MORE

Noodlepalooza: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian Noodles in L.A.

a bowl of ramen
a bowl of ramen
A. Scattergood

If you’ve driven on Sawtelle during lunch hours lately, you’ve likely noticed a crowd around Tsujita, the artisan noodle shop that has grown famous for the specialty ramen dish called tsukemen. The crowd is part of a growing legion in Los Angeles who've chosen to dig deeply into noodle culture. Eating ramen and its variations in Los Angeles right now is what eating sushi was a couple decades ago: It is, to put it simply, cool.

What you may not know is that ramen was originally Chinese, first eaten in one of Japan’s many Chinatowns about a century ago. Most Asian noodle dishes are, in one way or another, Chinese in origin. But what happens once a noodle dish migrates to another Asian country can vary considerably, from that bowl of ramen, where the noodles are laden with viscous pork-intensive broth, to pad kee mao, the Thai dish where the noodles are flash-fried at temperatures hot enough to send diamond past liquidus. When you’re eating a bowl of noodles at some Vietnamese pho joint or Korean cold noodle parlor, you taste a thing distinctly different from its Chinese source. We could, if we were being facetious, even call it fusion.

There is no better place in the world to sample Asia’s vast tapestry of noodle dishes than Los Angeles, a city that is a fusion of its own. We're lucky enough to have a glimpse at Seoul in Koreatown, a taste of Shaanxi’s thick wheat noodles in San Gabriel, a sample of Chinese-Indonesian street noodles in West Covina. And yes, we have one of America’s best ramen shops.

Here's our guide to some of Asia’s many noodle dishes and where to find them in Los Angeles. JapaneseChinese, Thai, Indonesian, Burmese, Vietnamese and Korean — there's a noodle for every national preference.

JAPANESE NOODLES

ramen at Tsujita L.A.
ramen at Tsujita L.A.
A. Scattergood

Ramen
The godfather of Asian noodles, at least these days. Ramen is a dish of wheat noodles in hot soup, either pork- or chicken- or fish-based, with many condiments. The various components (broth, noodle, tare or flavor base, topping) vary widely, depending on the style of the region. Ramen's origins go back to China. First brought to Japan probably in the 1880s, ramen initially was made by cooks from the Guangdong region who were working in restaurants in Yokohama. The dish gained enormous popularity in Japan, thanks to an influx of postwar American wheat, urban working-class needs, and the speed and inexpensive nature of the soup. There are as many styles of ramen as there are regions of Japan, and even more hybrid variations now that the dish has gained worldwide popularity. (See: David Chang.)
Go to: Tsujita L.A. The lines outside this Sawtelle outpost of the Tokyo ramen company haven't dissipated since the place opened in 2011, even with the opening of an annex across the street. Until somebody else starts making better ramen, they're not likely to. Tsujita serves Hakata-style ramen in bowls that won't overwhelm you, each component perfectly achieved.  (Amy Scattergood)

soba at Ichimi-an
soba at Ichimi-an
Anne Fishbein

Soba
Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat, which is the primary ingredient in these thin, steel-colored noodles. Although buckwheat is grown primarily in the north, in Hokkaido, soba noodles have long been a popular staple throughout Japan. Buckwheat flour gives soba not only its distinctive color but also a lovely, nutty flavor. Because of this delicate taste, soba is mostly served with light dipping sauces or broths. Served simply, either cold with dipping sauce or hot in soups, soba is a traditional dish (called toshikoshi soba) at New Year's, when it's eaten before midnight for good luck.
Go to: Ichimi-an. A small noodle shop in a Torrance strip mall open for a half-dozen years, Ichimi-an specializes in soba and udon, both hot and cold, which they make in-house. Try the hot buckwheat soba with mochi or the cold, green-tea flavored soba, served with umi plums and shiso. (AS)

somen at Musha
somen at Musha
A. Scattergood

So?men
S?men are fine wheat noodles, as thin as vermicelli. Served both warm and cold, s?men are most abundantly consumed ice-cold, often even over ice, with a dipping sauce and condiments during the hot summer months. S?men are such pretty, delicate noodles that there's even a tradition of serving them via a long bamboo gutter (during holidays at festivals and even sometimes in restaurants) called nagashi-s?men, or flowing s?men. The diners stand along the bamboo and try to pluck the noodles from the water rushing down the bamboo. (See: party tricks.)

