Rice Noodles Are Nice Noodles

To kick off the week (and redeem myself for suggesting that you try gluten-free pasta), I thought I'd share a few of my favorite ways with rice noodles. Or all of them.

The Vietnamese hands-down win the Pan-Asian Rice Noodle Award, a prestigious honor I just made up. Between the springy rice vermicelli stuffed into summer rolls or topped with grilled meat, bean sprouts, peanuts and fresh vegetables, one might almost forget about the noodles in pho. Now is the time to be heavy-handed with the sriracha.

Thailand's not too far behind — pad thai is not only their national dish, it saved their post-war economy. But I mostly like it because it's the rare perfect combination of salty-sweet-sour-crunchy-umami in one dish.

I would be remiss to not mention China at this point. If I had to pick a favorite Chinese rice noodle dish I'd be sad because there would probably be a gun to my head. I would then plead with my assailant for two more choices, and select chow fun, Singapore chow mei fun and a huge bowl of soup with roast duck and rice noodles, then accept whatever fate had in store for me from there. Hopefully noodles would be involved.

Finally, Korea. I have a serious love for tteok — short, thick noodles about the size and thickness of a finger, or in the form of flat, round cakes. They're a favorite Korean street food, usually stir-fried with easily-absored chili or black bean sauce and are served in various forms for just about every occasion. Chewy, dense and very filling, tteok are the steaks of the rice noodle kingdom.

With the unintentional exclusion of the Japanese, who are generally more into buckwheat soba, udon, somen and other types of wheat noodles (plus, if you're going to order non-izakaya Japanese, take on the chirashi challenge), I trust that you'll navigate your way around whichever Asian menu you pick up.