Saimin noodles are the star of saimin, a dish native to the American state of Hawaii. These noodles are egg and wheat-based, and are cooked to a soft texture. Some people confuse ramen noodles and saimin noodles, since the noodles look very similar and are used in similar dishes. Saimin noodles, however, are not naturally crinkly like ramen, instead becoming crinkly as they cook, and they are larger and softer than traditional ramen noodles.
These noodles can be rounded or squared, depending on the type of equipment used to make them. They are traditionally made long and folded for sale, and can be found in fresh and dried form. Dried saimin noodles can be extremely brittle, which is something to watch out for, and many people prefer to work with fresh noodles for greater flavor and flexibility.
In the dish known as saimin, saimin noodles are served in dashi broth with garnishes such as eggs, green onions, various preserved meats, and vegetables. This dish reflects the cultural fusion in Hawaii, blending the Japanese predilection for noodles in broth with noodles of Chinese origin and ingredients from cultures like the Philippines, Portugal, and Polynesia.
Hawaiians treat saimin noodles like a snack food. Numerous noodle stands and restaurants across Hawaii offer saimin, often made with fresh noodles and other locally produced ingredients, and saimin is a common late-night snack across the islands. People also make saimin at home, using fresh or dried noodles and whatever ingredients they happen to have around the house.
Because of the egg, traditional saimin noodles are not suitable for strict vegetarians, and since the broth is often seafood or meat-based, it is important for flexible vegetarians to inquire before tucking into a bowl of saimin. Some ingredients which can be included in the broth in addition to those listed above are: radishes, dried fish, pineapple chunks, Spam, sprouts, Maui onions, and seaweed flakes. Saimin may also be garnished with soy or hot sauce.
Outside of Hawaii, saimin noodles can be difficult to find, although since the dish of the same name has spread to some American cities, they are growing more readily available in some regions. People can make a close approximation of saimin using any egg-based soft wheat noodle available in Asian markets, cooking the noodles in the broth and adding ingredients at the end so they have time to warm through while still remaining crisp and flavorful.