Since the Food Allergy Queen is of the Asian persuasion, I was already familiar with the numerous versions of non-wheat (therefore #gf) noodles in the world. I had mentioned them a few times in passing, but have really noticed that they have mostly gone overlooked in the food allergy community, and this is a shame, because they bring so much to the table -- literally and figuratively! So here is my FAQ primer on magical Asian cellophane noodles... (I have dubbed them magical because they come in all shapes, sizes, formats and are also reasonably priced. And you have to seek them out, like a magical treasure.) But they are oh so worth it!
Cellophane noodles are pretty common in most Asian cuisines -- it's a generic term for noodles that are clear and made of non-wheat ingredients such as rice, tapioca/yam, potato starch and bean threads. They are also egg-free! Magic, I say! They can be called glass noodles, cellophane noodles, saifun, and sometimes shiritaki, and on Thai menus they're usually called silver noodles. (Beware for soy allergic people, some shiritaki is made with tofu/soy.) In Korean cuisine, they're used for the classic dish chop chae (pictured here). Cellophane noodles can range from thick to thin, dried and in water. I've been collecting various samples over the past few weeks for you to see!
Cellophane noodles don't have much of their own flavor, so they're really good at soaking up surrounding flavors, which makes them great for sauces. They usually have a fairly firm texture, but are not quite as chewy as what you're used to. The thicker ones are
similar to spaghetti so that you can substitute one of the cellophane noodles for Italian pasta! There are also large flat ones like fettucine. Note also that their textures are not exactly like Italian pasta, so you need to experiment a bit to get to the "al dente" texture that you like. You don't boil it in the same way, sometimes with the super thin types just a brief soak in hot water will do. Times may vary.
Since I'm allergic to rice, I use mostly cellophane noodles made with yam or tapioca. Those made with bean threads have a bit too much fiber in them which aggravates my system (I'm trying to be delicate here) a little too much. I use them in Asian noodle soups (pho, with curry) as well as for Western-style pasta dishes like pesto. This summer I'm going to try for cold noodle dishes too.
So where do you find these magic cellophane noodles? The answer: everywhere! I've found them in the ethnic food section in regular grocery store chains, and also online -- there is a "diet food" called the Miracle Noodle which is low carb for dieters, which is made from a type of yam, which is therefore #gf, that you can order in bulk online. But the best place is Asian grocery stores. Now don't be nervous if there's no English on it. Ingredients are listed in the back in English, so you can see that there are usually only have one or two ingredients in it. (And since nuts are usually not part of Asian cuisine, there is not as much chance for cross-contamination with nuts.) And better yet, these really large bags are sometimes only a few bucks!
Please give cellophane noodles a try, and try to get some magic into your life! Let me know if you try them and like them.