Using his noodle: Lemon Grass proprietor Max Chutinthranond prepares Roasted Pork with Glass Noodles.
Find the recipe under the EATS tab on the main menu. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Unlike our version of pasta, made with
flour and water, a number of different ingredients comprise Asian
noodles. Travel through China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan and
other Asian countries to see noodle shops and street vendors as the hub
of activity throughout the day, busy with customers from every walk of
life. Early-morning factory workers stop in for a bit of sustenance
before heading to their jobs, slurping noodles out of a hot and spicy
broth as a morning pick-me-up. The office trade sneaks in a bowl on
their lunch hour, and shoppers take a noodle break around late
There are also restaurants that cater to
the tourist trade that feature a noodle maker ensconced in a glassed-in
compartment so that all may watch his artistry: hurling, twisting,
looping and stretching dough into noodles. It’s a little like watching
pizza-makers here throw and twirl dough into the air.
Westerners are slowly catching up with
the many varieties of noodles from the East. The Chinese began
immigrating during the early 1900s and small, storefront eateries
sprang up to feed these workers, offering dishes that were foreign to
Western palates. They aren’t so unfamiliar today.
Considering how hot noodles are these
days, it was only a matter of time before a chain restaurant serving
them would become a reality in America. Nothing but Noodles opened in
Marshall’s Plaza, 3409 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt, about a month ago. It is
one of more than 25 franchises that began in Albuquerque, N.M., in
April 2002 that is now headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Nothing but Noodles offers a menu that
ranges from Asian, Italian and American, with some specialties, soups
and salads in between. It is geared toward families, with a kids’ menu
that lists buttery noodles, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti,
favorites of the young set. If you like crunch, go for chow mein
noodles tossed into their Asian salad, the only noodles dish among the
Starters include lettuce wraps,
mozzarella cheese bread and potstickers, plus soups that pair well with
your entree, or stand alone if you are eating light. Five Italian
pastas include farfalle with pesto, fettuccini Alfredo, capellini
primavera, margherita pasta and farfalle pasta topped with “our
soon-to-be famous, house-made marinara sauce.” American choices feature
spicy Cajun pasta, Southwest chipotle, three-cheese macaroni, buttery
noodles and, curiously, beef stroganoff. Everyone knows that this is a
Russian dish; well, maybe not everybody.
Check out the four Asian dishes,
including sesame lo mein, spicy Japanese noodles, Thai peanut and Pad
Thai noodles. There are 11 Nothing but Noodles specialties, ranging
from shrimp scampi and lobster ravioli to eggplant Parmesan and stuffed
shells. Pasta-less dishes are highlighted, like General Tso’s chicken,
which is coupled with rice, of course. You can also add beef, chicken,
meatballs, shrimp, tofu or veggies to any dish for an additional
charge. Desserts, five in all, include cannoli, Key Lime pie, triple
chocolate cake, New York cheesecake and, for fun, cotton candy.
Most dishes range from $5.49 to $9.99,
and do not include any side dishes such as salad. A basic garden salad
costs $3.29 for a half and $4.99 for a full. For more information, call
Another local restaurant, Lemon Grass,
has held elegant court at 238 W. Jefferson St. for many years now. An
informative two-hour session with Max Chutinthranond, complete with
food tastings, helped in sorting out the art of Asian noodling.
Chutinthranond is chef and owner of the eatery that focuses on Thai
food, and its adjoining Bistro Elephant, that features Euro-Asian fare.
Keeping Max on topic for a quick rundown
of Asian noodles is not easy. “It will take me two years to tell you
about Asian noodles,” he says with a tone of exasperation. He was bent
on discussing the balancing act between sweet, sour, salty and bitter,
in preparing noodle as well as other dishes on his menus, some of which
are traditional and others his own creation.
“Noodles are bland,” he explains, adding
that it is the combination and layering of textures and flavors that
makes a dish a success. “A dish should be like a symphony: soft, mellow
and mild.” When discussing textures as well as tastes, he describes the
combinations “like a circus in your mouth,” displaying his vast
knowledge of many years as master of his culinary craft.
