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From Spaetzle to Saimintosoda

Photo by Anne Fishbein
Early on in history, some say about 100 A.D., humanity concluded that it positively would not live on bread alone. The baguette-addicted French might say “C’est ridicule” to this notion, but noodles became the world’s favorite comfort food probably the moment folks discovered a cheap, easy way to mill large quantities of grain. Noodles captured the fancy of cooks everywhere, for unlike breads, they required no rising or long baking time, nor did they need lengthy cooking like whole grains. A batch could stretch more expensive ingredients to feed a house full of hungry children for a mere pittance.

Like many others who grew up in America, for the longest time I thought of noodles only as a plate filled with spaghetti and meatballs smothered in tomato sauce, or elbow macaroni floating in pools of very yellowy cheese. The noodle world changed for me, however, in ’85, while researching an L.A. food-shopping guide. As I struck up conversations with good cooks about where they got their spices or their specialty ingredients, they’d eagerly ply me with tips on other good things to eat. More often than not, their leads involved some sort of noodle — perhaps a wonderful bowl of ramen from a hole-in-the-wall in Little Tokyo, or a German restaurant that made fine spaetzle.

Those were the days when fresh pastas were thought to be the ne plus ultra of noodledom. But as I poked around various food stores, I came across Hungarian tarhonya, Korean dang-myun, Hawaiian saimin, Vietnamese banh canh, even Persian toasted noodles called reshteh. I began to think of L.A. as the most wildly diverse noodle city anywhere. Fifteen years later, the single most obvious thing I notice is how much more refined our noodle choices have become. Hand-pressed chitarra, hand-swung Chinese mein and handmade soba, among other artisanal noodles, have raised every noodle lover’s standards. What follows is a sampling of some of the best noodling around.

New Comfort Foods

Many new hip semiretro coffee shops like Axe, the Standard and Fred 62 are redefining comfort food just as seared ã ahi redefined what was once acceptable on a French menu. Soba in dashi broth, or Korean glass noodles in cold spicy sesame dressing, appear on their menus as nonchalantly as if they were a BLT or a tuna melt. Yet for me, and a lot of others who ate in school cafeterias here, a bowl of unadulterated Americana means macaroni and cheese. I went everywhere hunting for the best, from home-cooking places to supermarkets, delis and coffee shops, and sadly found the dish defiled with mushy noodles and insipid cheese sauce. I did, however, come upon one great version, the MacDaddy and Cheese, at Fred 62. It’s a soup bowl full of perfectly cooked elbows in a creamy, soupy, cheese-intensive sauce, spiked with bits of fresh green chile. Topped with a thin brûlée-like crust of buttery crumbs, a spoonful brings up wonderful stretchy strings of well-ag ed sharp Cheddar. A slightly more elegant mac and cheese comes from Greenblatt’s Deli. It stands on its own, like cold lasagna, with a sauce that’s almost pure cheese, wedged between perfectly cooked noodles. A thick layer of Cheddar forms its crumbless topping. It’s easy to wreck this dish while warming it up later, so cover it, use a 300-degree oven, and pull it out exactly when the cheese becomes molten.

The European Noodle

Deli foods of Russian extraction, and the noodles of Greece, Germany and Mittel Europe, are seemingly on the wane. Yet they are thriving, if you know where to look. Kasha varnishkas, the bow-tie noodles with toasted buckwheat, used to be one of my favorite Jewish-deli dishes. Lately I’ve found sloppily made versions in Nate ’n’ Al’s, Art’s, Canter’s and even Brent’s. But Langer’s, the King of Pastrami, puts forth a perfect, steaming plate of bow ties, encrusted with still-slightly-toothy buckwheat redolent with sweet, smoky notes of caramelized onion. Langer’s also prepares one of the best noodle kugels. It looks kind of homely next to the tall, beautiful one from Greenblatt’s, which ties with Brent’s for second place. But Langer’s pudding is a soft, meltingly tender, egg-rich custard, rather than stiff or dry and rubbery, as inferior versions can be. Pastitsio — macaroni layered with ground beef or lamb, infused with Greek seasonings and crowned with a savory cheese-custard topping — has to be one of the great Greek noodle creations of all time. I remember loving the pastitsio at Joseph’s Café, yet when I last ate it there it was truly a sad example. Fortunately, I’ve found two marvelous replacements. Delphi, an okay restaurant in Westwood, surprised me with its savory, tender-topped version, and the Greek Bistro in Encino not only does a fine, creamy pastitsio, but offers a long menu of Greek-inspired linguine with charbroiled octopus or crumbly, aged mizithra cheese, both with garlic and olive oil, or with oven-roasted lamb in its own juice.

Spaetzle, a German grandma’s answer to world peace, can be tasteless dough knots designed merely to absorb soups and sauces. At Knoll’s Black Forest Inn restaurant, the spaetzle is the best I’ve had. These noodle drop-lets are so egg-rich and tender they’re almost like mini-omelets. Spaetzle usually accompanies roast goose and roast pork. The kitchen will also obligingly serve it with any entrée. Another good spaetzle bet, if you happen be near Long Beach, is Anneliese’s Bavarian Inn. And I so love the fact that Polka, one of only two Polish places in the city, serves every entrée — not just the expected gulasz — with eggy noodles. Voluptuous beds of noodles hold carefully cooked watrobka-chicken livers and onion, or klopst (ground mixed-meat patties), in gravy, as well as stuffed cabbage rolls.

Chinese Noodles

Wherever Chinese immigrants spread throughout Asia, they introduced noodles, and every culture added its own local ingredients and flavorings. Without leaving L.A. County, it’s possible to follow noodles around the Asian map to places as far-flung as Myanmar, northern Thailand, and Penang, Malaysia. The best way to discover the subtleties of Asian noodles may be with handmade Chinese noodles because, according to food scholar K.C. Chang, these are what got the Asian-noodle ball rolling after wheat milling was introduced in China in the first century. Of the many subtle variations noodles can take — from angel-hair fine to thick and clunky, and with textures from gelatinous to soft — the handmade ones at Dumpling Master are the most basic. Insiders know that unless you specifically request the “special noodles,” you’ll likely get the mechanically made ones. Rolled out like thin pie dough and cut by hand into hefty half-inch ribbons, the dense, wheaty special noodles almost require a knife and fork to eat. Someone with an impeccable sense of timing cooks the toppings: Shrimps are juicy, pea pods snap, pork-chop topping is seared crisp yet juicy, and the soup broths are elegant and deeply flavored.

