To rinse or not to rinse, that is the question.

Rinsing your noodles or dunking them in ice cold water (typically bringing back to temperature before serving); also known as 過冷河, roughly translated as running through the cold river, (Cantonese saying…not sure if it’s called the same in thing in Mandarin).

It is a unilateral “no-no” to rinse Italian pasta. But I (and many of my friends) have been taught to do it when preparing Asian noodles. So why the difference? And when should you do this (and when should you skip it)?

There are three main reasons to rinse:

  1. To stop the noodles from continuing to cook (and end up soft and soggy);
  2. to achieve a better mouth feel. Many netizens say that the sudden temperature change causes a reaction that gives the noodles a better chew, teeth bounce or mouth feel and;
  3. to rinse off the starch (some say so the noodles don’t stick, others say to get rid of the taste of the starch).

Why the Italians say: “no” to rinsing is because they cook their noodles al dente but also because the starch is said to help the sauce coat the noodles. (Some recipes even call for a bit of the starchy pasta water to be thrown back in with the pasta and pasta sauce.)

For this 炸醬麵 (zha jiang noodle, a Beijing dish which is a savoury meat sauce usually served on plain noodles): I boiled them to my desired doneness and I did the rinse. Then I put the noodles in a separate pot of broth to bring it back up to a warm temperature before serving. While the sauce was rich and noodles were the perfect texture…I wonder: would my sauce have coated better if I reserved some of that starch water to mix with the meat sauce? To both dilute and to help stick? Or would my noodles have been that chew that I love if I didn’t run it through the river? 🤔 Hmm…

Guess I’ll have to keep experimenting. In the meantime, I want to know: what you do with your Asian noodles? Do you rinse? Why or why not?

Product used: Shanghai Noodles (Ramen) 中華拉麵