Everyone knows and loves pasta, but what about the pasta of Asia? After all, the origins of pasta are in fact Asian, so why not familiarize yourself with the dozens and dozens of types of Asian noodles out there? With the ubiquitousness and the rising prominence of Asian and Asian-fusion restaurants in the United States, there are perhaps hundreds of different noodle dishes out there that—let’s be honest—kind of sound the same. The main distinctions come from the noodle dough and geographic region, each kind equally delicious. Here is a beginner’s guide to the different kinds of Asian noodles for all the pasta and Asian food lovers out there.

1. Rice noodles

pasta, sauce, vegetable, spaghetti, meat, pad thai
Irene Kim

Perhaps the most common and recognizable Asian noodle, rice noodles are white when uncooked, and slightly translucent when cooked. Sometimes they resemble Italian linguine, but they may also be big and flat rectangles depending on the dish. They’re made of rice flour and water, so the ingredients are simple but essential in iconic dishes like pad thai and any stir fry.

2. Egg noodles or lo mein

Libby Perold

Lo mein is a dish most people know, as it is a prominent feature of any Chinese restaurant no matter how authentic or Americanized it is. The noodles are actually egg noodles, so logically, eggs are the major ingredient in this pasta. They’re chewier than rice noodles, and appear in lo mein, garlic noodles, stir fries, and lots of Italian pasta dishes.

3. Rice vermicelli noodles

noodle, pho, soup, vermicelli, ramen
Vicky Nguyen

Rice vermicelli is another type of Asian rice noodles, but it is very distinct from other rice noodles. Vermicelli either looks like white spaghetti or very fine strands, and features in fried rice noodles, Guilin breakfast-y porridge noodles, and in Vietnamese dishes.

4. Cellophane or glass noodles

Piper Spooner

Glass noodles are like transparent spaghetti noodles. Made from different starches (mung bean, sweet potato, tapioca, etc..) and water, they are in fact glassy and chewy and are used when cooking spring rolls, Korean japchae, and Chinese hot pots.

5. La mian or hand-pulled noodles

Piper Spooner

La mian is Chinese noodles that are famous for their stretching and folding process, which determines the number and length of the noodles. This process is well-guarded, only taught in elite Chinese culinary schools, as I learned after inquiring after how to learn to fold them! Aside from the chef’s skills, this type of Asian noodle is absolutely delicious, and have a distinct taste from machine-cut noodles.

6. Naengmyeon, soba, and buckwheat noodles

vegetable, stir-fry, tofu, pepper, noodle, meat
Katherine Baker

Soba or naengmyeon are thin, brownish-beige noodles made from buckwheat flour and water, and appear in  Japanese dishes, specifically soups and with dipping sauces, as well as in several Korean dishes like naengmyeon and mak-guksu.

7. Shirataki noodles

Piper Spooner

Unlike the previous four noodles, Shirataki noodles are distinctly Japanese and used exclusively in Japanese cuisine. They’re thin, chewy, and translucent, much like the other types of Asian noodles, but are made from the elephant yam, and most often part of soups.

8. Ramen noodles

ramen, noodle, pork
Jinna Hatfield

Ramen! Perhaps the most hipster of all the Asian noodle varieties, ramen originated in China before being adopted by the Japanese in the 1900s. Ramen noodles are made of wheat, and aside from the 99cent college version, can be quite luxurious. Served in different broths (soy, miso, pork) along with some kind of protein, egg, seaweed, radish, and green onion. Perfect for a cold day!

9. Udon noodles

Piper Spooner

Again, udon is specifically Japanese and is perhaps the thickest and chewiest wheat flour type of Asian noodle featured in soups. There are several different regional versions of udon, but the soup broth is often a mirrin or dashi broth, with fish cakes, tempura, and green onions.

10. Somen noodles

pasta, spaghetti, chocolate
Rayna Mohrmann

Last, but not least, are somen. Somen are another kind of wheat flour noodles, but they are very long and extremely thin, made by stretching rather than cutting the dough. They are most often featured with Japanese dipping sauces or in Korean hot and cold soups.

I hope this guide helps you next time you’re eating out, or if you’re trying to cook at home. If you're looking shopping for Asian ingredients, be brave and try these snacks as well, and if you're looking for awesome places to eat anywhere near Atlanta or Athens, GA, try these. Happy eating!