Found throughout Southeast Asia and southern China, rice noodles are a staple consumed on the street and eaten in fine restaurants. Cooking is minimal because rice noodles have, in fact, been cooked in the manufacturing process.
Since the swelling of rice noodles is different from that of wheat pastas, amounts need to be adjusted. Plan on 8 ounces of fresh rice noodles for a single serving for a main dish, and 3 ounces for a side dish or soup. Plan on 3 ounces of dried rice noodles for a single serving for a main dish, and half that for a side dish or first course.
Dried rice noodles come in a variety of sizes. Those that are called “sticks” are sold in a wiry bundle. If they must be separated, find a place that will catch the broken pieces. Brittle and truly sticklike, they come alive after soaking and are usually deep-fried.
Cooking: First soak the noodles in cold water for about 15 minutes or until they are soft and pliable. Then rinse to remove the starches that leave a milky residue in soups and sauces. Very thin noodles will be ready for use in soups. Thicker noodles should be boiled for about 5 minutes or more after soaking. As always, check for doneness; aiming for al dente is the goal.
Rice vermicelli (mi-fen or mai-fun) are cream-colored noodles that turn white when they are cooked. The thinnest versions are ideal for soups, stir-frying, and deep-frying. Without soaking, they need 2 or 3 minutes boiling time.
Fresh rice noodles are sold chilled and need to stay that way. They will keep a week in the refrigerator and can be frozen. The noodles will be stiff if they have been refrigerated and will need softening. Begin by pouring hot water over them to remove the oil used in making them. Then steam them, but carefully, or they will turn to mush. Like dried rice noodles, they must be soaked before cooking.