Go to: Musha. Unlike ramen, there are no shops devoted to s?men, and in fact it's oddly difficult to find on restaurant menus. When you do find it, it tends to be at an izakaya, as a homey dish to help sop up all the booze and as an accompaniment to all that skewered meat. Musha, which has outposts in both Torrance and Santa Monica, has a simple, homey iteration, loaded with garlic and served in a little wok. (AS)

Jidaiya's tsukemen
Jidaiya's tsukemen
A. Scattergood

Tsukemen
Tsukemen (pronounced TSKEH-men) is a recent innovation of ramen, in which the noodles and condiments are served beside a bowl of even more condensed broth. Imagine deconstructed ramen, with the components dipped, as soba noodles often are, into a bowl of sauce. This modern variation on the wildly popular ramen dish first started showing up in Tokyo noodle shops about five years ago (some sources say the trend first appeared in the 1950s, then reappeared in the '70s and again recently) and has become hugely popular. Served both cold and hot, tsukemen can have as many variations as ramen — and soba — has, which is to say quite a lot.


Go to: Jidaiya. Located, big surprise, in a strip mall off Western in Torrance, Jidaiya specializes in ramen but has added a stellar bowl (or bowls) of tsukemen to the menu. Dunk the lovely, chewy noodles into the insanely rich broth and keep going until you run out. And there's taiyaki for dessert. (AS)

Monzo's mentai squid udon
Monzo's mentai squid udon
Anne Fishbein

Udon
A pale noodle made from wheat, udon noodles are thicker than most other Japanese noodles, dense and chewy in texture — especially handmade udon, which are rolled out and repeatedly pounded before being cut.  (Traditionally, the udon is put in plastic bags and then stepped on to knead it.) Served either hot or cold, udon often are dressed simply with a dashi-based broth. Since the fat noodles can stand up to more complex sauces, many chefs serve them with rich sauces, such as curry, or pair them with uni or duck or other hearty ingredients. A very popular (and simple) dish in the summer is zaru udon, which is just chilled udon with shredded nori presented on a zaru, or bamboo tray.

Go to: Marugame Monzo. This downtown noodle shop is devoted entirely to udon, which workers pound and cut behind the glassed-in open kitchen behind the bar, like a glorious floor show. The udon is thick and chewy, and comes in many preparations, from the traditional to a riff on spaghetti alla carbonara. (AS)

CHINESE NOODLES

mooshu fried noodle at JTYH
mooshu fried noodle at JTYH
Anne Fishbein

Daoxiao (knife-pared) Mian
Hailing from Shanxi province, daoxiao, or knife-pared, noodles are sliced to order and best enjoyed on site. Each sliver, made with a precise 3-to-1 ratio of water and wheat flour, is a paradox of the Tao order wherein there’s form and function in the misshapen. A wheaten equivalent of a snowflake, with these noodles, no one sliver is ever the same. A cook skilled in the art of the daoxiao will rapidly turn out slivers from a rough ball of dough with little else but a metal disc and quick flicks of his wrist. This is a noodle that calls for heft in flavor to match density in bite, whether topped with eggs stir-fried with tomatoes or braised eggplant. 

Go to: JTYH. A source in San Gabriel Valley for daoxiao and other noodle specialties, this corner restaurant features Northern Chinese flavors with select twists on tradition. (Christine Chiao)

Zhajiang mian at Kam Hong Garden.
Zhajiang mian at Kam Hong Garden.
Christine Chiao

Shougan (hand-rolled) Mian
Shougan mian are the people pleasers among their wheaten kind, hand-rolled neither too thick nor too thin. Their versatility is refracted from the range of ways in which they are served, in soup or with sauce. A noodle with Northeastern Chinese roots, they take no more than three ingredients — wheat flour, water and salt — and no less than six concerted steps to make. The result is well worth the effort, each bite hitting that chew quotient sought by noodle aficionados. 

