Types of Rice Noodles: Exploring Different Varieties

Types of Rice Noodles
13 min reading time

If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, then rice noodles are probably a staple in your kitchen. Rice noodles are versatile, delicious, and easy to cook. From soups to stir-fries, they can be used in a wide range of dishes. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of rice noodles. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the variety of rice noodle varieties out there and which ones are best suited for your favorite recipes.

Main Highlights:

  • There are various types of rice noodles, each with a unique texture and flavor.
  • Rice noodles are used in a wide range of Asian dishes, including soups, stir-fries, and spring rolls.
  • Thin rice noodles (rice vermicelli) are commonly used in stir-fries, soups, and spring rolls.
  • Wide rice noodles (ho fun) are often used in stir-fried noodles, noodle soups, and pan-fried noodles.
  • Rice stick noodles (kway teow) are a staple in dishes like Pad Thai, pho, and char kway teow.

Thin Rice Noodles

Thin rice noodles, also known as rice vermicelli or sen mee, are a staple in many Southeast Asian dishes. These delicate and translucent noodles have a unique texture and flavor that can enhance any meal.

Sen mee are particularly popular in Thai cuisine and are commonly used in stir-fries, salads, and soups. In Vietnam, rice vermicelli is often topped with grilled meats and fresh herbs to make the famous Bun Cha dish. And in Singapore, thin rice noodles are used in laksa soup, a spicy coconut milk-based soup.

Thin rice noodles are incredibly versatile as they can be used in hot or cold dishes and take on the flavor of the dish they’re paired with. To prepare, soak the noodles in hot water for a few minutes until they are soft and pliable. Rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process, and they’re ready to be used in your favorite recipe.

“Thin rice noodles are a favorite of mine in Thai dishes. They add a great texture and have a light flavor that pairs well with different ingredients.”

– Chef Amy Kim, Thai food specialist

Wide Rice Noodles

Wide rice noodles, also known as ho fun or shahe fen, are a staple of Chinese cuisine. The broad, flat shape gives them a unique texture, perfect for soaking up sauces and broths.

These noodles are commonly used in dishes like stir-fried noodles, noodle soups, and even pan-fried noodles. Their smooth and slippery texture adds a lovely contrast to vegetables and meat, making them a favorite in many homes.

When cooked, these noodles have a tender and chewy texture that is incredibly satisfying. They are a great alternative to wheat-based noodles and are gluten-free, making them a perfect fit for those with gluten sensitivities.

Ho Fun vs. Shahe Fen

Although ho fun and shahe fen are both wide rice noodles, there is a slight difference between the two. Ho fun is made with rice flour and water, whereas shahe fen is made with rice flour, water, and tapioca starch. This addition of tapioca starch gives shahe fen a slightly chewier texture compared to ho fun.

Ho FunShahe Fen
Made with rice flour and waterMade with rice flour, water, and tapioca starch
Have a tender textureHave a slightly chewier texture
Used in stir-fry, soups, and pan-fried noodlesUsed in stir-fry, soups, and pan-fried noodles

No matter which variety you choose, wide rice noodles are a delicious and versatile addition to your culinary repertoire. Try them out in your favorite stir-fry or noodle soup recipe, and enjoy the unique texture and flavor they bring to the dish.

Rice Stick Noodles

Rice stick noodles, also known as kway teow or banh pho, are a popular ingredient among Asian cuisines. These flat and thin noodles are incredibly versatile and can be used in various dishes like Pad Thai, stir-fries, and soups.

One of the most significant advantages of rice stick noodles is their texture. When cooked, they become soft and chewy, making them a joy to eat. Moreover, they are gluten-free, making them an excellent alternative for people with gluten allergies.

To cook rice stick noodles perfectly, first, soak them in hot water for around 15 minutes or until they become pliable. Drain the noodles and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Afterward, rice stick noodles can be incorporated into various dishes, such as Pad Thai or stir-fry, where they add a unique texture and absorb the flavors of the dish. They can also be used in soups like pho, where their soft texture compliments the broth well.

Popular Rice Stick Noodle Dishes

Rice Stick Noodle DishDescription
Pad ThaiA classic Thai dish that incorporates stir-fried rice stick noodles with vegetables, peanuts, and shrimp or chicken, all in a sweet and savory sauce.
PhoA Vietnamese soup made with beef or chicken broth, herbs, spices, and rice stick noodles. It is served with fresh herbs and condiments like hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce.
Char Kway TeowA popular Malaysian dish that features stir-fried rice stick noodles with shrimp, sausage, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives in a sweet and salty sauce.

