13 Essential Destinations for Asian Noodles in Seattle
Noodles have special meaning in so many Asian cultures, ranging from longevity to general health to luck to fortune. They’re eaten on holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. Noodles are also the ultimate comfort food—and they’re just plain delicious. Sampling from many cuisines and noodle types, Eater has slurped its way across the Seattle area to make these specific recommendations.
1. Ba Bar
Spanning breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night, the casual Ba Bar serves elevated versions of Vietnamese noodles all day long. The bún bò hue (see Hoang Lan, below, for an explanation) and mì vit tiem (see Huong Binh, below) are delicious, but this is the place to come for the highest quality pho (photo at top of post) in town. It’s a little more expensive, but you’ll taste the quality in the meat and broth. (Those who want a wider variety of meats—including tripe and tendon—in their pho should drive south on 12th to Pho So 1 or Pho Bac.)
2. Dough Zone Dumpling House
Dough Zone delights with dough in the form of dumplings, pancakes, buns, and more. The freshly made noodles are especially fun to try. They come in small bowls, but as with the rest of the menu, at a rather small price ($4.75 for sauced noodles, or $7.75 for soup noodles). The Szechuan sauced noodles are cold and refreshing, made ma la to be both numbing and spicy. Even more impressive are the noodles with (green) onion soy sauce. The relative simplicity of the sauce allows the warm noodles to shine.
3. Hoang Lan
Hoang Lan’s bún bò hue is a carnivore’s delight. In the bowl you’ll find pork sausage loaf, pork blood cakes, beef tendon, and a huge ham hock. The thick, round rice vermicelli noodles soak up a deep, hearty broth that’s full of flavor with fermented shrimp paste and loads of lemongrass. Further, brick-red annatto seeds impart passionate glow to the broth. You can customize your bowl with the side plate of shredded cabbage, lettuce, banana blossoms, jalapeño, cilantro, bean sprouts, and lime.
4. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
This Japanese import is the finest dedicated ramen shop in the Seattle area. Santouka serves only tonkotsu broth, full of creamy, porky flavor due to its extended cooking time. The shio ramen has just the right level of salt seasoning to let the pork flavor of the broth shine, and it’s the only ramen served with pickled plum. For those leery of soup on a hot summer day, try the tsukemen which allows you to dip the thick noodles in a slightly cooler soup on the side, or a delicious, broth-less mazeman.
5. Huong Binh Vietnamese Cuisine
Many come to Huong Binh for mì vit tiem, featuring egg noodles in a rich duck broth with braised duck right in the soup. This is served weekdays only; on Saturdays and Sundays, as part of the weekend specials, the duck comes out of the broth. That’s when you’ll see virtually every table with at least one order of bún mang vit. The mild duck broth contains rice noodles and bamboo, and is served with a generous plate of “poached duck salad” that has lots of bone-in duck, peanuts, and shallots—along with an addictive ginger nuoc mam sauce. (Note: If you want mì vit tiem on the weekend, go to Hue Ky Mi Gia in the same strip mall. They offer a choice of noodles, with the thin egg ones the best. As a bonus, you can get a side order of their chicken wings deep fried in butter.)
6. King Noodle
If you want to customize your own bowl of noodles, then you’ll feel like royalty at King Noodle. For a set price, you get your choice of soup base, noodles, and meat/vegetable toppings. The noodles themselves range from rice noodles (vermicelli to wide ones), udon, QQ noodles, and even instant noodles. Soups include chicken broth, original fish soup, hot spicy, Szechuan spicy, sour & hot, and Thai tom yum goong. Offal lovers will find tripe and kidney, while those seeking safety can order beef brisket and free range chicken.
7. La Bu La
La Bu La is the former Bamboo Garden in Bellevue, a Sichuanese restaurant where you’re almost obligated to order something spicy from the “Wild Side” menu. But on the mild side, the hand-shaven noodles are a treat. Order them “chow mein” style with choice of meats and vegetables, and the chef will hold a block of dough on his arm, and with a free hand, use a knife to expertly flick strips of dough into boiling water. They’re then stir-fried with the rest of the ingredients, resulting in slightly chewy noodles with just a bit of smokiness from the wok.
8. Miyabi 45th
The star of the new “Nihonmachi” strip of 45th Street in Wallingford, Miyabi 45th is known for soba noodles made from scratch—rare to find in any U.S. city. Preparations run from cold to warm and basic to complex. Perhaps the best way to first experience them is zaru style, served with soy-aged bonito dipping sauce, negi, and wasabi. From there, other recommendations include soba noodles bukkake style (cold noodles in cold broth, including one preparation that has natto) or nanban style (hot noodles in hot broth, including the signature preparation with duck and leek).
9. Phnom Penh Noodle House
Phnom Penh endures in the International District. There are a variety of worthy rice noodle dishes at this Cambodian restaurant. For something special, try the goy chup noodle. The slow-cooked pork tripe and intestine provide compelling texture to go along with the slippery wide rice noodles. Green onions, cilantro, and roast garlic offer additional flavors. This dish is also available dry with sweetened soy sauce and a side of broth.
Qin is the restaurant formerly known as “Biang!”—originally named after the highly recommended biang-biang noodles. These “belt” noodles are wide, long, chewy, and tender, with “biang-biang” being the sound produced as the chef stretches and thwacks the noodles against the counter to make them. You can get the noodles topped with spicy cumin beef, chopped pork sauce, pulled stewed pork, or tomato and egg, but “hot oil-seared” showcases the noodles best, with no distractions apart from the welcomed heat of the red chili seared with hot vegetable oil. If you want to do as they do in Xi’an, nibble on bites of the raw garlic found on your table as you eat your noodles.
The long butcher-block counter is the place to be at Revel, putting you basically right there in the kitchen as the chefs create your dumplings, Korean pancakes, rice bowls, and noodle dishes. Perhaps the most popular noodle dish there is the seaweed noodles with Dungeness crab, spicy red curry, and crème fraiche. It’s a mainstay on the menu, exemplifying the restaurant’s Asian fusion approach. But if it makes its way back, be sure to try the smoked tea noodles with roasted duck, pickled raisins, and duck cracklings. Decadent and delicious!
12. Sam Oh Jung
As at other Korean restaurants, at Sam Oh Jung you’ll see diners eating noodles out of metal bowls with metal chopsticks. Those metal bowls, along with the ice within, help keep the mul naengmyun cold, making this perfect for summer. The buckwheat noodles are extremely chewy, with texture part of the treat of eating them. They float in beef broth soup with sliced beef and pickled cucumber and daikon, along with Asian pear and half of a boiled egg. Add mustard and vinegar for desired heat and tanginess, and enjoy a selection of banchan on the side. (You can also order the spicy relative of this dish: bibim naengmyun.)
13. Song Phang Kong
Song Phang Kong is a true mom-and-pop operation: she’s Lao and he’s Thai. Being a hole-in-the-wall is part of the charm; upon entry, “Mom” gives you free soda and water, and a stack of papers that constitute a menu. Everything’s made from scratch, with the pad thai offering a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. The noodles are both soft and slightly chewy. You get a generous portion at a low price, so you’ll certainly want to get another dish on the side. Recommended is the handmade green papaya salad, which comes with enough sticky rice to satisfy anyone who’s carbo-loading.
Originally published on Eater Seattle 6/16/15.