The Chinese love their noodles and have for centuries. The shapes of Chinese noodles may not vary as much as do those of Italian pasta, but the different ingredients used to make Chinese noodles do set one variety apart from the next:
Egg noodles: Of all the Chinese noodles, egg noodles bear the strongest resemblance to Western pasta. But Chinese noodle makers use regular wheat flour instead of semolina.
Like Italian pasta, Chinese egg noodles come in both fresh and dried forms and in a wide range of widths, lengths, and flavors.
Shanghai noodles are a thick style of round egg noodle that, as their name suggests, originated in Shanghai. Because they’re larger and more filling than the thinner types, they deserve a hearty, more richly flavored sauce — just the kind that Shanghai cooks are known for making.
Fresh rice noodles: When fresh, these noodles are soft and pliable, and have a milky white color. They’re made from long-grain rice flour and water and come in whole folded sheets that you cut to your desired thickness, or in ready-cut strips ranging in width from a couple inches to thin, linguine-like strands. Both types have a light coating of oil to keep the notoriously sticky noodles from sticking together. To remove this coating, you need only rinse them gently with hot water.
Dried rice noodles: If you’re keen to make your own rice noodle dishes, you can find dried ones in an increasing number of supermarkets. Made from the same rice flour as the fresh kind, these translucent, brittle sticks and ribbons are firmer than fresh, but are still excellent alternatives for those of us who just can’t live without rice noodles.
Cellophane or bean thread noodles: These semi-transparent noodles made from mung bean flour look like coils of fishing line. Their mild flavor and slightly elastic consistency perfectly complement soups and casseroles with thick sauces and rich seasonings that cling to the noodles’ surfaces.