On the Lemon Grass luncheon menu you
will find Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand, a combination of
rice noodles sauteed with egg, peanuts, fresh sprouts and garlic
chives. Try it with tofu, chicken or shrimp. Bamee Hang Gai uses egg
noodles, mixed with shredded chicken breast, peanuts, crisp-fried
garlic, fresh herbs and sweet vinaigrette. Glass noodles glisten in the
roasted pork dish tossed with herbs, sesame oil and aged vinaigrette.
For variety, choose the Golden Triangle, a selection of Chinese
noodles, Thai curry, Burmese yellow curry and prig pow dip (a
combination of curries, light soy sauce and fresh, ground chilis), with
chicken, shrimp or soft shell crab, which are currently in season.
Lemon Grass’ phone number is 475-1111.
Chinese takeouts can be found all over,
but there are also sit-down restaurants like China Road in Mattydale.
Mai Lan on North State Street serves Vietnamese fare. For Japanese food
head out to Kyoko’s, 111 Brooklea Drive, Fayetteville. Tokyo Seoul,
3180 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt, serves both Korean and Japanese food. Also
on the East Side, the New Fuji Buffet, 2960 Erie Blvd. E., gives
novices an inexpensive tour of dishes from China and Japan. The list
If you want to experiment at home with
the oodles of noodles available, head to Han’s Oriental Grocery Inc.,
2731 Erie Blvd. E., which stocks almost 30 different kinds of noodles.
Walk down the aisles at Han’s to see packages of flour stick, or pancit
conton noodles made with wheat, flour, coconut oil and yellow dye, or
rice sticks, which are a foot long. There are also cornstarch and water
noodles from the Philippines.
From Vietnam, tapioca shredded noodles
are made with tapioca starch, water and salt, and are shaped into
two-inch zigzag pieces. Noodles from Thailand, thin, 16-inch strands
made with rice and water, are called banh pho. Those much thinner are
called WaiWai. Another version is made into 1-inch squares. The rice
makes these noodles look almost translucent.
Vermicelli bean thread noodles, also
known as bean threads or glass noodles, are made from mung beans and
come in small bundles for individual servings. Be careful when using
them because they are extremely tough and can pierce the skin. Users
should chop them with a cleaver instead of trying to break them.
An interesting mung bean variety is
shaped like a personal pan pizza, and has the appearance of clear
plastic. Instructions on the package indicate that the “pan” be broken
up into irregular pieces before using. These noodles are fine
extrusions of a paste made from mung beans or broad (fava) beans, and
are slippery and near transparent when cooked. They are mostly used in
soups, hot pots and braised dishes, as well as stir-fried dishes, and
make a fine vegetarian meal when coupled with vegetables.
Dried rice sticks combine rice, water
and potato starch into spaghetti-like lengths, made shiny from the
rice. Yampi noodles use refined flour, lobster powder, salt and
tangerine yellow coloring. Corn noodles are a blend of corn and salt,
creating a yellow vermicelli. Arrowroot noodles are semitransparent,
buff- to amber-colored noodles made from arrowroot starch, and are
found most often in Sichuan province in China.
Chinese thin egg noodles are very long
and folded over into skeins a number of times before being packaged.
They are best in soups, or cooked and then deep or shallow-fried.
Chinese fat noodles most resemble linguini. The Chinese favor
egg-infused, wheat-flower noodles, which we know from dishes like lo
mein and chow mein. These noodles also are akin to linguini, which is
probably why we are more inclined to try them rather than other exotic
fare. Interestingly, you will find neither of them in China; they are a
Western version of Chinese food. “Mein” means noodles in Chinese. Lo
mein means “tossed noodles,” while chow mein means “fried noodles.”
The Japanese use buckwheat in most of
their noodles. Soba are round stick noodles and look gray or buff, as a
result of the buckwheat. Their texture is different from other noodle
varieties, and because of their pleasing taste, they are successfully
used in both hot and cold dishes. Udon are plump Japanese noodles made
with hard wheat flour, salt and water. Use them in soup and hot pot
For sukiyaki—a dish of thinly sliced
meat or vegetables cooked quickly in a little broth—shiratake filaments
are the noodles of choice. Made from a root vegetable that grows
readily in Japan, they are produced using the same method as
bean-thread vermicelli. Shiratake noodles are also packed in water in a
plastic tube, making them easy to use; but they are more expensive than
Preparation of Asian noodles usually
starts with plunging them into boiling water, but for glass noodles, a
quick bath is all that is necessary. Preparing don and soba noodles
entails a more complicated process.