I’m super excited to share how to beautifully compose soup bowls with noodle food styling. One of my favourite food photography subjects. I shot my first noodle bowl back in 2016, it was a little bit messy and not super interesting.
Fast forward, five years later, my noodle bowl was shortlisted for the 2021 Pink Lady Food Photography awards. I feel like I’ve come a long way and I’m excited to share the top skills that I’ve learned along the way.
I’m going to jump straight into three key ways to create your noodle food styling.
Preparing and Cooking the Noodles – Think Al dente!
When it comes to preparing noodles, we need to cook them a little differently from how we’re going to eat them.
To create the ideal styling for the perfect noodle soup bowl start by undercooking your noodles. We want them to be a little firmer than al-dente.
Add dried noodles to rapidly boiling water, and cook for 2 mins (an extra minute if you see them sticking together). Then add the noodles to a large bowl of cold water immediately.
Pro Styling Tip: Undercooking the noodles allows them to be firm enough so we can easily work with them.
Step-by-Step Plating: Let’s Build a Noodle Soup Bowl!
When building a noodle bowl there are a couple of styling techniques (which we will cover below).
When it comes to plating and noodle styling, we want to ‘build’ the bowl — one element at a time.
- Add one noodle nest at a time.
- Then add a few main (larger) ingredients to the soup.
- Add a small amount of lukewarm broth. Cold broth can split the noodles and form fat depositories. Boiling water will make delicate ingredients wilt.
- Add smaller elements and garnishes at the end.
- Take the shot. Check it’s looking how you want it.
- Always add more broth and take the shot again.
Test out your noodle food styling by buying cheap dry noodles from an Asian grocery store or the dollar store.
Now that we know how to plate a noodle bowl, let’s look at some styles or ways to think about noodle bowl composition.
Practical Noodle Styling Tip: The Full Bowl
Our first type of noodle bowl is the ‘full bowl’. It’s exactly as it sounds. A full bowl of noodles. it will probably come as no surprise, but it is a full bowl of noodles. The noodles are the main ingredient in this dish and are evenly distributed throughout the bowl.
It can be very artistic and appealing!
This method can be hard to style and can feel busy. The shape of your noodles is really going to help give it either a busy feeling or make it have a spacious and inviting feeling.
Pro Styling Tip: The shape of your noodles can help to give a more spacious and inviting feel.
Two-Thirds Rule: Noodles are the Star
The next type of noodle bowl is, what I call, the two-thirds noodles and one-third ingredient. We want to make sure the noodles are still the star, but the other elements are just as important.
For this shot, I used a Donna Hay recipe which includes shitake mushrooms. We also have hard-boiled eggs soaked in soy sauce. Adding these interesting elements helps create the entire dish.
You’ll notice that there are heavy nests or swirls to one side. The broth is featured in the remaining space and there are different heights of noodles.
The Centre Noodle Placement: Hero The Broth
For the next noodle styling, you might want to style your noodles in the centre of a large dish and give the sense that they are floating in delicious warm broth.
Here we want to star the noodles, but play off the interest other ingredients can bring. You can easily add other ingredients to highlight the other flavours and textures of the dish.
This technique also works well if you have a delicious coloured broth that you need to hero.
When it comes to showcasing your beautiful ingredients we want to get them floating in the Laksa or broth. Some simple ways to do this are:
- Stop your ingredients from sinking by creating a platform within your vessel.
- Build your scene in your bowl first and slowly add the broth in, in stages.
- Create sections for your ingredients.
- Should be used for very visual recipes.
Noodle Styling Tip: Stop Sinking to Get Those Ingredients Floating
These are my favourite tips when it comes to noodle food styling!
Have you ever experienced the ingredients or noodles sinking or shifting when you add the liquid? Here is a simple trick!
Pro Styling Tip: Place something inside your bowl to help create height and stop sinking. Use a bowl or a plate.
A plate inside the bowl is my prefered method. It’s going to allow me to have even more space at the top of the dish and allow me to place the ingredients I want to ‘float’.
One other option you can try if you can’t find a plate or bowl to work is using a ‘bed of noodles‘. To achieve this look, simply cook extra noodles and have a bed of noodles inside your bowl to achieve the required height.
Capture Multiple Shots with Different Levels of Broth.
The last tip that I have for working with noodles and noodle styling is one I learnt from working with clients. We want to make sure that we capture multiple shots with different levels of broth.
The amount of liquid that you use can really change how the bowl looks. Light and ingredients also play differently with different liquid levels.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- How does a light pick it up even just slightly?
- If there’s a little bit of a difference, does one make you feel like you wanna dig in more than the other?
It can depend on the particular recipe, so I always recommend that you capture a few options.
Now that we know a few ways to actually create noodle food styling, make sure you also check out Powerful Compositions Tips For Styling Your Next Noodle Bowl.