Go to: Kam Hong Garden. There's a small catalog of ways you can order shougan. Opt for the classic zhajiang sauce of fermented black beans stir-fried with minced pork. You'll want to scoop one spoonful aside, as the sauce might overwhelm. Each plate is packed with a not insignificant bunch of julienned cucumbers, which add bursts of brightness. (CC)

Sour spicy noodles at A&J Restaurant.
Sour spicy noodles at A&J Restaurant.
Christine Chiao

Xi (thin) Mian
There are quite a few tribes among wheat noodles, and none has proliferated as well as the thinner iteration known as ximian. They’re ubiquitous, the likely default if there’s little to no indication of the type when a noodle dish is offered on a menu. Capable of holding their own in soup or all sauced up, their versatility has much to do with their popularity. The average ximian has a bit less of the tensile quality found in dao xiao or shougan. This further broadens its appeal — not everyone is a fan of an (overly) chewy noodle.

Go to: A&J Restaurant. You can choose between a thin noodle or thick one with almost all noodle bowls at A&J. Aim for thin with the sour spicy noodles, served atop a spiced mix of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar, then garnished with scallions. Deceptively simple in makeup, the noodles are an initiation into post-1949 Taiwanese fast food.  (CC)

Chow fun at Tasty Garden
Chow fun at Tasty Garden
Christine Chiao

Ho Fun
Flat and semi-translucent, ho fun is often stir-fried as chow fun, tossed vigorously in a wok over incredibly high heat with slices of beef or chicken, copious splashes of soy sauce and at least two types of onion. A rice noodle in origin, ho fun is typically thicker than rice sticks. Mandarin-speaking restaurant owners list its transliteration as he fen more frequently than not. A standard to be shared family-style, these noodles are part of the canon of Cantonese barbecue fare alongside fried rice and chow mein. 

Go to: Tasty Garden. You can order the standard beef chow fun here, or you can elevate your order by getting it bifengtang style — that is, piling on a generous garnish of fried garlic.  (CC)

Chow mein at Sam Woo
Chow mein at Sam Woo
Christine Chiao

Dan Mein
A workhorse among noodles, dan mien come in a few widthsm from thin to thicker. You're likely to find these egg noodles, made of eggs (of course), wheat flour and water, sold in just as many forms, whether fresh or dried. A favorite way to cook, and eat, dan mien is to toss these noodles repeatedly in a wok over high heat among julienned vegetables and shrimp, beef or pork for the dish that even the most clueless Americans know as chow mein. Hong Kong chefs perfected a version of chow mein by frying thin dan mien to a crispy nest upon which stir-fried seafood, meat and or vegetables are heaped.

Go to: Sam Woo. There are many Cantonese barbecue spots and Hong Kong cafes in San Gabriel Valley that serve a mean dish of chow mein. Few are as firm on tradition as Sam Woo, where there's more than a handful of versions fried to a crisp and covered in seafood, meat or vegetables. (CC)

THAI NOODLES

Boat noodles at Sapp Coffee Shop.EXPAND
Boat noodles at Sapp Coffee Shop.
James Gordon

Kuay Tiew Rua (Boat Noodles)
If the L.A. Thai scene had a representative dish, it probably would be kuay tiew rua, which we know as boat noodles. The history behind the name is not particularly surprising: They were originally served from boats. As the story goes, tiny boats bobbed along Bangkok’s canals, occasionally stopping to offer customers on land a bowl of steaming, pig-centric glory: a couple hunks of pork, a few bits of liver and, yes, a dash of funky pig’s blood. Fresh rice noodles are immersed in a broth laced with chili, cinnamon, star anise and citrus. Few dishes are as dedicated to accentuating the many flavors of a pig.

In today’s Bangkok, boat noodles are eaten not off the water but on the street, typically for around 30 cents a bowl. After you quickly finish one bowl – and it will be quickly, because the world has few foods as delicious – you will probably want a second, a third, a fourth. Thais have no problem going so far as 10.

Go to: Pa-Ord Noodle and Sapp Coffee Shop. Hollywood’s Thai Town restaurants have long vied for the title of L.A.’s best boat noodles, but the debate ultimately revolves around these two.  (James Gordon)

Khao soi at Night+Market.EXPAND
Khao soi at Night+Market.
James Gordon

Khao Soi
While many of Northern Thailand’s flavors may take some adjusting to, the taste of khao soi, a curry noodle soup with egg noodles, should be familiar. Even its poorer versions are easy to devour, comparable to most of the Thai red curries you’re probably accustomed to. But a well-executed khao soi employs that familiar Thai curry paste in spectacular fashion, adding a bit of Burmese or Indian curry paste for funk, a few spoonfuls of coconut cream or milk to ease some of the spice, a piece of simmered chicken for flavor. The accompanying noodles are garnished with pickled mustard, raw shallot and lime. Though it has its origins in Myanmar, the dish is now considered a symbol of Chiang Mai.