The chefs at Beijing Islamic in Torrance, and at Heavy Noodling (formerly Dow Shaw Noodle House) in Monterey Park, make their noodles by kneading a thick, football-size dough cylinder and from it shaving elastic noodle ribbons into boiling water. They emerge as rugged, beefy, irregular, wheaty-flavored bands that stand up to the most scorching, ã chile- laced broth, yet bring out the best in a light seafood soup. Originally from the countryside outside Beijing, these noodles go especially well with the lamb so often used in northern-style Chinese cooking. Both restaurants serve them in lamb soups, lamb stir fries and in about a dozen other preparations. At Heavy Noodling look for noodles tossed with chile, with sesame paste or soybean paste, and for seafood ton mein. Beijing Islamic gives the noodles the unappetizing sobriquet of “dough slice,” but never mind, they’re the same fabulous noodles.

Transforming a blob of dough by twisting, stretching and pulling it into a springy coil of noodles has to be one of chefdom’s most miraculous feats. We rarely see it in restaurants, though, for as one demonstrating noodle master responded to David Letterman when asked why he didn’t serve hand-swung noodles at his restaurant, “There’s no dough in it.” We are privileged, then, to have a few places around town that bother to make them. At Dumpling House, customers get a ringside seat to watch a noodle maker ply his art in a window facing the parking lot. The resulting irregular strands are delicious magnets for a Korean-Chinese-style soup that’s intense with dry-chile flavor, and for a rich, dense, brown bean sauce with chopped meat, or for broth loaded with seafood or for half a dozen other flavorings. San Tong in Artesia has virtually the same dishes with handmade noodles, but you don’t get to watch the show. Nor can you see it at Chu’s Mandarin Cuisine in San Gabriel Square. What you will see there are photos of Mr. Chu posing with Arnold Schwarzenegger behind a mound of dough. Chu’s hand-pulled dough strings served cold flaunt their slithery attributes better than anything I know. With chicken, in unctuous peanut sauce or with seafood, they’re indeed a rare noodle treat.

Always reliable, if not showy or flashy, Sam Woo Barbecue and Noodles and Luk Yue use commercially made but good-quality noodles of every variety: Cantonese-style egg noodles (thin-style or linguine-shaped), e-fu noodles, flat rice noodles and rice vermicelli — all done just about any way you want, whether it’s with barbecued pork, roast chicken, stir-fried veggies or in soup — all with lightning service at multiple locations. Favorites to try: beef-stew noodles with won tons, shredded chicken and salty cabbage; beef-and-egg chow fun or chow mein; satay-beef chow fun; shredded duck with salty cabbage; and the many types of egg or rice noodles in soup.

Thai and Burmese Noodles

Most Thai places serve at least half a dozen different noodle dishes, and usually they’re the same half-dozen. Thais, though, like everyone else in Asia, have an intense noodle addiction, and the restaurants that follow show off the hundreds of ways they appease them. The Sompun restaurants may be L.A.’s only two sources for kao soi, a northern-Thai specialty sold on nearly every corner in every neighborhood in the city of Chiang Mai, and one of my top-three noodle dishes in the world. The creamy, chile-and-lemon-grass-flavored coconut-milk broth is shot through with a touch of curry, laced with chewy thin egg noodles, and spritzed with sweet car-amelized garlic. A swirl of deep-fried egg noodles to crush over the top comes alongside. Sompun does a fabulous job bringing on the traditional garnishments that make the dish expand and soar — a battalion of chile condiments, plus pickled cabbage, chopped red onion and wedges of lime.

Duck noodle soup is another scarce but wonderful Thai discovery. Rodded, in Hollywood, specializes in duck stew, duck won ton and the duck noodle soup. In the Thai-Chinese manner, it is clear, dark with duck flavor, and rich with underlying notes of onion and soy sauce. The noodles are delicate and eggy. The soup may be ordered with slices of duck (duck stew), or duck wing, or duck feet, or duck liver. And with it you get a little dish of hand-chopped bird’s-eye chiles made into a hot sauce. The dish is simple, a perfect example of the idea that less is more.

Most Thai-noodle lovers know about Samanluang Café. In case you’ve missed the two bright and quite noisy branches, take note. High turnover ensures fresh noodles in every dish, and the list of choices is a long one. For my favorite, General’s Noodle, thin egg noodles are topped with roast duck, barbecued pork and crumbles of ground pork in a broth permeated with garlic. The yen-ta-fo, a glowingly hot-sour broth crowded with seafood, comes topped with fried won ton. Late hours are another plus here.

At Chandarette Thai Noodle Bar and Grill, the setting and stylized cooking may seem a little too elegant for noodles. On the Westside, though, it’s the very best there is. The menu goes way beyond mee krob. Try sen lek, a hot, garlicky jolt of broth with chewy rice noodles, won tons, your choice of duck, shrimp or freshly roasted chicken chunks, all spritzed with crushed peanuts.

A Burmese woman once told me that mo hin nga is more popular in Burma than are hot dogs here in America. People eat it for breakfast, and roaming vendors sell it in Burmese neighborhoods. The Golden Triangle in downtown Whittier makes ã a fabulous version with thin rice noodles and flecks of mashed catfish in a soupy lemon grass–spiked gravy that’s thickened with garbanzo flour. Served in a bubbling cauldron, it’s garnished with crispy deep-fried yellow split peas, crunchy-sweet fried garlic, and cilantro.

Japanese Noodles

Since the late ’80s, escalating competition among Japanese noodle parlors has meant vying with higher and higher quality. A few shops that first imported noodles from Japan began investing in noodle-making machines. Although the newest machines do a fine job of imitating handmade noodles, there’s nothing like the human touch. By my estimate, gleaned perusing the Japanese Yellow Pages, L.A. County has close to 70 Japanese noodle restaurants and ramen shops. No longer confined to Little Tokyo or Gardena, there’s likely one of my favorites within walking distance of you.

So addicted are the Japanese to ramen, the Japanese spin on Chinese noodles, that Yoji Iwaoka’s Yokohama Ramen Museum — which displays historical lore, and gathers and serves some of Japan’s best regional ramens — draws more Japanese visitors annually than the national art museum. Some feel ramen’s popularity stems from the fact that loud slurping gives the Japanese an acceptable outlet for making a noisy public display. But I think it’s probably the brothy, garlicky goodness, the cheap price for a quick, filling meal, and the convenience that keeps ramen on Japan’s Top 10 foods list. Ramen-Ya: Its ma bo ramen is tops. Ramen Nippon: First in the Valley; the mabo ramen rocks. Kyushyu Ramen: Adorable, hip woman owner creates seductive nontraditional specialties. Eboshi: The place where straight-laced Toyota salarymen loosen their ties to slurp. Asahi Ramen: Favorite traditional place in Little Japantown West. Atch Kotch: Convenient to Hollywood post-production houses; great daily specials. Tampopo: If you’ve seen the movie, you know all about this place; three locations.

