Often times meal choices in Asia revolve around something to do with rice or something to do with noodles. Much the same as being in Central America where if we didn’t have egg, rice and beans for lunch we were certainly having it for dinner. Thankfully here we at least get the choice between rice and noodles.
What you may find interesting is the insane amount of instant noodles that have worked there way into daily Asian cuisine. To list the differing varieties of instant noodle sold on the street is to sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump. There’s instant noodles with veggies, instant noodles with veggies and chicken, instant noodles in soy sauce, instant noodles in fish sauce, and well the list goes on and on. Now I love instant noodles, but there comes a time when you just can’t handle them anymore.
Hitting my instant noodle limit in Cambodia, we walked into a western bar/restaurant in a small town. The only such place in town, we sat down and were greeted by one of the most outrageous expats to date. Of course he was the owner, and like so many expat come entrepreneur we’ve met around the world, he was in an um… altered state. Assuming that a real western restaurant would say instant noodles in stead of just noodles on the menu, I ordered noodles and veggies. As the words escaped my mouth a plate of instant noodles was put down on the table next to us. Asking to change my order if the plate was instant noodles, the owner jumped down my throat and went off on a tirade about how the locals eat instant noodles. In shock, I agreed with him, but still changed my order.
Yes, locals do eat instant noodles. But, they also eat so many other varieties. While instant noodles are the cheapest and fastest and thus the most popular on the street, there are a plethora “real” noodle options. Egg, rice and regular wheat noodles come in all different varieties and you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that the name of your favorite Asian dish actually describes the type of noodle it’s made with. In fact, in Chinese Lao Mien (Lo Mein) actually means mixed noodle without broth!
Translated as just “noodle” on the menu, I hardly ever know I am going to get a thin, round, rice vermicelli or a long flat, wheat, fettuccine like noodle. Same goes with rice- it may be regular long grain steamed or it might be sticky rice.
So although instant noodles might have a stronghold in daily cuisine, its not that hard to find some “real” noodles, or if you really want to avoid instant noodles, there’s always rice!