As shown in the table, rice stick noodles are a staple ingredient in dishes from different regions of Asia, and their popularity has transcended borders. With its unique texture and versatility, rice stick noodles have become loved and adored by many.

Rice Thread Noodles

Types of Rice Noodles

Rice thread noodles, also referred to as rice vermicelli threads or mee hoon, are a popular type of rice noodle used in many Asian cuisines. These delicate and thin noodles are perfect for dishes like spring rolls, salads, and soups. They have a tender texture and a mild flavor that complements a wide range of ingredients.

You can easily find rice thread noodles in your local Asian grocery store or online. They usually come in dried form and are quick and easy to prepare. Simply soak them in hot water for a few minutes until they are soft and pliable. Rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process, and then they are ready to use in your desired dish.

Rice thread noodles are commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine in dishes like bun cha and bun thit nuong. In Thai cuisine, they are used in salads like yum woon sen or as a topping for soups like tom yum. In Singaporean cuisine, rice vermicelli threads are used in dishes like laksa and mee siam.

Texture and Flavor

Rice thread noodles have a fine and delicate texture that is almost translucent. They are perfect for dishes that benefit from a light, springy, and slightly chewy texture. They are also a great gluten-free option for those who are sensitive to wheat or gluten.

Rice thread noodles have a neutral flavor that is subtle and mild. This makes them an excellent choice for dishes that require a good balance of flavors or for taking on the flavor of other ingredients in the dish.

Bun ChaPork, rice vermicelli, nuoc cham, herbs, vegetablesGrill pork and assemble ingredients in a bowl. Serve with nuoc cham.
Tom Yum SoupPrawns, rice vermicelli, broth, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili peppersCook the prawns in the broth with herbs and noodles. Serve hot with chili peppers.
LaksaCoconut milk, curry paste, shrimp, chicken, rice vermicelli, tofu puffs, bean sprouts, herbsCook the broth with curry paste, coconut milk, and protein. Arrange the ingredients in a bowl and serve hot.

Recipe Idea: Bun Thit Nuong

Bun thit nuong is a popular Vietnamese dish made with grilled pork, rice thread noodles, herbs, and vegetables. It’s a light and refreshing dish that is perfect for summer. Here is an easy and delicious recipe that you can try at home.

  • 1 pound pork shoulder or pork belly, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 package of rice thread noodles, cooked and drained
  • Hoisin sauce, for serving
  • Chopped peanuts, for serving
  • Fresh herbs (cilantro, mint, basil), for serving

1. In a bowl, mix the garlic, sugar, fish sauce, water, and black pepper until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pork and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

2. Preheat the grill on high heat. Thread the pork onto skewers and lightly brush with vegetable oil. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and slightly charred.

3. To serve, place a handful of cooked rice thread noodles in a bowl. Top with grilled pork, chopped peanuts, herbs, and hoisin sauce. Serve with nuoc cham on the side.

Rice Ribbon Noodles

Types of Rice Noodles

Flat and wide like fettuccine, rice ribbon noodles are a versatile ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, often used in dishes like laksa soup and bánh tam bi. These noodles, also referred to as laksa noodles, have a unique texture that pairs well with flavorful broths and sauces.

Laksa noodles are a common ingredient in the traditional Malaysian noodle soup dish, laksa. The thick flat noodles are cooked in a coconut-based curry broth, often with seafood or chicken, and topped with various herbs and spices such as chili, lemongrass, and coriander.

Bánh tam bi, a Vietnamese dish, uses wide rice noodles in a salad-like preparation, mixed with shredded pork and shrimp, along with herbs and pickled vegetables.

These wider rice noodles can also be used in stir-fries or served alongside grilled meats for a satisfying meal. Experiment with different sauces and ingredients to discover your favorite way to incorporate rice ribbon noodles into your cooking!

Rice Paper Sheets

Rice paper sheets, also known as spring roll wrappers or bánh tráng, are one of the most versatile types of rice noodles available. These thin and translucent sheets are made from rice flour and water, making them naturally gluten-free.

The most common use for rice paper sheets is for rolling fresh spring rolls. Simply rehydrate the sheets in warm water until they become pliable, then add your desired filling and roll tightly. Rice paper sheets can also be deep-fried to make crispy spring rolls.

When using rice paper sheets, it’s important to note that they can tear easily if not handled gently. So, be sure to handle them with care and wrap them tightly to prevent any filling from falling out.

