Rice Noodles

4 kinds of rice noodles
What’s it called?
Rice noodles, rice noodles, sen gwi dtiaw (Thailand)
Broad ones: banh pho (Vietnam), sen yai (2cm) / sen lek (1⁄2 cm) (Thailand), hé fěn / 河粉 (China)
Thin ones: rice vermicelli / mihoen / mihun / bihoen / bihun, mí fěn / 米粉 (China), banh hoi (Vietnam), sen mii (Thailand), laksa (Maleisia).

What is it?
To make (broad) rice noodles, rice flour (which is simply ground rice) is mixed with water into a slurry. This slurry, spread out in a thin layer is being steamed before it’s cut into different size. (see clip). Fresh rice noodles are soft and slippery, but in the West we mainly know them dried, which makes them a bit firmer. To improve texture or colour producers often add a little bit of corn flour or tapioca flour to the slurry. The (thin) rice vermicelli is often made a little bit different, a slightly thicker dough is being extracted into this strings and those strings are getting steamed or boiled. (see clip).

How to use it?
Rice noodles are already prepared/cooked when produced, that way you don’t need to cook them at home. Normally it’s enough to re-hydrate them in hot or warm water. It depends on the thickness how long you need to soak them, usually you can find a good indication on the package. They just need to soften up. You can shorten the soaking time when you are going to further use them in soup or stir-fries. For soups you could even decide to rehydrate them in the soup. Soak to perfection if used for Thai salads, just rinse in cold water to stop the process, then add a litte (sesame) oil to prevent them from sticking together. When you deepfruy (175°C) rice vermicelli (unsoaked) it will swell up into crunchy strings.

Tips, Tricks & recipes

  • Sometimes you can find fresh rice sticks/sheets in the fresh department. They’re much softer and more slippery than dried noodles.
  • Don’t confuse rice vermicelli with: glass noodles. Glass noodles will keep their texture where rice vermicelli will clog together when cooked/heated too long
  • Most famous rice noodle dish from Thailand: Pad Thai
    Most famous rice noodle dish from Vietnam: Pho
    A famous rice noodle dish from China: Cinnamon Beef Noodles

Kona karashi (Japanese Mustard)

kona karashi (Japanese mustard)What’s it called?
Japanese mustard, Japanese mustard powder, hot mustard, wa-garashi / 和からし (mustard), kona-karashi / 粉からし (mustard powder), neri-garashi / ねりからし (mustard powder paste).

What is it?
Kona karashi simply is the Japanese version of mustard, only normally it’s not a readymade sauce or paste like we´re used to in the West, it’s a powder that you have to mix yourself with a little water. This means the mustard will taste hotter, much more pungent, but also a little bit more bitter and less sour because no vinegar is added like in Western mustards. It is made of the same, ground mustard seeds though, so it isn’t hugely different. Nowadays you can also buy it in tubes, but why would you?

How to use it?
Just mix some powder with a little water (ratio 1:1) to form a paste. Preferably shortly before you want to eat it as it will lose flavor quickly once exposed to the air. If you want to keep it, then cover it with some cling film.
Serve it on the side with your steak, schnitzel cq tonkatsu, oden, miso-soup or natto. Or mix it with some soy sauce, ketchup or mayonnaise to form a sauce. Use it to dry rub a pork chop, whatever you like. Japanese mustard powder keeps almost for ever.

Tips, Tricks & Recipes

  • You can add a little turmeric powder to lift the color into a brighter yellow.
  • Kona Karashi is actually quite comparible to Colmans’s English Mustard Powder. So you could substitute one with the other.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds BrownWhat’s it called?
There are actually 3 kinds of mustard seeds:
* white / yellow mustard seed (Brassica hirta/alba)
* brown / sarepta mustard seed (Brassica juncea)
* black mustard seed (Brassica nigra)

What is it?
The perfectly round, small seeds of various plants in the genus Brassica. In the Western world mustard seeds are mainly used to make mustard. In the rest of the world it’s also used as a (powdered) spice. Mustard seeds don’t of taste much until you bruise them and mix them with water or until you heat or grind them. It’s only then that the sharp taste is released.

Mustard Seeds YellowHow to use it?
Indian recipes often start with frying some mustard seeds for a few seconds in hot oil or ghee, the moment they start popping the other ingredients are added. This technique is called “Tarka”. Unlike mustard (the sauce), mustard seeds are actually more nutty and fragrant than sharp. They are often part of spice mixes like masala, curry powder, Cajun mixes. When stored cool, dry and air-tight mustard seeds can keep for months if not years.

Tips, tricks & recipes

  • Recipe with yellow mustard seeds: making your own Cajun spice mix
    Recipe with Brown mustard seeds: Madhur Jaffrey’s salmon curry
  • Black mustard seeds can only be harvested manually, which is rather labour intensive. That’s why you won’t find them easily in the shops. Luckily you can substitute them with brown mustard seeds which taste quite similar only a little less pungent.
  • Some recipes say you can substitute brown with yellow mustard seeds, but I would never do that. Substituting yellow with brown is okay.
  • Indian cuisine also uses mustard oil. Raw (in vinaigrettes) it tastes pungent, heated it tastes more sweet and nutty.