noodles do have a similar amount of carbs to traditional pasta.
Glass Noodle Recipes
You can toss the noodles in a soup, use as an accompaniment to main dishes, or add as the base of a stir-fry dish or salad. They also help fill out a vegetarian dish and are often used in spring rolls. Keep in mind that glass noodles readily absorb liquid, so sauce them generously.