Dish: “Noodles Combo”
Place: King Noodle, International District
In the bowl: Your choice of soup base, noodles, and toppings (including vegetables)
Supporting cast/What to do: Your server will give you a form (in Chinese and English) and a pen. If you’re having a noodle bowl, you’ll need to build it yourself from the ingredient list, filling out the form and turning it in to your server. You can also order appetizers and other items on this form.
Noodling around: There’s work to do if you come for a noodle bowl. You can spend an agonizing amount of time deliberating your decision. A friend suggested that they do recommendations, like “house specials.” But remember that at King Noodle, you’re in control, which is part of the fun.
First, there’s an interesting assortment of six soup bases: chicken broth, original fish soup, hot spicy, Szechuan spicy, sour & hot, and Thai tom yum goong. Next six noodle choices: (rice) vermicelli, flat rice noodles, QQ noodles, udon, instant noodles (!), and wonton noodles. Then a choice of two out of four vegetable “garnish” toppings: bean sprouts, cabbage, leeks (Chinese chives), and mushrooms. Finally, there are 16 regular toppings. Most are proteins, from BBQ duck to cuttlefish balls, but there are also vegetarian options like seaweed and pumpkin. “Fungus trip” and “Luncheon” remain mysteries for now.
I wanted something spicy, and knew that Szechuan spicy would mean the ma la numbing effect that I love, so I chose that broth. (The hot spicy was similar, without Szechuan peppercorn; both could have been spicier for my taste, but they’ll certainly be spicy enough for most people.) Curious about QQ noodles, my server said they’re Taiwanese and made with wheat and eggs, but white in color. Bigger than wonton noodles (similar in size to fettucine), I was happy with that choice. My “garnishes” were leek and mushroom (unfortunately, they were button mushrooms instead of shiitake, which would be much better), and as I can’t resist offal, I had numerous choices and went with beef tripe and pork kidney. The tripe portion was skimpy, but the pork kidney was fine.
Overall, it was a satisfying bowl of soup, and staring at the menu, I kept considering what the other combinations would be like.
If you want more: The appetizer list is full of fun options for offal lovers, from Szechuan-style pork stomach to marinated pork intestines. If you get offal in your noodle bowl, I’d recommend the pork and vegetable dumplings, pan-fried instead of steamed ($3.60 for 6, or $7.50 for 12, which will certainly make you wonder why there’s an upcharge for more!). These plump dumplings are house-made, and served with soy sauce. (Note that if you’re especially hungry, you can also add more toppings to your noodle bowl at $1.50 per item.)
Be aware/beware: While I was disappointed with the button mushrooms as one of my garnish toppings, if you choose mushrooms as a regular topping, you’ll get a generous portion of enoki mushrooms. The flat rice noodles are cut shorter than usual, so they “break” easily and were harder to eat with chopsticks than the longer cuts. The chicken broth was pretty good, and seeing free-range chicken as a topping on the menu was refreshing. Lastly, the rice stone pots looked tempting, and also offer item choices.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on January 16, 2012.