Rice Paper Sheets vs. Spring Roll Wrappers vs. Bánh Tráng

While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are slight differences between rice paper sheets, spring roll wrappers, and bánh tráng.

Spring roll wrappers are a type of rice paper sheet that’s been dried and must be rehydrated before use. Bánh tráng, on the other hand, is a Vietnamese term that typically refers to rice paper sheets that are used to wrap fresh spring rolls.

Where to Buy Rice Paper Sheets

Rice paper sheets are widely available in Asian supermarkets and specialty stores. They can also be found in the international section of many large grocery store chains.

Three LadiesSpring Roll Rice Paper Wrapper22cm$2.99
Red RoseRice Paper Wrapper16cm$1.99
Lee Kum KeeRice Paper Spring Roll Wrappers22cm$3.99

Glutinous Rice Noodles

Glutinous rice noodles, also known as sticky rice noodles or joong, are a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine. These noodles are made from glutinous rice flour, which gives them their sticky and chewy texture. Glutinous rice noodles are commonly used in traditional dishes like zongzi, a Chinese dish made of glutinous rice stuffed with fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. They are also a key ingredient in various Southeast Asian desserts.

The unique texture of glutinous rice noodles makes them great for dishes that require a bit of bite. They pair well with rich and flavorful sauces, making them an ideal ingredient for dishes like curries, stir-fries, and soups.

When preparing glutinous rice noodles, it’s important to note that they require a shorter cooking time compared to other rice noodles. You can usually cook them by boiling for just a few minutes or soaking them in hot water until tender.

If you’re looking to try out glutinous rice noodles in your cooking, you can find them in most Asian grocery stores. Experiment with different recipes and explore the unique qualities of these flavorful noodles.

Rice Noodle Substitutes

If you’re looking for alternatives to rice noodles, there are plenty of options available. Whether you’re following a gluten-free diet or simply want to switch things up, these substitutes can add a flavorful twist to your dishes. Some of the best rice noodle substitutes include:

Bean thread noodlesAlso known as cellophane noodles or glass noodles, these thin and transparent noodles are made from mung bean starch. They have a slightly chewy texture and can be used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, soups, and salads.
Sweet potato noodlesThese Korean noodles, also known as dangmyeon or glass noodles, are made from sweet potato starch and have a translucent appearance. They are frequently used in dishes like japchae and bibim guksu and have a slightly sweet and chewy texture.
Zucchini noodlesZucchini noodles, also called zoodles, are a low-carb alternative to rice noodles. Made from spiralized zucchini, they can be used in a variety of dishes like stir-fries and salads. They have a mild flavor and crunchy texture that blends well with other ingredients.

Other gluten-free noodle alternatives include quinoa noodles, brown rice noodles, and soba noodles made from buckwheat flour. Experiment with different noodle substitutes to find which ones work best for your taste preferences and dietary needs.

Cooking with Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some tips for cooking with rice noodles:

  1. Soak rice noodles in hot water for 10-15 minutes until soft before cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking together.
  2. When stir-frying rice noodles, make sure the wok or pan is very hot before adding the noodles to prevent them from becoming mushy.
  3. For soups, add the rice noodles towards the end of cooking to prevent them from absorbing too much liquid and becoming soggy.
  4. Experiment with different rice noodle types to find the perfect fit for your dish.

Easy Rice Noodle Recipes

Here are some delectable recipes that showcase the versatility of rice noodles:

Pad ThaiA classic Thai dish that combines rice noodles with peanuts, tofu, shrimp, and vegetables, tossed in a sweet and savory sauce.
PhoA Vietnamese soup made with rice noodles, beef broth, and various herbs and spices. It is traditionally served with beef or chicken.
Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with VegetablesA simple dish that combines rice noodles with an assortment of vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and snow peas, tossed in a flavorful sauce.


From thin rice noodles to wide ribbon noodles and glutinous rice noodles, the varieties of rice noodles available can lend itself to creating perfect dishes with diverse flavors and textures. Each type brings its unique characteristics to the table to create an array of dishes, from stir-fries, soups to spring rolls, and noodle salads.

By exploring the different types of rice noodles available, you can utilize them in your cooking, and the possibilities are endless. Don’t be afraid to experiment and let your culinary creativity shine. We hope that you’ll enjoy cooking with rice noodles as much as we do and have garnered useful tips and tricks to ensure perfection every time. Check out the recipes available to showcase your culinary skills.

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