As many noodle buffs know, the Japanese are fond of unusual spaghetti dishes (a spaghetti omelet or spaghetti with salmon caviar), and Spoon House and Akane Chaya are good old standbys for trying them out.

In the year or so it’s been open, Otafuku’s reputation for stunning handmade white soba noodles, known as sarashina soba, has quickly spread among noodle connoisseurs. These are the beluga of noodles. Owner Seiji Akutsu, a former Tokyo restaurateur, imports the proper white gozen-ko (first milling) soba flour, uses only Arrowhead water, and kneads his dough by hand to get noodles with a satiny, chewy resiliency. In keeping with his persnickety tastes, Akutsu-san prepares about six different broths to complement each of the noodle styles on his menu. For those who like a darker soba, Akutsu-san also makes a version with ichiban-ko (second milling) flour that has a stronger buckwheat flavor.

Not unlike most noodle shops, Kotohira serves its splendid handmade udon with familiar assorted toppings (egg, tempura, wakame, etc.). But purists say the best way to appreciate the ethereal flavor and silky resiliency of noodle-master Masahiro Noguchi’s sumptuous hand-formed strands is in a plain kake-jiru (broth), or served cold on a mat with tsuke-jiru, the customary cold noodle dipping sauce. Noodle mavens are gaga over the authenticity of Noguchi’s style.

If you can’t always drive to Gardena for the ultimate sarashina noodle, or handcrafted udon, these shops also do an excellent job. Kagetsu-an: The best house-made soba in Little Tokyo. Nishiki: High-quality house-made udons flavored with parsley, sesame, spinach and tomato; very unusual. Sanuki No Sato: A favorite of Honda employees in Gardena and said to be adored by Hideo Nomo; udon-suki, a cook-your-own affair in a hot pot is a must-try here. Taiko: Popular Westside spot for excellent machine-made soba and udon; makes soba for Matsuhisa’s Ubon. Ubon: Imports a wonderful chewy udon from Japan, and serves soba from Taiko. Recharge after shopping the Beverly Center. Yabu: Delicate handmade soba (spinach and regular), and topnotch kitchen skills when it comes to its other foods, put Yabu at the top of the list.

Vietnamese Noodles

Many Vietnamese restaurateurs offer noodle specialties from the country’s three distinct culinary regions, giving us Vietnamese-noodle freaks a chance to taste it all under one roof. Pho, skinny, fresh rice noodles originating as a northern specialty, traveled south to Saigon around 1954, along with refugees fleeing the communists. Now it’s ubiquitous. Pho ga, the chicken version of the more famous beef-laden soup, makes a delicious change.

Bun bo hue, an intense red chile — sparked bowl of rich pork-and-beef broth swimming with thick, round rice noodles, is the central region’s mainstay. Like pho, it’s served with platters of fresh mints, basils, cilantro and other herbs, fresh limes, half a dozen chile preparations, and evil-smelling sauces with which you may get as daringly creative as whim dictates. Coagulated blood squares, a favorite bun bo Hue garnish, only show up in hardcore, authentic places such as Thanh Vi in Little Saigon.

The Southern specialty, hieu tieu, slippery, glassy vegetable-starch noodles that’re sometimes misnamed rice noodles, can also be found at pho houses. Typically, hieu tieu is at home with the plentiful seafood of the South’s long coastline, although it’s served with other proteins, too. Dishes such as hu tiu tom cua thit (shrimp, crabmeat and sliced pork in soup) with the slithery noodles, or hu tiu ca (catfish in soup) with noodles, are on the long list of possibilities.

You’ll inevitably see a mi section on most Vietnamese menus. Mi are simply the skinny, Chinese-style egg noodles that are a holdover from years of Chinese attempted domination. If termed mi nuoc, the noodles will be in soup; if mi xao, they’ll be stir-fried. Both versions will have Vietnamese flavorings. Fresh banh hoi, the thinnest possible rice noodle formed into little hand-size mats, is a relative newcomer on Vietnamese menus. Used in the manner of a tortilla, they become wrappers for whatever — grilled meats, meatballs, garlic-grilled shrimp — along with bits of freshly torn herbs.

Among the best restaurants to munch your way through an encyclopedic Vietnamese-noodle tour are Noodle City, Pho Nguyen Hoang, My Trang, Pho So 1, Pho Vietnam and the Alhambra branch of Pho 79.

Korean Noodles

Korea’s noodle culture may once have been linked to China (a few places around Koreatown still make hand-thrown mein), but it has evolved into something completely original. In supermarkets you see yardlong packages of sweet potato–starch tang myun noodles, and the buckwheat/potato-starch noodles naeng myun, usually served cold. Kang Seo Myun Oak, a smaller relative of a well-known restaurant in Korea, ã specializes in Kang Seo naeng myun cold, a slightly chewy version from Korea’s northwest, served in a mild kimchee-water broth. A visit to Keum Da Rae will give one an overview in a color-photographed menu of the many true Korean noodles and Japanese-favorite noodle dishes Koreans have adapted. The best thing to order here, however, is the hwe naeng myun, clear potato-starch noodles with skate wing in a pungent, sweet, garlicky sauce. For some of Koreatown’s best khal kooksoo (a.k.a knife noodles), the tender, rolled and hand-cut wheat noodles served in chicken broth that are the Korean equivalent of Jewish penicillin, visit Olympic Noodle. The shop, on the fringes of K-town, serves many more versions than most places, including bibim kooksu, slathered with a blazing sweet-hot bean sauce.

