While their dried counterparts are a workable stand-in, fresh rice noodles are unbeatable for achieving the chewy texture we know and love in restaurant-made noodle stir fries like pat see ew (pat thai is another beast). They are also indispensable in street food style noodle soups like yentafo that call for flat, wide (sen yai) rice noodles.
Londoners need look no further than Lo's Noodle Factory in Chinatown to acquire fresh sen yai noodles, which are called ho fun in Chinese. Enter the hallway via the street entrance, and if there isn't someone present then let yourself in past the boxes stacked along the wall. Pop your head around the corner into the noodle-making room and exchange a shiny £1 coin for a 600 gram bag of still-warm and freshly cut noodles.
Failing easy access to a source of store bought fresh rice noodles, however, you can easily make your own. The process can be a bit fiddly, and you may muck a few up to start, but once you get the hang of it you'll knock the sheets out easily.
I make my rice noodles using a standalone Iwatani 35FW gas burner because the heat it provides is more even than from my electric hob. A low flame on the Iwatani cooks the noodles evenly, while the highest temperature on my kitchen cooktop has a tendency to leave the sheets partly raw. Unfortunately I can't predict the quality of everyone's kitchen goods, but here are a few troubleshooting tips to keep in mind when steaming your noodles:
- It is possible to overcook the sheets. You will know when this happens because the edges will curl in and cracks will begin to appear on the surface of the noodle sheets.
- Too much steam is also a possibility. When this happens it is usually in combination with the above. The sides will curl in and steam will sneak under the edges, leaving the bottoms of the sheets sticky and glutinous. These are still salvageable, usually, if you remove and oil them, but place them sticky side up on their own away from the rest of the stack. After a few minutes they will probably be dry enough to add back to the stack. Maybe.
- Sometimes the noodle sheets may be unevenly cooked. If this happens, try increasing the heat or decreasing the size of the tray you steam in (and hence the amount of batter you add to the tray).
- Uneven thickness is also a possibility. This is usually due to an uneven cook surface or cookware (mine is a little wonky). If this happens, keep on eye on where the thickest edge of the noodle sheets are, and compensate by tilting the tray away from that area a little bit before the noodle batter sets.
My steamer is a 26 centimetre (10.5 inch) Crocodile brand aluminum tiered steamer. I use an 8 inch shallow cake pan. If your steamer and/or pan are smaller, adjust the amount of batter used for each sheet. The recipe, as is, will provide you with 8 rice noodle sheets.
I'm no videographer, but below is a simple video demonstrating how to steam the noodles.
Homemade Rice Noodles (Sen Yai)
The quantity of rice flour to tapioca starch can be played around with depending on how chewy you want the noodles to be. This recipe is designed to be used for fried noodle dishes such as pat see ew and noodle soups, such as yentafo.
- 120 grams (1 cup) rice flour
- 75 grams (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) tapioca starch
- 350 grams – same as millilitres (1 ½ cups) water
- 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for oiling pan and brushing noodles
- 8 inch pan
- 26cm or larger Chinese steamer
- Large, oiled dinner plate
- Mix the flours in a bowl and add the water. Stir or whisk vigorously, ensuring there are no pockets of flour (mixing with your hand will help to ensure this). Leave to rest for 30-45 minutes.
- Heat your steamer to a slow simmer. Wipe the pan with some oil, ensuring none pools (you only want a thin coating). Place the pan into the steamer. Whisk the rice flour slurry and add ¼ cup (60 ml) of the batter to the pan. Tilt until the liquid covers the entire bottom evenly. Wipe the lid of the steamer and place it back on.
- Steam for one minute. Remove the pan, using a tea towel or gloves to avoid steam burns, and brush the top of the sheet with a liberal amount of vegetable oil. Use a rubber spatula or offset icing spatula to pull the noodle away from the side of the pan, and then grab each side with your fingers to pull it out. Lay it flat on an oiled plate.
- Oil the pan again and repeat the process, stacking each successive sheet on top of the last, until all of the noodle sheets are cooked. Be sure to wipe the lid of the steamer every time you remove and replace it. Also whisk the batter before every new sheet is poured.
- Once all of the noodle sheets have been cooked, cut them into 1 inch slices and store in a sealed container or ziploc bag. Use the same day (or next at the very latest, if you want to risk it). These do not refrigerate well, so are best kept at room temperature.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Makes: 500 grams (1.1 pounds), or 8 8-inch sheets
- Cuisine: Chinese/Thai