Go to: Pailin or Night + Market. Pailin’s rendition of khao soi, like most of its Northern Thai dishes, is authentic and reasonably priced. Night + Market serves a gentrified version with braised hanger steak. (JG)

Kanom jeen at Lacha Somtum.EXPAND
Kanom jeen at Lacha Somtum.
James Gordon

Kanom Jeen
If you were to ask someone in Bangkok to name Thailand’s quintessential street-noodle dish, the answer could very well be kanom jeen, one of the few noodles that is popular, in its many different versions, basically everywhere in Thailand: north, south, Isaan, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok.

Kanom jeen resemble the vermicelli pasta you find in Vietnamese bun dishes. The rice batter is fermented beforehand, giving the noodles a unique texture. What Thai cooks do with it is wonderfully versatile: in Bangkok, the noodles are paired with flavorful curries such as nem ya, a fiery fish curry; in Isaan, kanom jeen curries are wildly assertive and spicy as hell, often served with som tum papaya salads or laid alongside fresh greens.

In Northern Thailand, it’s common to go after kanom jeen nam ngiaw, maybe the most popular variety, if only because it doesn’t necessarily refer to anything specifically. Nam ngiaw is a curry that lacks coconut milk and is made from dried chili, tomato and either beef or pork (depending on whether the cook is Muslim), but other than that, there are no rules – one chef may make a sweet version, another a sour version; one may add a hefty dose of fish paste, one may not.

Go to: Pailin for Northern kanom jeen nam ngiaw and kanom jeen nem ya. Try Lacha Somtum for Isaan varieties. (JG)

Jade noodles at Sapp.EXPAND
Jade noodles at Sapp.
James Gordon

Ba Mee Yok (Jade Noodles)
This is one of the few Thai noodle dishes you wouldn’t expect to find easily on the street, though it is widely served at restaurants around Bangkok. You may be familiar with Thailand’s yellow egg noodles, served with dishes including khao soi, but these noodles are green: sometimes flavored with kale, often with spinach, occasionally enhanced with food coloring for visual effect. At its best, a bowl of ba mee yok — noodles tossed with roast pork, chili, lime and sometimes oyster sauce — doesn’t boast the aggressive flavors of pad kee mao or the perpetually edible quality of pad see ew but is instead understated, with noodles that feel delicate yet tensile, comparable to a fine Italian pasta.

Go to: Sapp Coffee Shop, which is famous for not just its boat noodles but also its wonderful jade noodles. (JG)

Pad thai at Krua Thai.EXPAND
Pad thai at Krua Thai.
James Gordon

Pad Thai
Pad thai roughly means “noodle of Thailand,” not necessarily because it’s Thailand’s most representative noodle, though it often feels that way in America, but because it was marketed as a national dish during World War II to reduce the country’s rice consumption. In Bangkok, pad thai is served on the street en masse, tossed in hulking, giant woks and served steaming. Ask for some sugar and chili powder – it’s common to sprinkle both on your noodles in Thailand.

Go to: Krua Thai. Be sure to order the phenomenal Pad Thai Krua Thai instead of the restaurant’s generic pad thai. (JG)

INDONESIAN NOODLES

Mee goreng at Mutiara.EXPAND
Mee goreng at Mutiara.
James Gordon

Mee Goreng
Ethnic Chinese arrived in Indonesia before the colonization of the Dutch, and it’s not hard to see their influence on Indonesia’s food: In Jakarta you will find gentrified Hong Kong cuisine in posh hotels, frequented by Chinese businessmen. On the streets of Bali, it’s not difficult to stumble upon a humble food stall selling fried noodles or rice. And when you order food anywhere in Indonesia, it’s likely the name of the dish is derived from the Hokkien dialect.

While the majority of Indonesians won’t eat pork, they’ve adopted much of everything else thrown their way. For instance, if you were to be offered one of Indonesia’s most common breakfast noodles, mee goreng, you'd probably recognize the dish even if you’ve never tried Indonesian food — mee goreng evolved from chow mein and tastes much the same.