Southeast Asia,

Hawaii and the New

Pan-Asian Chains

If the classic noodle dishes above leave you uninspired, hankering for more adventurous, creative recipes, our city has grown plenty. Chicken is obviously Hainan Chicken’s claim to fame, but its long list of Malaysian curry noodles easily draws as many customers. And then there are the cross-cultural noodles of the Philippines that Mami King’s pancit palabok represents so well; its shrimp gravy–sauced plate of thin rice noodles has the Spanish touch of crushed chicharon as its garnish. At Little Malaysia it’s the curry laksa that I love, with its spaghetti-thick rice noodles and rich, multispiced broth. More popular in Malaysia, though, is the Penang assam laksa, puckery, tart tamarind soup made for adult (or Malay) tastes. And let us not forget the saimin of Hawaii. Inspired by ramen, but still full of its own special character, you’ll find some of the best at Bruddah’s in Gardena and at that other great and campy coffee shop, King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant. The latest noodle trend is the pan-Asian noodle menu, as evidenced by the springing up in multiples of Noodle Planet Asia Noodle Café, Menjin, Zen Grill and Typhoon (not really a noodle house, but it has a long pan-Asian list of ’em anyway).

Grains have stretched far and wide, and are still stretching, so now that you have this basic guide to some of the world’s various noodles available in L.A., I know you’ll also discover many more noodles and their derivatives on your own. Do send in your suggestions, please.

Comfort Fred 62, 1850 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 667-0062. Greenblatt’s Deli, 8017 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323)656-0606.

European Anneliese’s Bavarian Inn, 5730 E. Second St., Long Beach; (562) 439-4089. Brent’s Deli, 19565 Parthenia Ave., Northridge; (818) 886-5679. Delphi, 1383 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 478-2900. Greek Bistro, 17337 Ventura Blvd., Encino; (818) 789-2888. Knoll’s Black Forest Inn, 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-2212. Langer’s, 704 S. Alvarado St., downtown; (213) 483-8050. Polka, 4112 Verdugo Road, Eagle Rock; (323) 255-7887.

Chinese Beijing Islamic, 3160 Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance; (310) 784-0846. Chu’s Mandarin Cuisine, 140 W. Valley Blvd., No. 206-7, San Gabriel; (626) 572-6574. Dumpling House, 5612 Rosemead Blvd., Temple City; (626) 309-9918. Dumpling Master, 423 N. Atlantic Blvd., No. 106, Monterey Park; (626) 458-8689. Heavy Noodling (formerly Dow Shaw Noodles), 153 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 307-9583. Luk Yue, 123 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 280-2888; and 735 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 284-6638. Sam Woo Barbecue and Noodles, 634 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 289-4858; also 514 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 281-0038; 803 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 687-7238; 6450 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 988-6813. San Tong, 18155 S. Pioneer Blvd., Artesia; (562) 865-3003.

Thai, Burmese Chandarette, 13490 Maxella Ave. (Villa Marina Marketplace), Marina del Rey; (310) 301-1004. Golden Triangle, 7011 S. Greenleaf Ave., Whittier; (562) 945-6778. Rodded, 5623 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 464-9689. Sanamluang Café, 5176 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 660-8006; also 12980 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 764-1180. Sompun, 4156 Santa Monica Blvd., Silver Lake (323) 669-9906; and 12053 Ventura Place, Studio City, (818) 762-7861.

Japanese Akane Chaya, 1610 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 768-3939. Spoon House, 1601 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 538-0376.

Ramen Asahi Ramen, 2027 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 479-2231. Atch-Kotch, 1253 N. Vine St., No. 5, Hollywood; (323) 467-5537. Eboshi, 2383 Lomita Blvd., Lomita; (310) 325-6674. Kyushu Ramen, 15355 Sherman Way (in Village Plaza), Van Nuys; (818) 778-6712. Ramen Nippon, 6900 Reseda Blvd., No. D, Reseda; (818) 345-5946. Ramen Ya, 11555 W. Olympic Blvd.; (310) 575-9337. Tampopo, 15462 S. Western (in Tozai Plaza), Gardena, (310) 323-7882; also 21515 S. Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 787-8122; and 3760 Centinela Ave., Mar Vista, (310) 915-0442.

Soba and Udon Kagetsu-an, 318 E. Second St., downtown; (213) 613-1479. Kotohira, 1747 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 323-3966. Mishima, 8474 W. Third St., (323) 782-0181; also 21605 Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 320-2089; 11301 Olympic Blvd., No. 210, (310) 473-5297; and 12265 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 506-8861. Nishiki, 11651 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 477-1551. Otafuku, 16525 S. Western Ave., Gardena; (310) 532-9348. Sanuki No Sato, 18206 Western Ave., Gardena; (310) 324-9185. Taiko, 11677 San Vicente Blvd. (Brentwood Gardens), Brent wood; (310) 207-7782. Ubon, 8530 Beverly Blvd. (Beverly Center); (310) 854-1115. Yabu, 11820 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A., (310) 473-9757; and 521 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 854-0400.

Vietnamese My Trang, 209 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 280-8698. Noodle City, 628 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra; (626) 308-3567. Pho Nguyen Hoang, 401 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 281-0017. Pho 79, 11 E. Main St., Alhambra; (626) 289-0239. Pho So 1, 7231 Reseda Blvd., Reseda; (818) 996-6515. Pho Vietnam, 18625 Sherman Way, Reseda; (818) 758-9898. Thanh Vi, 9609 Bolsa Ave., Westminister; (714) 531-0285.

Korean Kang Seo Myun Oak, 534 S. Westmoreland Ave., No. 105 (at the corner of Sixth); (213) 382-1717. Kum Da Rae Noodle House, 3831 W. Sixth St.; (213) 386-6554. Olympic Noodle, 4008 W. Olympic Blvd.; (323) 931-0007.

Southeast Asian Hainan Chicken Restaurant, 18406 Colima Road, No. B (Hong Kong Plaza), Rowland Heights; (626) 854-0385. Little Malaysia, 3944 N. Peck Road, No. 8, El Monte; (626) 401-3188. Mami King, 22222 S. Main St., No. 106, Carson, (310) 830-3828; also 4321 Sunset Blvd., (323) 668-9288; 14650 Roscoe Blvd., Nos. 1 & 2, Panorama, (818) 891-8581.

Hawaiian Bruddah’s Hawaiian Foods, 1033 W. Gardena Blvd., Gardena; (310) 323-9112. King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaraunt, 2808 W. Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance; (310) 530-0050.

Pan Asian Asia Noodle Café, Glendale Galleria, No. 3233; (818) 240-9401. Menjin International Noodle House, 8393 Beverly Blvd.; (323) 782-0039. Noodle Planet, 1118 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 208-0777; and 700 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 282-8855. Typhoon, 3221 Donald Douglas Loop S. (Santa Monica Airport); (310) 390-6565. Zen Grill, 8432 W. Third Street, (323) 655-9991; and 14543 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 461-8444.

