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Hot Weather, Cold Noodles 

Where to chill for lunch

Thursday, Jul 22 2010
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Dear Mr. Gold:

So much for livable temperatures in L.A. Given this sudden hideous heat wave, is there any place you'd suggest for cold noodles, preferably with a just-because-I'm-a-white-girl-doesn't-mean-I-want-bland-food option? I'm assuming SGV. I'm hoping SGV. Bless you.

—Jean McCoy, Pasadena

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Dear Ms. McCoy:

On days like today, when no amount of air conditioning is enough air conditioning, the San Gabriel Valley is not a bad place to head for cold noodles. JTYH in Rosemead has very good noodles in cold broth. Most of the Sichuan/Hunan/Yunnan places have a cold noodle dish painted the color of a rosy dawn: Chung King, New Chong Qing, Yunnan Garden, etc. Bamboodles' springy, crotch-kneaded noodles, a Hong Kong–style novelty everyone should try at least once, are available cold.

Yet as satisfying as a bowl of sesame noodles can be on a hot day, even the best of their kind are more filling than refreshing, their chill heightened and mellowed by richness rather than tempered with sharp flavors. (It is not an accident that Thais, whose tropical heat eats L.A. summers for lunch, tend to eat small bowls of noodles in thin, steaming, extremely spicy broth when the temperature heads into the triple digits.) Japanese are masters of the cold noodle game — plain, chilled udon or soba piled on a bamboo mat, sprinkled with dried seaweed and served with bowls of a cold dipping sauce flavored with grated daikon. The cold noodles at Kotohira, Ichimann and Sanuki No Sato in Gardena, or even the low-rent versions all over town, are as refreshing as lime popsicles.

But I can't help feeling that the most effective cold noodles of all come from Korea, a country whose winters are as brutal as its summers are hot. July and August see enormous lines, endless waiting lists and jet-speed service at Koreatown's cold-noodle specialists. The second most refreshing dish in the neighborhood may be at Ma Dang Gook Soo, where the handmade kong gook soo, noodles in cold soy milk, is a dish whose elusive, chilled sweetness is as restorative as vanilla ice cream or a dry martini, a bowl of noodles with the ability to lower your core temperature more effectively than anything this side of an ice bath.

The most refreshing bowl of noodles? That will have to wait until next week.

MA DANG GOOK SOO: 869 S Western Ave., Koreatown. (213) 487-6008.

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