Go to: Mutiara Market in Inglewood. Owned by the man who used to run Jasmine Market, Mutiara serves Islamic Indonesian and Burmese food. He offers several types of mee goreng. There's also outstanding fried noodles at Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine. (JG)

Laksa at Bethania Depot.EXPAND
Laksa at Bethania Depot.
James Gordon

Laksa
Laksa is not so much an Indonesian noodle dish as a Southeast Asian mainstay. The fundamental components are a heavily spiced broth and thick rice noodles or (less often) vermicelli. It's a product of Perankan culture — a mix of Malay and Chinese ethnic groups — and is served throughout the entire region: Kuala Lumpur’s streets, Singapore’s hawker stalls and shopping malls, most of Indonesia’s islands. Unsurprisingly, there are many different versions, but the most common are curry laksa and asam laksa, the former served as a coconut-based curry and the latter as a sour, tamarind-based fish soup.

Go to: Bethania Depot (in the Hong Kong Plaza food court) or Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine. (JG)

BURMESE NOODLES

Mohinga at Daw Yee Myanmar.EXPAND
Mohinga at Daw Yee Myanmar.
James Gordon

Mohinga
Although Burmese tea-leaf salad gets most of the attention, Myanmar’s unofficial national dish is mohinga, a thick fish noodle soup that’s eaten almost every day for breakfast. Burmese are enormously proud of this dish, and rightfully so. The whole blend — the heavy herbal broth, the clump of thin, fermented rice noodles, the slivers of catfish, the crunch of dry fried onion, the heavy dose of pepper — tastes less like a noodle soup and more like some sort of odd fish chowder. It’s an acquired taste, sure, but one you’d be thankful to have.

Go to: Yoma Myanmar or Daw Yee Myanmar. Located a couple blocks from each other on a little stretch of Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park, Daw Yee and Yoma are two of the best Burmese restaurants in America.  (JG)

Tophu nwe at Yoma Myanmar.EXPAND
Tophu nwe at Yoma Myanmar.
James Gordon

Tophu Nwe
Myanmar has a penchant for adopting various flavors of its neighbors and turning them into something uniquely Burmese. If you’ve eaten in the San Gabriel Valley lately, for example, you’ve almost certainly come across the Chinese Sichuan noodle dish dan dan mian, which is possibly that region of China’s most beloved street dish. Composed of sesame paste and chili oil mixed over noodles, dan dan mian is simple and delicious. The dish’s popularity extends to Yunnan, the province directly south of Sichuan. 

The country south of that? Myanmar. Burmese don't eat dan dan mian, but they do eat tophu nwe, a cousin of that dish. Tophu nwe has the appropriate sesame paste, chili oil and noodles, but it also has a Burmese addition: a thick porridge, almost a custard, made from chickpea flour, which is laid over the noodles. You should be intrigued. 

Go to: Yoma Myanmar or Daw Yee Myanmar(JG)

Shan noodle at Daw Yee.
Shan noodle at Daw Yee.
Anne Fishbein

Shan Khao Schwe
Many of Myanmar’s noodles come from Shan state, which borders China. The most famous noodle dish from Shan state, and Myanmar’s second most famous behind mohinga, is Shan khao schwe, but most menus will simply refer to it as Shan noodle. The dish — rice noodles, a hefty dose of garlic, marinated chicken or pork — can be served with broth or without. Many Burmese simply opt to have the broth on the side, available to sip on or dip in as needed.

Go to: Yoma Myanmar or Daw Yee Myanmar(JG)

Ohn no khao schwe at Daw Yee.EXPAND
Ohn no khao schwe at Daw Yee.
James Gordon

Ohn No Khao Schwe
When you first try Burmese food, the first thing you'll notice is the straightforward, savory flavors. There's generally not the intimate balance among sour, sweet and spicy you see in Vietnam or Thailand, but the food — flavored by large amounts of garlic, Burmese curry paste, fried shallots, potato, ginger and bitter fermented tea leaves, among other things — is ultimately comforting. 

