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The world of noodles

Monday 1 July, 2019

Australian wheat is highly valued for noodles across Asia. The Asian noodle market represents over one-third of Australia’s wheat exports!

Why Australian wheat?

Flour millers across Asia prefer to buy Australian wheat for noodles. The combination of excellent noodle texture and colour attributes is unique to Australian wheat.

White Australian wheat results in high milling yield at low flour ash, meaning more profit for the flour miller. The starch and protein quality of Australian wheat is ideally suited to Asian noodles.

Looking good…

Noodle appearance is very important in Asian markets.

Fresh noodles should have a bright, clean appearance with good colour stability.

In other words, noodles made today will still look appealing tomorrow.

Specks of bran or noodle colour discoloration is a no-no.

Feeling good…

The texture and mouthfeel of noodles is very important.

While preferences differ between countries, generally speaking, noodles should have a ’clean bite’ with good elasticity.

Good quality noodles don’t go soft too quickly in soup – i.e. good textural stability is important.

Noodles should feel good to eat!

The main noodle types

Yellow alkaline noodles

There are many different types of yellow alkaline noodles across Asia.

Made from wheat flour, water, salt and alkaline salt, these noodles have a bright yellow colour and a distinctive alkaline flavour. These noodles can be fresh, chilled, par-boiled or instant.

Popular examples include ramen (Japan), hokkien noodles (Malaysia) and mie basah (Indonesia – often made into the popular mie goreng dish).

AEGIC is working with flour millers across South East Asia to help the Australian wheat industry make further improvements to yellow alkaline noodle quality.

More information: Looking good, feeling good! How do we keep Australian wheat number one for Asian noodles?

White salted noodles (udon)

When Australian people talk about “noodle wheat”, they generally mean the Australian Noodle Wheat class, which includes wheat varieties that have been bred specifically for Japanese udon noodles.

Udon noodles are consumed mainly in Japan and Korea. They are much thicker than most other types of noodles and have a white creamy colour (no alkaline salt). Udon noodles are premium noodles and have strict quality requirements.

The perfect udon noodles should have a mouthfeel known as ‘mochi mochi’ – a unique balance of softness and chewy firmness, combined with good elasticity and a slight stickiness. Udon noodles have a bright and creamy white/slightly yellow colour. Good colour stability is a must for fresh noodles.

Japan buys all of its wheat for udon noodles from Western Australia, because they know our wheat meets all their exacting quality requirements. A similar udon market exists in Korea.

AEGIC is heavily involved in supporting Australia’s udon wheat breeding efforts and working with the Japanese flour milling industry to ensure Australian noodle wheat meets Japanese requirements.

More information: Australian wheat helps Japan and Korea keep on keeping udon

Instant noodles

Instant noodles are an enormous market, dwarfing all other types of noodles by volume. More than 103 billion servings of instant noodles were eaten in 2018 – the vast majority in Asia.

Instant noodles are made on a production line which involves steaming, frying, drying and packaging with small packets of flavourings.

Instant noodles are made to be as affordable as possible, so wheat quality is less of a concern than fresh yellow alkaline or white salted noodles. Flour millers are under pressure to make sure they buy the most affordable wheat while not compromising too much on quality.

“Premium” instant noodles could be an emerging sector in markets such as Indonesia. Wheat quality is more important in this sector.

More information: Mi goreng and Australian wheat: a perfect match

Oat noodles

Currently a niche market in China, oat noodles could grow to be a significant new opportunity for Australian oats.

AEGIC is currently investigating this opportunity and has successfully developed oat noodles made with more than 50% oat flour.

More information: Healthy, high-percentage oat noodles for China

Starch noodles

Noodles made with starchy flour such as rice or potato flour are popular in many Asian countries and have different a flavour and texture to wheat noodles. Australia exports rice on a much smaller scale than wheat.

Rice noodles are extremely popular in markets such as Vietnam and Thailand where they account for significantly larger market share than wheat noodles.

What does the future hold?

While flour millers in Asia prefer to buy Australian wheat for noodles, wheat from lower cost origins like Ukraine and Russia is increasingly being used because it’s so much cheaper.

This is a significant challenge for Australia. AEGIC is working hard on several fronts to help the Australian industry make sure Australian wheat exports continue to meet the needs of our Asian customers.