And they can’t get enough of it. Since cellophane is the go-to material for food packaging, Asians are reducing the amount of waste inherent in processed food items in this way. Bizarre, but refreshingly sustainable.
Chinese, Korean, and a whole host of Asian eaters happily consume what Westerners have rather appropriately named, cellophane noodles. These starch-based noodles (made of starchy things from potatoes to mung beans) are called a bunch of different things depending on where you are in the world. In China, they are commonly referred to as fun see (粉絲) – literally powder thread – and you’ll see them lots in hot pots and Chinese shabu shabu in the Canton region. The higher profile incarnations of these clear, translucent noodles include japchae (잡채), Korean glass noodles.
Cellophane noodles are more or less flavourless and are a rather unappetizing texture when overcooked, especially since there’s no redeeming inherent flavour. They’re most successful as a moderating agent in highly flavourful sauces or to add texture variety to otherwise texture-monotonous dishes.
A word of caution when purchasing Chinese fun see (ie. produced in shady Chinese factory X and imported extremely cheap overseas) as it might take on a lead-reminiscent flavour because there is actually lead in the noodles, a more-recurrent-than-you-think element in many Chinese-made food products. Happy cellophane eating!