You'll find these nearly translucent noodles in recipes across much of Asia, from brothy pho in Vietnam to stir-fried chow fun in China to pad thai and pad see ew in Thailand (and many, many more recipes).
All about rice noodles
Rice noodles are traditionally made from just rice flour and water. The rice flour and water mixture might be pushed through a plate with small holes to form long, thin noodles. Or it can be spread into a thin layer, dried, and then sliced into flat noodles by a machine. Some of the most common rice noodles are the tiny, delicate rice vermicelli used in this recipe; straight, flat rice sticks; and wide, chewy chow fun noodles.
Cool as a cucumber
There are many varieties of cucumbers in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. The most common cucumber you'll find at the grocery store is an American or garden cucumber, which has a thick green skin and lots of big seeds.
English cucumbers are long and slim, have thin skins and small seeds, and usually come wrapped in plastic. Persian cucumbers (the kind we call for in this recipe) are basically mini versions of English cucumbers and are great for snacking. Kirby cucumbers are small and squat and are great for making pickles.
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RICE NOODLE BOWLS
Makes: 4 servings
2 Persian cucumbers
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, measured separately
12 ounces ground pork
2 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
1. Trim ends of cucumbers. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise. Lay pieces flat side down and slice crosswise into half-moons about 1/4 inch thick.
2. In a medium bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir together sliced cucumbers and vinegar. Set aside.
3. Add 2 quarts of water to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off heat. Carefully add noodles to hot water. Use a wooden spoon to push noodles down until covered with water. Let noodles sit until tender, about 5 minutes.
4. While noodles soak, in a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons oil.
5. Drain and rinse noodles in colander under cold running water. Set noodles aside to drain.
6. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat for 1 minute (oil should be hot but not smoking). Add pork and use a wooden spoon to break pork into small pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is no longer pink and is beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
7. Measure out 2 tablespoons soy sauce mixture from large bowl and add to skillet with pork. Add scallions to skillet and stir to combine. Cook until scallions have softened, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat and slide skillet to a cool burner.
8. Add drained noodles to a large bowl with remaining soy sauce mixture. Use tongs to toss noodles until they are evenly coated with sauce. Use tongs to divide noodles among 4 serving bowls.
9. Top each bowl with pork, cucumbers, and cilantro (if using). Serve.