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Harusame noodles are Japanese noodles made from potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, or mung bean starch. They are closely related to cellophane noodles, and they may be used as a replacement in recipes. Since harusame noodles do not typically contain gluten, they are a good choice of food for people with gluten intolerance, although the label should always be carefully read, just in case. Many Asian markets carry harusame noodles, and they can also be ordered through importers who specialize in Japanese ingredients.
Some companies produce harusame noodles under the name “Japanese vermicelli” or “harusame sai fun.” A package of harusame noodles will typically contain several bundles of the noodles, which take the form of long flat or rounded rods. When the noodles are uncooked, they are slightly whitish with a hint of translucence. After cooking, harusame noodles will turn totally clear.
There are a number of ways to use harusame noodles. Some cooks break the raw noodles up, using the chunks for texture in a salad. This usage leads some people to call the Japanese noodles “salad noodles.” The noodles can also be fried until crispy, used in soups, or served as part of a stir fry. Soaking the noodles before cooking will make them more tender and slightly chewy, and the noodles can also be used directly for things like filling fresh spring rolls after they have been soaked.
Unlike cellophane noodles, harusame noodles are not dried in nests. This makes it easier to control portions, since cooks can simply measure out the amount of noodles they need, rather than having to try and pull apart a stubborn nest of noodles. Harusame can, of course, be soaked and coiled into nests. These nests can be deep fried and used as bowls or nests for food.
If you are having trouble finding harusame noodles, try looking for bean threads, bai fun, fen si, powdered silk noodles, sohoon, tung boon, bun tau, sai fun, glass noodles, slippery noodles, or mung bean threads. Despite the exotic array of names, all of these noodles are essentially the same, made with a base of pulped starch which may be derived from an assortment of sources. Although these noodles are generally flavorless, they absorb flavor readily, making them a great choice for a wide range of dishes since they will sop up sauces and spices quite effectively.