A few rules for preparing large quantities of rice noodles: no need to salt the soon to be boiling water. Most important of all, check the noodles to be sure they are not wrapped and tied with white string. If you don't check for string, you may have a panicked search on your hands for stringy bits, post cooking.
I had seven batches of noodles to cook for my boss/client, C. Her only instructions were to not salt the water, and allow the noodles to drain and then cool in covered plastic tubs in the walk in fridge. I had already cut open and dumped more than half the noodles in when I realized some of the packages had noodles with string. The noodle water was too hot for me to pick with my fingers, which I quickly learned after snapping my hand back and looking down at hot, pink skin. I only had a giant strainer to work with, which would not do the trick. I needed tongs for picking out the string. I ran to the other room to find some.
When I returned, the water was cloudy and cooking along nicely. Using the tongs, I tried to see if I could pull the string out. It was nearly impossible to tell where the string was in the cloudy water, because it looked exactly like the noodles. I was also grimacing from my noodle hot air facial, from standing directly over the huge pot of hot water. A noodle steam was something I did not want or need.
I kept looking for the string as I drained the noodles. No luck. How could eight strings disappear so quickly? What would happen if, at the party/event later that night, Tracy Chapman (rumored to be on the guest list) had to pick string out of her teeth? How much would C and our client flip then? I had to wait over a half hour for the noodles to cool enough to touch. Those suckers came out hot! I had divided them into two batches, and was getting ready to seal them and put them in the walk in.
My co-worker, J came over, to ask how many packages I had used. I told her seven and waited for her to high tail it back to our prep area. No need to make myself look like an catering loser, or explain why I'm fishing through the noodles, for string. There were two pieces of string for each package, so I counted as I found and tossed each string. By string six, I was feeling good. Each piece of evidence went straight to the trash. I hoped the two guys doing prep near me weren't observing my weird string search. Of course the last two strings took the longest to find, and the amount of time it took made me a little nuts. A sense of urgency is critical in catering --except when it's "hurry up and wait" time; more on that in another post--but it can lead to a crazy and frantic rush. I finally found and disposed of them, and quickly got the noodles to their cooling zone.
Hours later at a large beautiful warehouse in the City, I looked at the results of my string search. There was a beautiful display of take out boxes with string-free noodles, organic veggies, peanut and fresh herb garnish, and zippy ginger dressing. Guests were smiling and grabbing the boxes and digging in. I snorted to myself silently, "If only they knew!" Lesson learned on my part, definitely.