In every corner of my kitchen, there are prized packs of noodles hoarded for safekeeping. Dried bundles of buckwheat noodles sit on the pantry shelf, holding out for warmer weather that calls for chilled bowls of zaru soba dipped in savory tsuyu. Chewy Chinese egg noodles are stashed away in the freezer until there’s a new batch of ginger-scallion sauce. Threads of vermicelli sit atop my fridge, ready to be nestled into rice paper rolls and dipped into nuoc cham. And, most important, stowed deep in a top cabinet are two emergency cups of spicy Shin Ramyun.
You can keep your yeast and canned beans. Noodles are the most essential pantry staple to me, and, combined with a small arsenal of sauces and condiments, they’re all I need to draw up a lunch or dinner game plan. “Wheat noodles are a classic,” says Amelie Kang, owner of MáLà Project, a New York City restaurant that specializes in dry hot pot and currently open for delivery and pickup. When she’s found moments to cook at home, she’s been leaning on a familiar blend of black vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chile paste to slick the noodles in. Finish it off with a shower of sesame seeds and some trimmings from your regenerated windowsill scallion, and you have a full-on meal.
Lately, I’ve been dependent on my own pantry permutations in the form of miso, butter, and sesame paste for a no-cook, richly coated sauce or a five-ingredient scallion oil with uses that go well beyond the noodle.
On the flip side, noodles can be an accessible jumping-off point for those ambitious weekend cooking projects, like Vietnamese rice paper rolls or noodle-stuffed chicken wings, as restaurant critic Soleil Ho wrote in TASTE in 2017. She describes her grandmother’s heavenly version: “Just imagine a tasty dumpling or spring roll. Then, instead of the dough-based wrapper, the filling is enveloped by a boneless chicken wing, as if it were a sausage casing. When you bite into it, your teeth snap through the crispy chicken skin and you taste the juicy chicken flesh, flavored by the ground meat and aromatics of the filling.”
Even instant noodles can transcend their “just-add-water” mentality. Convenience aside, their coiled texture sops up every last bit of sauce. Kang advises that any packet of instant noodles can be treated like a stir-fry—just start by sautéing sliced ginger and garlic, along with your favorite ingredients (like cabbage, bok choy, Spam, sliced beef, or sausage), before tossing in boiled noodles with the flavor packet and a splash of black vinegar for a kick of acidity.
Here, we’ve put together some noodle recipes to welcome into your rotation—whether it’s for a weekday lunch or a weekend project, plus some additional reading that spans the noodle universe. —Tatiana Bautista
Choosy Noodles Choose Jif
The key to silky, rich cold noodles? Industrial peanut butter.
Wings Full of Noodles
Why settle for a dumpling or a chicken wing or a plate of noodles when all three of these exist in one perfect dish?
No Scallions Left Behind
Cook down your scallions like caramelized onions. Your noodles will thank you.
The Land of Hand-Pulled Noodles
In Lanzhou, a sprawling city in northwest China, a bowl of fresh, chile-slicked noodles is never more than a couple bucks away.
There's No Noodle Like a Mama Noodle
There’s a reason the instant noodle brand is the star of so many noodle shops in Thailand.
Soba, I’m Sorry
Understanding the Japanese concept of nodogoshi—“good feeling in the throat”—changed my perspective on soba.
The Cup Noodle Industrial Complex
In Japan, you can eat a different flavor of instant noodles every day of the year.
Biang Biang Goes the Noodles
Ridiculously wide, curiously onomatopoeic, definitively Chinese. These noodles are making some noise.