On Bean Thread Noodles
As part of my New Year's resolution to try new things, I've been doing some cooking with bean thread noodles.
Harusame noodles, they're called in Japan. They're also known as cellophane noodles or glass noodles because when they're cooked they're pretty translucent. I can see why people are reluctant to try them; in their dry form they look like the thin paper hair used to pad out certain packages for shipping. But don't let that put you off.
For one thing, these are pretty convenient for single people; one bundle or packet (these are sold in packs of 2-ounce bundles) easily feeds one person. For another, these are pretty easy to cook; five minutes in boiling water and you're good to go.
Taste? That's the part that you have to make up your mind on. They don't really have a taste to speak of, unlike regular angel hair pasta or egg pasta. It's the same thing with rice noodles. What this means is that bean-thread noodles aren't meant to be eaten alone; you need to either put them in a soup or use them to carry a flavorful sauce such as a curry. You use them more for texture than for taste. (Texture is actually pretty nice, like angel hair.)
I tried them out with spaghetti sauce. It's not quite the same texture as spaghetti, but the noodles carry the sauce pretty well in spite of their thinness. (A meaty sauce like mine works better with thicker pasta like spaghetti than with angel hair.)
I'll find out some more culture-appropriate recipes for these, but if you see bean-thread noodles in your grocery (they'd be in the Chinese foods section) don't be afraid to give them a try.