Early on in history, some say about 100 A.D., humanity concluded that it positively would not live on bread alone. The baguette-addicted French might say “C’est ridicule” to this notion, but noodles became the world’s favorite comfort food probably the moment folks discovered a cheap, easy way to mill large quantities of grain. Noodles captured the fancy of cooks everywhere, for unlike breads, they required no rising or long baking time, nor did they need lengthy cooking like whole grains. A batch could stretch more expensive ingredients to feed a house full of hungry children for a mere pittance.

Like many others who grew up in America, for the longest time I thought of noodles only as a plate filled with spaghetti and meatballs smothered in tomato sauce, or elbow macaroni floating in pools of very yellowy cheese. The noodle world changed for me, however, in ’85, while researching an L.A. food-shopping guide. As I struck up conversations with good cooks about where they got their spices or their specialty ingredients, they’d eagerly ply me with tips on other good things to eat. More often than not, their leads involved some sort of noodle — perhaps a wonderful bowl of ramen from a hole-in-the-wall in Little Tokyo, or a German restaurant that made fine spaetzle.

Those were the days when fresh pastas were thought to be the ne plus ultra of noodledom. But as I poked around various food stores, I came across Hungarian tarhonya, Korean dang-myun, Hawaiian saimin, Vietnamese banh canh, even Persian toasted noodles called reshteh. I began to think of L.A. as the most wildly diverse noodle city anywhere. Fifteen years later, the single most obvious thing I notice is how much more refined our noodle choices have become. Hand-pressed chitarra, hand-swung Chinese mein and handmade soba, among other artisanal noodles, have raised every noodle lover’s standards. What follows is a sampling of some of the best noodling around.

New Comfort Foods

Many new hip semiretro coffee shops like Axe, the Standard and Fred 62 are redefining comfort food just as seared ã ahi redefined what was once acceptable on a French menu. Soba in dashi broth, or Korean glass noodles in cold spicy sesame dressing, appear on their menus as nonchalantly as if they were a BLT or a tuna melt. Yet for me, and a lot of others who ate in school cafeterias here, a bowl of unadulterated Americana means macaroni and cheese. I went everywhere hunting for the best, from home-cooking places to supermarkets, delis and coffee shops, and sadly found the dish defiled with mushy noodles and insipid cheese sauce. I did, however, come upon one great version, the MacDaddy and Cheese, at Fred 62. It’s a soup bowl full of perfectly cooked elbows in a creamy, soupy, cheese-intensive sauce, spiked with bits of fresh green chile. Topped with a thin brûlée-like crust of buttery crumbs, a spoonful brings up wonderful stretchy strings of well-ag ed sharp Cheddar. A slightly more elegant mac and cheese comes from Greenblatt’s Deli. It stands on its own, like cold lasagna, with a sauce that’s almost pure cheese, wedged between perfectly cooked noodles. A thick layer of Cheddar forms its crumbless topping. It’s easy to wreck this dish while warming it up later, so cover it, use a 300-degree oven, and pull it out exactly when the cheese becomes molten.

The European Noodle

Deli foods of Russian extraction, and the noodles of Greece, Germany and Mittel Europe, are seemingly on the wane. Yet they are thriving, if you know where to look. Kasha varnishkas, the bow-tie noodles with toasted buckwheat, used to be one of my favorite Jewish-deli dishes. Lately I’ve found sloppily made versions in Nate ’n’ Al’s, Art’s, Canter’s and even Brent’s. But Langer’s, the King of Pastrami, puts forth a perfect, steaming plate of bow ties, encrusted with still-slightly-toothy buckwheat redolent with sweet, smoky notes of caramelized onion. Langer’s also prepares one of the best noodle kugels. It looks kind of homely next to the tall, beautiful one from Greenblatt’s, which ties with Brent’s for second place. But Langer’s pudding is a soft, meltingly tender, egg-rich custard, rather than stiff or dry and rubbery, as inferior versions can be. Pastitsio — macaroni layered with ground beef or lamb, infused with Greek seasonings and crowned with a savory cheese-custard topping — has to be one of the great Greek noodle creations of all time. I remember loving the pastitsio at Joseph’s Café, yet when I last ate it there it was truly a sad example. Fortunately, I’ve found two marvelous replacements. Delphi, an okay restaurant in Westwood, surprised me with its savory, tender-topped version, and the Greek Bistro in Encino not only does a fine, creamy pastitsio, but offers a long menu of Greek-inspired linguine with charbroiled octopus or crumbly, aged mizithra cheese, both with garlic and olive oil, or with oven-roasted lamb in its own juice.

Spaetzle, a German grandma’s answer to world peace, can be tasteless dough knots designed merely to absorb soups and sauces. At Knoll’s Black Forest Inn restaurant, the spaetzle is the best I’ve had. These noodle drop-lets are so egg-rich and tender they’re almost like mini-omelets. Spaetzle usually accompanies roast goose and roast pork. The kitchen will also obligingly serve it with any entrée. Another good spaetzle bet, if you happen be near Long Beach, is Anneliese’s Bavarian Inn. And I so love the fact that Polka, one of only two Polish places in the city, serves every entrée — not just the expected gulasz — with eggy noodles. Voluptuous beds of noodles hold carefully cooked watrobka-chicken livers and onion, or klopst (ground mixed-meat patties), in gravy, as well as stuffed cabbage rolls.

Chinese Noodles

Wherever Chinese immigrants spread throughout Asia, they introduced noodles, and every culture added its own local ingredients and flavorings. Without leaving L.A. County, it’s possible to follow noodles around the Asian map to places as far-flung as Myanmar, northern Thailand, and Penang, Malaysia. The best way to discover the subtleties of Asian noodles may be with handmade Chinese noodles because, according to food scholar K.C. Chang, these are what got the Asian-noodle ball rolling after wheat milling was introduced in China in the first century. Of the many subtle variations noodles can take — from angel-hair fine to thick and clunky, and with textures from gelatinous to soft — the handmade ones at Dumpling Master are the most basic. Insiders know that unless you specifically request the “special noodles,” you’ll likely get the mechanically made ones. Rolled out like thin pie dough and cut by hand into hefty half-inch ribbons, the dense, wheaty special noodles almost require a knife and fork to eat. Someone with an impeccable sense of timing cooks the toppings: Shrimps are juicy, pea pods snap, pork-chop topping is seared crisp yet juicy, and the soup broths are elegant and deeply flavored.

