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Chinese Recipes
Chinese Noodles - Mein or Fun
In China noodles can be made from any flour, something that also applies to some Chinese made pasta! Like pasta in the West, there are many types of noodles commonly available both in restaurants and for home cooking.

Mein or Fun?
98% of all Chinese noodles are made using either wheat flour or rice flour - the split being about 50-50.

1. 麵 Wheat noodles always have a slight yellow appearance and are called 'min' and pronounced 'mein'. The Mandarin character is simplified to 面
2. 粉 Rice noodles always look white (Sometimes opaque white) and will have the Cantonese word 'fun' somewhere in their title.
Nb. Cantonese for rice 米 is 'fan' pronounced 'faan', whilst rice for noodles is 'fan' pronounced 'fun'. Students of Cantonese will know this is no coincidence.
Image: Rice Noodles - Click to Enlarge

There are four other main forms of noodle that are common, although there remain several hundred other versions and specialty dishes from all over Southeast Asia.

3. 拉麵 Hand made noodles are called 'laap mein' and are made from wheat flour. Typically these are found only in Xi'an style restaurants, a few Hong Kong restaurants; or as sold in backstreet restaurants by Chinese muslims who wear small white hats and originate from Qinghai or Xinjiang Provinces.

4. 沙河粉 'sha hor fun', a flat rice noodle that is quite thin and broad. These are usually served hot if white, or cold and with chilli if opaque.

5. 麵絲 Vermicelli noodles are called 'cellophane noodles' or 'fun see'. They are usually opaque or see-through. These are often used in soups, or at more refined social events. I find them particularly tasteless, often congealed into a large lump, slippery to eat, and not worth the hassle. There is a white version that is often crispy and served as a base for presenting other dishes - where it is not expected to be eaten.
5b. Do not confuse the above with 'thin white noodles' when ordering. These are known as 'mai fun' 米粉, which is a general term for any small round and white rice noodle.

6. 杯仔麵 or Cup Noodles are also known as 'pot noodles', 'snack pots', or instant noodles. In the West they come in plastic tubs that may or may not have sachets inside. You add boiling water and wait for 5 minutes before eating.

In China these are sold in most corner shops, and come in two types:

6a. Flat-pack where you tip the contents into a saucepan and boil for a couple of minutes, then eat, These are simple, very cheap, and echo Cantonese cuisine. Hungry boys may want to have two of these, and add something like Bisto to make a thicker gravy?

6b. Snack-pots that hold about 1 pint of water. These are normally in waterproof cardboard pots that have 3 sachets inside, each of which you add to the meal. Some contain fresh ingredients, such as dastardly hot pickled chilli's; but normally there are: chicken bouillon mix, dehydrated vegetables, and a fiery chilli sauce. Tip all into the pot, add water and wait 10 minutes, then eat. Stir occasionally if you want to. Quick and Easy.
Image: Chinese Pot Noodles, spicy beef flavour - Click to Enlarge
Image: Chinese Pot Noodles, hot and sour beef flavour with real chillis - Click to Enlarge
Image: Chinese Pot Noodles, chicken and mushroom flavour - Click to Enlarge
Spicy Beef flavour = quite hot Hot and sour Beef + real chilli's Chicken stock and Mushroom
I have found the brand above to be very consistent, and it has improved over time. Inside are the sachets and a fork to eat with. The cost is small averaging Y4 or 40 pence UK per pot. These use the yellow wheat noodles and are delicious in their own way. I often add things like Bisto, garlic, Bouillon etc.

Other brands can be equally as good, or awful depending upon which ones you try. I do not like the versions using rice noodles, which are invariably of vermicelli type.

6c. Unfortunately China is never so simple, so whilst the above 杯仔麵 literally means: 'cup noodle' or 'boi zhi mien', there are other terms frequently in use. 公仔麵 'gung zhi mien' and 快熟麵 'Faai suk mien' could both be equally correct, but can also mean other related dishes as well.

China and geographically close neighbour's all use noodles as a major or minor part of their daily diet.

粉麵 If you just want to obtain noodles in general - like finding them in a supermarket, the general words are 'fun mein' = rice / wheat noodles. This can also be useful in restaurants, where plain boiled rice (which has a tendency to be quite dry) is usually served as default.
This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.
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