Ohn no khao schwe, for example, is thought to have preceded Northern Thailand's khao soi. Initially, you may think the only clear similarity between the two dishes is the language, but if you taste ohn no khao schwe through the right lens, you'll see the bare bones behind the dish — coconut, noodles, a hint of lime, a dash of chili oil — is essentially a savory, comforting version of the khao soi you may be familiar with. It doesn't have the punch of flavor associated with Northern Thailand's food, but it's something you'll be happy enough to slurp in a market for breakfast, as Burmese do. 

Go to: Yoma Myanmar or Daw Yee Myanmar.  (JG)

VIETNAMESE NOODLES

Ph? bac at Ph? Hu?nhEXPAND
Ph? bac at Ph? Hu?nh
T. Nguyen

Bánh ph?
Bánh ph? are flat, thin, starchy, rectangular rice noodles that come in a variety of widths; which width is used depends on the dish. The thinnest bánh ph? usually are used in ph?, the very popular beef soup that was invented around the time of the French occupation of Hanoi (the details of the ph? origin story, as you can imagine, vary and are the subject of much fun debate). Ph? prepared in the style of its northern birthplace (ph? b?c) is a simple affair: broth, bánh ph?, meat. When the soup migrated south, ph? became more embellished with ingredients readily available in that region: cilantro, limes, bean sprouts. Slightly wider bánh ph? are often used for stir fries, and sheets of bánh ph? are used for wraps. 

Go toPh? Hu?nh. Here you'll find excellent ph?, including an especially good, gingery ph? bac, made with fresh bánh ph?. (Tien Nguyen)

Bún with turmeric fish at Viet Noodle BarEXPAND
Bún with turmeric fish at Viet Noodle Bar
T. Nguyen

Bún
Bún are soft, white round noodles made by soaking rice in water and fermenting it for a few hours, usually overnight. The resulting dough is extruded through sieves to create noodles of various sizes for use in all sorts of cold and hot dishes. Indeed, bún is the J.K. Simmons of Vietnamese noodles: it shows up everywhere. Specific dishes call for specific types of bún.

Bánh h?i, for example, are tiny strands of bún that are steamed and pressed into intricate lattices; these soft mats then are layered on a platter and topped with something as simple as scallion oil or something more luxurious like roasted pork. Bánh h?i can be eaten as a snack or as a meal; in either case, bánh h?i have a short shelf life, making them ethereal treats best eaten the day they're prepared.

You'll find medium-sized strands of bún in spring rolls and in the rice noodle salad dish called bún, where the noodles are served on a bed of lettuces and topped with all sorts of things, such as charbroiled pork (th?t n??ng) and egg rolls (ch? giò).

And perhaps the biggest, and certainly the most filling, bún are the hearty ones as thick as bootlaces that are almost exclusively used in bún bò Hu?, a bold soup laced with lemongrass and fermented shrimp paste. 

Go toSummer Rolls for bánh h?i topped with fish cakes and Vietnamese sausage (nem n??ng?); any one of Nha Trang's four locations for its terrific bún bò Hu?; and Viet Noodle Bar for bún. Viet Noodle Bar is especially notable because owner Viet Tran is as close to a rice noodle specialist as you can find these days: He can spend hours talking just about noodles — how they're made in Vietnam, how he would make them here if he had the infrastructure to do it, how very, very fresh bún absorbs the flavors from the other ingredients in the dish. It makes sense that what he uses at his restaurant taste remarkably distinct from most other rice noodles you've had: These are custom-made to his specifications, resulting in noodles that are light and delicate and especially good with his turmeric fish. (TN)

Mi?n gà at Ph? Nguy?n HoàngEXPAND
Mi?n gà at Ph? Nguy?n Hoàng
T. Nguyen

Mi?n
Often translated as "glass noodles" or "cellophane noodles" on restaurant menus because they turn clear when cooked, mi?n are round, chewy noodles made of mung bean. They come in various thicknesses depending on the intended use: egg rolls (ch? giò) use toothpick-thin mi?n; slightly thicker mi?n abound in mi?n gà, a chicken noodle soup. Mi?n are one of the more fragile Vietnamese noodles and less forgiving if cooked improperly — they'll become especially mushy if cooked even a second too long — so they're best served and eaten immediately.

