Regardless of its name, I didn't see right through cellophane noodles. I had ordered it on and off from my favorite Chinese restaurants for years and had no idea that the thin, flexible transparent noodles were made from mung beans. It wasn't until a relative was eating gluten free that I decided to call and check on a take-out order I had made from a popular spot. I knew everything else I ordered had met the gluten-free goal (no wheat, rye and barley), but without thinking at the last minute I had ordered the "Special Noodles" I enjoyed many times in which the texture and seasonings really made them live up to their menu title.
That's when the co-owner enlightened me about gluten-free cellophane noodles, which I began to research before the order even arrived. Because of their appearance and texture, they are also known as glass noodles and Chinese vermicelli. They are often prepared from mung bean starch, yam, cassava or potato starch. You may also have noticed them as part of the filling for spring rolls at Asian restaurants, one of the dishes in which they are often featured.
They are usually dry and then reconstituted while cooking like other packaged pasta noodles and can be bought at Asian markets and some supermarket ethnic aisles. Below, are some of the inspirations I've had since that enlightening meal. The noodles are a perfect fusion food because until you season or adorn them, they are just an all-purpose thin, soft, mild-tasting noodle. All that follow use cooked cellophane noodles, which can be prepared from a store-bought package or enhanced from a take-out order. All ingredients are to taste.
YOU'RE ON A ROLL
Top store-bought wonton wrappers (in most supermarket ethnic aisles) with small amounts of cooked cellophane noodles, finely minced green onions and mandarin orange slices, bits of candied ginger and Chinese five-spice powder (in supermarket spice aisles). Fold, close and cook according to wonton wrapper package instructions.
A SAUCY IDEA
Brew ginger tea or ginger-lemon tea and mix well with some bottled miso salad dressing and freshly ground black pepper. Heat over low-medium flame. Use it as the sauce for still-hot cooked cellophane noodles, tossing well.
To still-hot cooked cellophane noodles, add a few dollops of chunky or smooth peanut butter, honey and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well.
BOWLS OF FUN
Fill individual serving bowls hallway with cooked cellophane noodles. Top with cooked chopped shrimp, minced dried figs, diced cooked green beans, curry powder and teriyaki sauce.
Place cooked cellophane noodles in a salad serving bowl. Top with small amounts of freshly ground pepper and dried coriander, fresh spinach leaves, shredded cooked chicken breast, diced celery and carrots and cashew pieces. Toss well with a store-bought or homemade ginger-based salad dressing.
AFTER-WORK GOURMET COOKBOOK SHELF
Jason Manheim has made a habit of drinking healthfully. He's a fan of NutriBullet fruit and vegetable extractors and his recipes seem to work well with NutriBullet and other brands of extractors and blenders. Mainly, his cookbooks, such as "The Complete Healthy Smoothie for NutriBullet" (not affiliated with the company) and "The Healthy Green Drink Diet: Advice and Recipes to Energize, Alkalize, Lose Weight, and Feel Great," fill in where the cookbooks that come with the products and are sold online as extras by the brands seem to leave off when you are specifically looking for vegetable inclusive and green beverages. Interesting, easy combinations abound, such as a minty melon one with lime, cucumber and cooked Chinese broccoli and another with spinach, kiwi, banana and fresh basil leaves.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com