The chefs at Beijing Islamic in Torrance, and at Heavy Noodling (formerly Dow Shaw Noodle House) in Monterey Park, make their noodles by kneading a thick, football-size dough cylinder and from it shaving elastic noodle ribbons into boiling water. They emerge as rugged, beefy, irregular, wheaty-flavored bands that stand up to the most scorching, ã chile- laced broth, yet bring out the best in a light seafood soup. Originally from the countryside outside Beijing, these noodles go especially well with the lamb so often used in northern-style Chinese cooking. Both restaurants serve them in lamb soups, lamb stir fries and in about a dozen other preparations. At Heavy Noodling look for noodles tossed with chile, with sesame paste or soybean paste, and for seafood ton mein. Beijing Islamic gives the noodles the unappetizing sobriquet of “dough slice,” but never mind, they’re the same fabulous noodles.

Transforming a blob of dough by twisting, stretching and pulling it into a springy coil of noodles has to be one of chefdom’s most miraculous feats. We rarely see it in restaurants, though, for as one demonstrating noodle master responded to David Letterman when asked why he didn’t serve hand-swung noodles at his restaurant, “There’s no dough in it.” We are privileged, then, to have a few places around town that bother to make them. At Dumpling House, customers get a ringside seat to watch a noodle maker ply his art in a window facing the parking lot. The resulting irregular strands are delicious magnets for a Korean-Chinese-style soup that’s intense with dry-chile flavor, and for a rich, dense, brown bean sauce with chopped meat, or for broth loaded with seafood or for half a dozen other flavorings. San Tong in Artesia has virtually the same dishes with handmade noodles, but you don’t get to watch the show. Nor can you see it at Chu’s Mandarin Cuisine in San Gabriel Square. What you will see there are photos of Mr. Chu posing with Arnold Schwarzenegger behind a mound of dough. Chu’s hand-pulled dough strings served cold flaunt their slithery attributes better than anything I know. With chicken, in unctuous peanut sauce or with seafood, they’re indeed a rare noodle treat.

Always reliable, if not showy or flashy, Sam Woo Barbecue and Noodles and Luk Yue use commercially made but good-quality noodles of every variety: Cantonese-style egg noodles (thin-style or linguine-shaped), e-fu noodles, flat rice noodles and rice vermicelli — all done just about any way you want, whether it’s with barbecued pork, roast chicken, stir-fried veggies or in soup — all with lightning service at multiple locations. Favorites to try: beef-stew noodles with won tons, shredded chicken and salty cabbage; beef-and-egg chow fun or chow mein; satay-beef chow fun; shredded duck with salty cabbage; and the many types of egg or rice noodles in soup.

Thai and Burmese Noodles

Most Thai places serve at least half a dozen different noodle dishes, and usually they’re the same half-dozen. Thais, though, like everyone else in Asia, have an intense noodle addiction, and the restaurants that follow show off the hundreds of ways they appease them. The Sompun restaurants may be L.A.’s only two sources for kao soi, a northern-Thai specialty sold on nearly every corner in every neighborhood in the city of Chiang Mai, and one of my top-three noodle dishes in the world. The creamy, chile-and-lemon-grass-flavored coconut-milk broth is shot through with a touch of curry, laced with chewy thin egg noodles, and spritzed with sweet car-amelized garlic. A swirl of deep-fried egg noodles to crush over the top comes alongside. Sompun does a fabulous job bringing on the traditional garnishments that make the dish expand and soar — a battalion of chile condiments, plus pickled cabbage, chopped red onion and wedges of lime.

Duck noodle soup is another scarce but wonderful Thai discovery. Rodded, in Hollywood, specializes in duck stew, duck won ton and the duck noodle soup. In the Thai-Chinese manner, it is clear, dark with duck flavor, and rich with underlying notes of onion and soy sauce. The noodles are delicate and eggy. The soup may be ordered with slices of duck (duck stew), or duck wing, or duck feet, or duck liver. And with it you get a little dish of hand-chopped bird’s-eye chiles made into a hot sauce. The dish is simple, a perfect example of the idea that less is more.

Most Thai-noodle lovers know about Samanluang Café. In case you’ve missed the two bright and quite noisy branches, take note. High turnover ensures fresh noodles in every dish, and the list of choices is a long one. For my favorite, General’s Noodle, thin egg noodles are topped with roast duck, barbecued pork and crumbles of ground pork in a broth permeated with garlic. The yen-ta-fo, a glowingly hot-sour broth crowded with seafood, comes topped with fried won ton. Late hours are another plus here.

At Chandarette Thai Noodle Bar and Grill, the setting and stylized cooking may seem a little too elegant for noodles. On the Westside, though, it’s the very best there is. The menu goes way beyond mee krob. Try sen lek, a hot, garlicky jolt of broth with chewy rice noodles, won tons, your choice of duck, shrimp or freshly roasted chicken chunks, all spritzed with crushed peanuts.

A Burmese woman once told me that mo hin nga is more popular in Burma than are hot dogs here in America. People eat it for breakfast, and roaming vendors sell it in Burmese neighborhoods. The Golden Triangle in downtown Whittier makes ã a fabulous version with thin rice noodles and flecks of mashed catfish in a soupy lemon grass–spiked gravy that’s thickened with garbanzo flour. Served in a bubbling cauldron, it’s garnished with crispy deep-fried yellow split peas, crunchy-sweet fried garlic, and cilantro.

Japanese Noodles

Since the late ’80s, escalating competition among Japanese noodle parlors has meant vying with higher and higher quality. A few shops that first imported noodles from Japan began investing in noodle-making machines. Although the newest machines do a fine job of imitating handmade noodles, there’s nothing like the human touch. By my estimate, gleaned perusing the Japanese Yellow Pages, L.A. County has close to 70 Japanese noodle restaurants and ramen shops. No longer confined to Little Tokyo or Gardena, there’s likely one of my favorites within walking distance of you.

So addicted are the Japanese to ramen, the Japanese spin on Chinese noodles, that Yoji Iwaoka’s Yokohama Ramen Museum — which displays historical lore, and gathers and serves some of Japan’s best regional ramens — draws more Japanese visitors annually than the national art museum. Some feel ramen’s popularity stems from the fact that loud slurping gives the Japanese an acceptable outlet for making a noisy public display. But I think it’s probably the brothy, garlicky goodness, the cheap price for a quick, filling meal, and the convenience that keeps ramen on Japan’s Top 10 foods list. Ramen-Ya: Its ma bo ramen is tops. Ramen Nippon: First in the Valley; the mabo ramen rocks. Kyushyu Ramen: Adorable, hip woman owner creates seductive nontraditional specialties. Eboshi: The place where straight-laced Toyota salarymen loosen their ties to slurp. Asahi Ramen: Favorite traditional place in Little Japantown West. Atch Kotch: Convenient to Hollywood post-production houses; great daily specials. Tampopo: If you’ve seen the movie, you know all about this place; three locations.