Go to: Ph? Nguy?n Hoàng for its mi?n gà, where the noodles swims in a nice chicken broth. (TN)

Bánh canh at Golden DeliEXPAND
Bánh canh at Golden Deli
T. Nguyen

Bánh canh
Bánh canh are round noodles made of tapioca, rice flour or a combination of both. These are very thick noodles, so thick that they're often compared to udon, though you can make an argument that Golden Deli’s description of the noodle — “chopstick-sized" — is more helpful. In any case, bánh canh is most often used in a homey, hearty soup that takes its name after the noodle, made with pork or seafood.

Go to: Golden Deli has a good introduction to bánh canh with your choice of pork, pork leg, shrimp, crab or some combination thereof, topped with fried shallots and scallions. Or, if you're feeling especially ambitious, go all in and get the soup with all of the above. (TN)

KOREAN NOODLES

Chicken kalguksu at Hangari Bajirak.
Chicken kalguksu at Hangari Bajirak.
Christine Chiao

Kalguksu
Kalguksu, similar to the Chinese knife-pared noodle, is not delineated as much by ingredient as it is by technique. A wheat noodle, kalguksu mostly appears in soups, which can range in light broth bases from chicken to clam. No meal for the slightly peckish, a bowl of kalguksu usually arrives in a portion fit for an appetite that falls somewhere between one and two people. Expect ribbons of noodles with shredded chicken and slices of russet potato, zucchini and white onion. 

Go to: Hangari Bajirak. At nearly every table, there's a sturdy thick-rimmed bowl of either chicken or clam kalguksu with all the trimmings. Head there early to beat the lunch crowd, which will start to form a little before noon — even on a day when the temperature hovers around 90 degrees. (Christine Chiao)

Kongguksu at Ma Dang Gook Soo
Kongguksu at Ma Dang Gook Soo
Christine Chiao

Kongguksu
Chilled unsweetened soy milk, made of ground soy beans, water, salt and sometimes roasted sesame seeds, serves as a viscous soup base for a Korean hot-weather favorite, kongguksu. It’s a dish anchored by the thinnest wheat noodle, whose appeal may not be apparent at first try. It could take several bites to acclimate to the soup’s textural richness, particularly since it’s not derived from more conventional stock. Unlike other Korean cold noodles, a bowl of kongguksu is sparsely dressed, with a handful of julienned cucumbers and a quartered tomato or two.

Go to: Ma Dang Gook Soo. The kongguksu at this Western noodle house hews close to tradition. A metal bowl of noodles is filled nearly to the brim with thick, frothy soy milk, covering a hillock of wheat noodles. Expect the noodles to keep you feeling full past your next mealtime. (CC)

Mul naengmyeon at Yu Chun Chic
Mul naengmyeon at Yu Chun Chic
Christine Chiao

Chik Guksu
A blend of kudzu, or Japanese arrowroot, and buckwheat forms the base of chik guksu, otherwise known as the thin, dark brown noodles found in some versions of cold noodle bowls called naengmyeon. Cooked just a shade or two under al dente, the chewy noodle becomes a slick complement to icy cold bowls of beef broth piled with slim slivers of radish and cucumbers. As naengmyeong, chik guksu is often prepared in one of three styles: mul, bibim and hwe. Mul naengmyeon features noodles in cold beef broth with cucumber or radish slices. Bibim builds on mul with the addition of a red chili sauce made with gochujang; marinated raw fish distinguishes hwe from bibim

Go to: Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun. Naengmyeon headlines the menu, and on a day that tops triple-digit weather, you will invariably find a crowd waiting for a chilled bowl. Mild flavor seekers will be heartened to find self-serve beef broth for a palate respite if they venture outside their comfort zones with bibim. (CC)

Dotori guksu at Kobawoo House.
Dotori guksu at Kobawoo House.
A. Scattergood

Dotori Guksu
Dotori guksu is a noodle as slim as soba and cooked just as quickly in boiling hot water. While a typical recipe base might call for acorn flour ground from either red or white acorns, there are some that use starch with some mix of buckwheat, corn or wheat in lieu. Like chik guksu, dotori guksu often is prepared as naengmyeon with variations on toppings or chilled broth. 

Go to: Kobawoo House. Lunch time is a better bet to head to Kobawoo House for a platter of jaengban guksu, a riotous color wheel of julienned vegetables topped with a curled serving of dotori guksu already sauced. With a pair of scissors in hand, your server will immediately cut up the noodles for a more even mix. (CC)


Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.


Sponsor Content