Everywhere I've read about cooking puffed rice noodles says that the soaked noodles need to be fried. I need a less messy alternative to frying. Is there a way I could bake them to get the same or similar consistency?
no... deep frying is necessary because you need the water inside the noodles to flash to steam, which creates the puff. baking is a slow and indirect heat and therefore will not work.