As many noodle buffs know, the Japanese are fond of unusual spaghetti dishes (a spaghetti omelet or spaghetti with salmon caviar), and Spoon House and Akane Chaya are good old standbys for trying them out.

In the year or so it’s been open, Otafuku’s reputation for stunning handmade white soba noodles, known as sarashina soba, has quickly spread among noodle connoisseurs. These are the beluga of noodles. Owner Seiji Akutsu, a former Tokyo restaurateur, imports the proper white gozen-ko (first milling) soba flour, uses only Arrowhead water, and kneads his dough by hand to get noodles with a satiny, chewy resiliency. In keeping with his persnickety tastes, Akutsu-san prepares about six different broths to complement each of the noodle styles on his menu. For those who like a darker soba, Akutsu-san also makes a version with ichiban-ko (second milling) flour that has a stronger buckwheat flavor.

Not unlike most noodle shops, Kotohira serves its splendid handmade udon with familiar assorted toppings (egg, tempura, wakame, etc.). But purists say the best way to appreciate the ethereal flavor and silky resiliency of noodle-master Masahiro Noguchi’s sumptuous hand-formed strands is in a plain kake-jiru (broth), or served cold on a mat with tsuke-jiru, the customary cold noodle dipping sauce. Noodle mavens are gaga over the authenticity of Noguchi’s style.

If you can’t always drive to Gardena for the ultimate sarashina noodle, or handcrafted udon, these shops also do an excellent job. Kagetsu-an: The best house-made soba in Little Tokyo. Nishiki: High-quality house-made udons flavored with parsley, sesame, spinach and tomato; very unusual. Sanuki No Sato: A favorite of Honda employees in Gardena and said to be adored by Hideo Nomo; udon-suki, a cook-your-own affair in a hot pot is a must-try here. Taiko: Popular Westside spot for excellent machine-made soba and udon; makes soba for Matsuhisa’s Ubon. Ubon: Imports a wonderful chewy udon from Japan, and serves soba from Taiko. Recharge after shopping the Beverly Center. Yabu: Delicate handmade soba (spinach and regular), and topnotch kitchen skills when it comes to its other foods, put Yabu at the top of the list.

Vietnamese Noodles

Many Vietnamese restaurateurs offer noodle specialties from the country’s three distinct culinary regions, giving us Vietnamese-noodle freaks a chance to taste it all under one roof. Pho, skinny, fresh rice noodles originating as a northern specialty, traveled south to Saigon around 1954, along with refugees fleeing the communists. Now it’s ubiquitous. Pho ga, the chicken version of the more famous beef-laden soup, makes a delicious change.

Bun bo hue, an intense red chile — sparked bowl of rich pork-and-beef broth swimming with thick, round rice noodles, is the central region’s mainstay. Like pho, it’s served with platters of fresh mints, basils, cilantro and other herbs, fresh limes, half a dozen chile preparations, and evil-smelling sauces with which you may get as daringly creative as whim dictates. Coagulated blood squares, a favorite bun bo Hue garnish, only show up in hardcore, authentic places such as Thanh Vi in Little Saigon.

The Southern specialty, hieu tieu, slippery, glassy vegetable-starch noodles that’re sometimes misnamed rice noodles, can also be found at pho houses. Typically, hieu tieu is at home with the plentiful seafood of the South’s long coastline, although it’s served with other proteins, too. Dishes such as hu tiu tom cua thit (shrimp, crabmeat and sliced pork in soup) with the slithery noodles, or hu tiu ca (catfish in soup) with noodles, are on the long list of possibilities.

You’ll inevitably see a mi section on most Vietnamese menus. Mi are simply the skinny, Chinese-style egg noodles that are a holdover from years of Chinese attempted domination. If termed mi nuoc, the noodles will be in soup; if mi xao, they’ll be stir-fried. Both versions will have Vietnamese flavorings. Fresh banh hoi, the thinnest possible rice noodle formed into little hand-size mats, is a relative newcomer on Vietnamese menus. Used in the manner of a tortilla, they become wrappers for whatever — grilled meats, meatballs, garlic-grilled shrimp — along with bits of freshly torn herbs.

Among the best restaurants to munch your way through an encyclopedic Vietnamese-noodle tour are Noodle City, Pho Nguyen Hoang, My Trang, Pho So 1, Pho Vietnam and the Alhambra branch of Pho 79.

Korean Noodles

Korea’s noodle culture may once have been linked to China (a few places around Koreatown still make hand-thrown mein), but it has evolved into something completely original. In supermarkets you see yardlong packages of sweet potato–starch tang myun noodles, and the buckwheat/potato-starch noodles naeng myun, usually served cold. Kang Seo Myun Oak, a smaller relative of a well-known restaurant in Korea, ã specializes in Kang Seo naeng myun cold, a slightly chewy version from Korea’s northwest, served in a mild kimchee-water broth. A visit to Keum Da Rae will give one an overview in a color-photographed menu of the many true Korean noodles and Japanese-favorite noodle dishes Koreans have adapted. The best thing to order here, however, is the hwe naeng myun, clear potato-starch noodles with skate wing in a pungent, sweet, garlicky sauce. For some of Koreatown’s best khal kooksoo (a.k.a knife noodles), the tender, rolled and hand-cut wheat noodles served in chicken broth that are the Korean equivalent of Jewish penicillin, visit Olympic Noodle. The shop, on the fringes of K-town, serves many more versions than most places, including bibim kooksu, slathered with a blazing sweet-hot bean sauce.

