Cellophane noodles (also known as Chinese vermicelli, bean threads, bean thread noodles, or glass noodles) are a type of transparent Asian noodle made from starch (such as mung bean starch, yam, potato, cassava or canna starch), and water.
They are generally sold in dried form, boiled to reconstitute, then used in soups, stir fried dishes, or spring rolls. They are called "cellophane noodles" or "glass noodles" because of their appearance when cooked, resembling cellophane, a clear material or a translucent light gray or brownish-gray color.
Cellophane noodles are generally round, and are available in various thicknesses. Wide, flat cellophane noodle sheets called mung bean sheets are also produced in China.
Cellophane noodles should not be confused with rice vermicelli, which are made from rice and are white in color rather than clear.
Cellophane noodles have a clear see-through color when cooked. It is generally much longer than rice vermicelli.
Ants climbing a tree (蚂蚁上树)
In China, cellophane noodles are usually made of mung bean starch and are a popular ingredient used in stir fries, soups, and particularly hot pots. They can also be used as an ingredient in fillings for a variety of Chinese jiaozi (dumplings) and bing (flatbreads), especially in vegetarian versions of these dishes. Thicker cellophane noodles are also commonly used to imitate the appearance and texture of shark's fin in vegetarian soups. Thicker varieties, most popular in China's northeast, are used in stir fries as well as cold salad-like dishes. A popular soup using the ingredient is fried tofu with thin noodles (油豆腐线粉汤; pinyin: yóu dòu fu-xiàn fěn tāng). A popular Sichuan dish called ants climbing a tree (蚂蚁上树; má yǐ shàng shù) consists of stewed cellophane noodles with a spicy ground pork meat sauce.
In 2004, testing by Chinese authorities determined that some brands of cellophane noodles produced in Yantai, Shandong were contaminated with lead. It emerged that several unscrupulous companies were making their noodles from cornstarch instead of mung beans in order to save costs, and, to make the cornstarch transparent, were adding lead-based whiteners to their noodles. In December 2006, Beijing authorities again inspected cellophane noodles produced by the Yantai Deshengda Longkou Vermicelli Co. Ltd. in Siduitou village, Zhangxing town, Zhaoyuan city, Yantai, this time determining that sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate, a toxic and possibly carcinogenic industrial bleach which is an illegal food additive in China, had been used in the production of the noodles. The company, which formerly sold its noodles both in China as well as overseas, was ordered to cease production and distribution.