Canton noodles are Chinese noodles that are cooked and then dried, making them extremely fast cooking when cooks need to use them. They are popular in dishes all over Asia, especially in the Philippines, and can be found in many Asian markets. Many stir fries call for these noodles, since they can be quickly added and they will not make a stir fry damp or soggy like freshly cooked noodles can. They are typically found in the dried noodle section of Asian markets or in specialty stores.
Usually, long egg noodles are used to make Canton noodles. The egg noodles are cooked and then coiled to dry, creating neat packets. They may be flat or round, and vary widely in width. After being completely dried, the noodles are wrapped in plastic and sealed for sale. They keep in a cool dry place for four months or longer, depending on additions to the noodle dough. Should the noodles become damp, they should be discarded, since they can develop mold.
The noodles can be quickly dunked in hot or boiling water to soften them before they are used. They can also be added directly to a stir fry to cook. If the stir fry is dry, a small amount of stock may be added to soften the noodles up. A very popular Philippine dish, pancit Canton, is made with stir fried Canton noodles and a simple sauce. Many families have their own versions of this dish with varying spice levels and ingredients.
The fast cooking noodles can also be added to soups and similar Asian dishes that may call for noodles. For cooks who forget to cook their noodles when making complicated Asian noodle dishes, they can be very handy. Although they are Asian noodles, they do not have to be used exclusively with Asian cuisine. Some may be seasoned with flavorings that would not mesh well with Western foods, but others can be used just like regular egg noodles in things like casserole and chicken noodle soup.
Some companies make Canton noodles with additions like squash and seaweed. In addition to creating a desired flavor, these additions can also make the noodles much more nutritious. Flavorings can shorten the shelf life of the noodles, however, so cooks should always make sure to read packaging and expiration dates carefully when working with them.