Southeast Asia,

Hawaii and the New

Pan-Asian Chains

If the classic noodle dishes above leave you uninspired, hankering for more adventurous, creative recipes, our city has grown plenty. Chicken is obviously Hainan Chicken’s claim to fame, but its long list of Malaysian curry noodles easily draws as many customers. And then there are the cross-cultural noodles of the Philippines that Mami King’s pancit palabok represents so well; its shrimp gravy–sauced plate of thin rice noodles has the Spanish touch of crushed chicharon as its garnish. At Little Malaysia it’s the curry laksa that I love, with its spaghetti-thick rice noodles and rich, multispiced broth. More popular in Malaysia, though, is the Penang assam laksa, puckery, tart tamarind soup made for adult (or Malay) tastes. And let us not forget the saimin of Hawaii. Inspired by ramen, but still full of its own special character, you’ll find some of the best at Bruddah’s in Gardena and at that other great and campy coffee shop, King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant. The latest noodle trend is the pan-Asian noodle menu, as evidenced by the springing up in multiples of Noodle Planet Asia Noodle Café, Menjin, Zen Grill and Typhoon (not really a noodle house, but it has a long pan-Asian list of ’em anyway).

Grains have stretched far and wide, and are still stretching, so now that you have this basic guide to some of the world’s various noodles available in L.A., I know you’ll also discover many more noodles and their derivatives on your own. Do send in your suggestions, please.

Comfort Fred 62, 1850 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 667-0062. Greenblatt’s Deli, 8017 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323)656-0606.

European Anneliese’s Bavarian Inn, 5730 E. Second St., Long Beach; (562) 439-4089. Brent’s Deli, 19565 Parthenia Ave., Northridge; (818) 886-5679. Delphi, 1383 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 478-2900. Greek Bistro, 17337 Ventura Blvd., Encino; (818) 789-2888. Knoll’s Black Forest Inn, 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-2212. Langer’s, 704 S. Alvarado St., downtown; (213) 483-8050. Polka, 4112 Verdugo Road, Eagle Rock; (323) 255-7887.

Chinese Beijing Islamic, 3160 Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance; (310) 784-0846. Chu’s Mandarin Cuisine, 140 W. Valley Blvd., No. 206-7, San Gabriel; (626) 572-6574. Dumpling House, 5612 Rosemead Blvd., Temple City; (626) 309-9918. Dumpling Master, 423 N. Atlantic Blvd., No. 106, Monterey Park; (626) 458-8689. Heavy Noodling (formerly Dow Shaw Noodles), 153 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 307-9583. Luk Yue, 123 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 280-2888; and 735 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 284-6638. Sam Woo Barbecue and Noodles, 634 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 289-4858; also 514 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 281-0038; 803 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 687-7238; 6450 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 988-6813. San Tong, 18155 S. Pioneer Blvd., Artesia; (562) 865-3003.

Thai, Burmese Chandarette, 13490 Maxella Ave. (Villa Marina Marketplace), Marina del Rey; (310) 301-1004. Golden Triangle, 7011 S. Greenleaf Ave., Whittier; (562) 945-6778. Rodded, 5623 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 464-9689. Sanamluang Café, 5176 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 660-8006; also 12980 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 764-1180. Sompun, 4156 Santa Monica Blvd., Silver Lake (323) 669-9906; and 12053 Ventura Place, Studio City, (818) 762-7861.

Japanese Akane Chaya, 1610 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 768-3939. Spoon House, 1601 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 538-0376.

Ramen Asahi Ramen, 2027 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 479-2231. Atch-Kotch, 1253 N. Vine St., No. 5, Hollywood; (323) 467-5537. Eboshi, 2383 Lomita Blvd., Lomita; (310) 325-6674. Kyushu Ramen, 15355 Sherman Way (in Village Plaza), Van Nuys; (818) 778-6712. Ramen Nippon, 6900 Reseda Blvd., No. D, Reseda; (818) 345-5946. Ramen Ya, 11555 W. Olympic Blvd.; (310) 575-9337. Tampopo, 15462 S. Western (in Tozai Plaza), Gardena, (310) 323-7882; also 21515 S. Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 787-8122; and 3760 Centinela Ave., Mar Vista, (310) 915-0442.

Soba and Udon Kagetsu-an, 318 E. Second St., downtown; (213) 613-1479. Kotohira, 1747 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 323-3966. Mishima, 8474 W. Third St., (323) 782-0181; also 21605 Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 320-2089; 11301 Olympic Blvd., No. 210, (310) 473-5297; and 12265 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 506-8861. Nishiki, 11651 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 477-1551. Otafuku, 16525 S. Western Ave., Gardena; (310) 532-9348. Sanuki No Sato, 18206 Western Ave., Gardena; (310) 324-9185. Taiko, 11677 San Vicente Blvd. (Brentwood Gardens), Brent wood; (310) 207-7782. Ubon, 8530 Beverly Blvd. (Beverly Center); (310) 854-1115. Yabu, 11820 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A., (310) 473-9757; and 521 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 854-0400.

Vietnamese My Trang, 209 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 280-8698. Noodle City, 628 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra; (626) 308-3567. Pho Nguyen Hoang, 401 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 281-0017. Pho 79, 11 E. Main St., Alhambra; (626) 289-0239. Pho So 1, 7231 Reseda Blvd., Reseda; (818) 996-6515. Pho Vietnam, 18625 Sherman Way, Reseda; (818) 758-9898. Thanh Vi, 9609 Bolsa Ave., Westminister; (714) 531-0285.

Korean Kang Seo Myun Oak, 534 S. Westmoreland Ave., No. 105 (at the corner of Sixth); (213) 382-1717. Kum Da Rae Noodle House, 3831 W. Sixth St.; (213) 386-6554. Olympic Noodle, 4008 W. Olympic Blvd.; (323) 931-0007.

Southeast Asian Hainan Chicken Restaurant, 18406 Colima Road, No. B (Hong Kong Plaza), Rowland Heights; (626) 854-0385. Little Malaysia, 3944 N. Peck Road, No. 8, El Monte; (626) 401-3188. Mami King, 22222 S. Main St., No. 106, Carson, (310) 830-3828; also 4321 Sunset Blvd., (323) 668-9288; 14650 Roscoe Blvd., Nos. 1 & 2, Panorama, (818) 891-8581.

Hawaiian Bruddah’s Hawaiian Foods, 1033 W. Gardena Blvd., Gardena; (310) 323-9112. King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaraunt, 2808 W. Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance; (310) 530-0050.

Pan Asian Asia Noodle Café, Glendale Galleria, No. 3233; (818) 240-9401. Menjin International Noodle House, 8393 Beverly Blvd.; (323) 782-0039. Noodle Planet, 1118 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 208-0777; and 700 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 282-8855. Typhoon, 3221 Donald Douglas Loop S. (Santa Monica Airport); (310) 390-6565. Zen Grill, 8432 W. Third Street, (323) 655-9991; and 14543 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 461-8444.