The Science of Baking Soda Turns Pasta into Chinese Noodle

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Cooking Pasta with Baking Soda Turns it into Chinese Noodle

One of the most famous tricks among Japanese people living abroad is this; Boil pasta in baking soda to make Chinese noodles.
I often use this trick myself, but how does it work scientifically?
This article introduces the different types of noodles and their properties.

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Udon and Chinese Noodles are Different

Udon and Chinese noodles are both made from wheat and water. Both have a firm texture, we call it as “koshi” in Japanese, which comes from the gluten produced by mixing wheat and water.
However, the texture of udon and Chinese noodles is clearly different. This is because the ingredients other than wheat and water have different functions.

Gluten is a Type of Protein

When flour and water are mixed together, a protein called “gluten” is produced. Gluten is formed when the proteins “gliadin” and “glutenin” in the flour are combined by adding water and kneading.
The strength of the gluten varies depending on the amount of protein in the original flour, the strength of the kneading, pH, additives, and many other conditions.

Udon is “Gluten and Salt”

Udon is made from wheat flour, water, and salt.
The salt mainly works on gliadin.
Gliadin is originally a protein that does not dissolve in water, but the presence of salt makes it soluble in water. Furthermore, it is known that gliadin dissolved in water gathers together in the presence of salt. This is why udon noodles made with wheat, water, and salt have “koshi”, a firm texture.

Reference:
https://img.atwikiimg.com/www12.atwiki.jp/cookingappliance/attach/107/23/0812-1.pdf

Chinese Noodle is “Gluten and Brine”

Ramen and other Chinese noodles are made of wheat flour, water, and brine.
Brine is a basic (alkaline) liquid made with ash or something, not just sea water. The brine works mainly on the glutamine in the gluten.
Proteins are made up of countless amino acids bound together. One of the amino acids that make up protein is glutamine, and wheat protein is more than 30% glutamine.
Under basic conditions, glutamine changes to glutamate, which simultaneously releases ammonia.
Glutamic acid is classified in the group of acidic amino acids. Glutamic acid is strongly associated with basic amino acids (lysine, arginine, and histidine). This is how the firmness of Chinese noodles is created.

Both udon and Chinese noodles have koshi, a firm texture. However, their textures are definitely different. Both brine and salt are added to tighten the gluten, but they work in different ways, resulting in different textures.

Other Functions of Brine

Brine gives Chinese noodles their unique firmness. In addition, brine does many other things.

Adding Flavor

When you pass by a ramen shop, you will smell a slightly stinky, nice, and somewhat addictive smell mixed with the nice aroma of the soup and other ingredients. This is the smell of ammonia, which is created when brine meets glutamine. Along with taste, aroma is a very important element in cooking. The brine creates the unique aroma of Chinese noodles.

Coloring

Chinese noodles are yellow in color. The yellow color is also produced by brine.

Pasta is Also “Gluten and Salt”

Pasta is made from wheat flour and salt. The yellow color of pasta is due to the color of the flour.
For pasta, durum semolina flour is used in particular. Durum is a type of wheat, and semolina is a type of flour that is ground, and they are coarser than regular flour. This durum semolina flour is yellow in color, which makes pasta yellow in color.

How Does Pasta Become Chinese Noodles?

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