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Health Food of the month - Noodles

February 2017

plate of noodles

Use your noodle!


Previous Health Foods of the Month...

Blood oranges

Dates

Partridge


 

Diet & Supplements Index

Waitrose Recipes

Stir fry is such a normal item on menus today that is hard to believe that when many of us were kids, this didn’t feature at all in normal family meals, or even in general restaurants.

Today of course stir fry is a hugely popular meal, featuring all sorts of ingredients but usually based around noodles.

Many people think noodles is just another name for pasta, but there are differences.

First of all, the concept of noodles comes from Asia where in the past cooking techniques and foods were quite different. Asian noodles, and especially Japanese noodles, tend to use softer wheat, very different from the harder durum wheat that grows in the Mediterranean region and is the basis for most pasta. The Asian softer wheat gives noodles a much light colour, a smoother appearance and a silkier feel. The durum wheat used in pasta results in a deeper golden colour with a strong, firmer and more elastic texture.

Interestingly, noodles usually contain salt which is added to help develope the softer protein and also help to bind the dough, while pasta is generally salt free.  Noodles are quicker to cook and don’t need extra salt added to the water.

But possibly the most important difference is that noodles and pasta are made using different methods. For pasta, the durum wheat is made into a dough and then usually “extruded”. This means forcing it through small openings to produce the long thin circular shape.  Noodles are made by rolling and cutting – or if you are a super skilled expert, just by rolling and stretching. Have a look at this video for a great idea of how professionals make noodles!

Once the noodles are formed, they are slowly dried for around thirty hours at normal room temperature before being cut and packed. Modern methods make them a little faster.

Noodles can also be made from rice flour, this is more commonly found in Asia but is gaining in popularity here. Noodles are also made with egg liquid to replace or party replace the water in the dough to make egg noodles plus other noodles made from semolina (coarser grains) and even seaweed are available.

Health wise noodles are way down the list. While they are easily digested which is good, in terms of nutrition they offer a simple carbohydrate which is broken down fairly quickly by the body and can cause blood sugar spikes.  

Depending on the type of noodles you buy, they will have saturated fat but may also contain magnesium and iron. Some have ingredients added so it can be worthwhile looking at the noodles to see what is really in them.

But the key is what you put with them. In Asia, noodles are often included in fairly liquid dishes with lots of vegetables and some chicken, giving a tasty balanced meal that is also quite filling.  In more western style stir fries, again noodles can be supplemented with really healthy foods to make an excellent meal.  Instant noodles in a package can however have all sorts of ingredients added, so it is well worth checking the packet to see you are happy with what you are buying.

But with their long life in the cupboard, easy cooking, and adaptability to so many recipes, noodles definitely have a role to play in the modern kitchen.

 

 


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