Easy, fast and flavorful glass noodle soup, made in a delicious garlic & ginger broth with soy sauce. Long, clear glass noodles are so fun to eat! Make this soup vegetarian or add meat.
My sister-n-law introduced me to this glass noodle soup recipe years ago. I'd forgotten about it until recently but I'm so glad to have this easy, flavorful soup back in my life! It's a perfect weeknight recipe.
Make it once, and after that you don't really need a recipe. It's that's easy! It's also really versatile. This version is vegetarian, but it's easy to add chicken or your favorite type of ground meat. I've included instructions for both in the recipe card below.
What are Glass Noodles?
Glass noodles are long, clear noodles found in many different cuisines across Asia. They cook quickly and are delicious in soups, cold salads, hot noodle dishes, stir fries and spring rolls.
They are called glass noodles (or cellophane noodles) because they are translucent when cooked, just like glass. Some packages also label the noodles as "bean threads."
Glass noodles are soft but slightly chewy and the texture is slippery. The noodles have very little flavor, they just soak up the flavors of the sauce, broth or seasoning they are cooked in.
They can be made from mung bean starch, potato starch, tapioca starch or other types of starch. They are a different type of noodle than rice noodles, which are made from rice flour.
Uncooked cellophane noodles are white, thin and brittle. They are often packaged in 2-ounce bundles.
Cellophane Noodle Cooking Instructions
Different brands of cellophane/glass noodles have different cooking instructions. However, the basic idea is that you soak the noodles in hot water until they become clear, pliable and chewy.
If using the noodles for salads, stir fries or other similar dishes it's best to soak the noodles in hot (not boiling) water. Depending on how hot the water is, the noodles will be ready in 5 to 15 minutes.
For glass noodle soup, you can add the dried noodles directly to the soup pot. When the soup is ready, turn off the heat. Then add the glass noodles and let them hydrate in the hot broth until the strands turn from white to clear.
The noodles will soak up the flavor of the broth, which is why in the photo below they are a golden brown color from veggie stock and soy sauce.
Broth & Water: A combination of broth and water gives the soup flavor, but keeps it from tasting too salty when soy sauce is added.
Soy Sauce: I use reduced sodium soy sauce to flavor the broth and keep the saltiness in check. Don't skip it; soy sauce is what really gives this soup unique flavor.
Garlic & Ginger: The magical combination that flavors many Asian dishes. You can skip ginger if your family doesn't love it. You can also take the easy short-cut of using 2 or 3 frozen ginger or garlic cubes (check the freezer section of grocery stores)
Mushrooms: Use any variety that you like. Mushrooms give this vegetarian soup flavor and texture. The mushrooms are sauteed briefly in either canola oil or sesame oil before adding water and broth. If you're not a fan, just don't add mushrooms. The soup is still good.
Baby spinach: Cooks quickly and adds bright green color to the soup.
Meat: Adding meat is optional, and can be in place of mushrooms or in addition to mushrooms. Chicken thighs can be cooked directly in the soup broth, or you can add cooked, shredded chicken thighs or breast. Any type of ground meat can be cooked directly in the soup pot.
Step-by-Step Soup Instructions
The ingredients are combined, and then glass noodle soup simmers for only about 10 minutes before it's ready to eat.
- Soak the noodles in hot water, not boiling water. Bring a pot of water (or soup broth) to a full or near boil, then turn off the heat before adding glass noodles. Keep in mind that the hotter the water, the shorter the soaking time.
- Cut the noodles for easier eating. Glass noodles are really long! To make them easier to eat and to keep the noodles from forming large clumps, you can use kitchen shears to snip the cooked noodles into shorter threads. Don't make them too short, however. The noodles are very slippery and hard to pick up if too short.
- Glass noodles absorb broth. The longer the noodles sit in a pot of soup, the more broth they'll soak up. If you like a brothy soup, don't add too many bundles of glass noodles! If leftover glass noodle soup is stored in the refrigerator, the noodles will soak up most of the broth. The noodles are still delicious, but you'll have to add more broth to turn the leftovers back into soup.
More Glass Noodles Recipes
- Japchai from My Korean Kitchen
- Steamed shrimp with glass noodles from Woks of Life
- Vegan Pad Woon Sen from Woonheng.com
- Vietnamese spring rolls from Rasamalaysia
FAQ About Cellophane Noodles
Yes, glass noodles and cellophane noodles are the same thing. The cooked noodles are clear or transparent, just like glass or cellophane.
Soak the noodles in hot water until clear and pliable. Drain and shake off excess water. Then proceed with the recipe. If adding the noodles to a stir fry, only cook the pre-soaked noodles in the wok or saute pan for a few minutes or they will get too soft.
Yes, you can cook the noodles in your pot of soup. Once the soup is ready, I turn off the heat and add the noodles to the hot broth. If the broth is really hot, the noodles should be ready to eat in about 5 minutes or so.
Vermicelli is the name for any type of thin, long noodle. Noodles that are sometimes called Chinese vermicelli or "mei fun" are made from rice flour. However, Chinese cuisine also uses cellophane/glass vermicelli which is made from bean or potato starch. The blog Woks of Life has a helpful list of Chinese noodles.
Yes. Glass noodles are made from either bean starch, potato starch or tapioca starch. Double check the ingredients on the package to make sure they are gluten free.
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