When it comes to noodles, this stringy-carb is a delicacy to not only the Chinese culture but for all Asian cultures alike.
In the art of making these noodles, there are different forms they can be made into – flat, cylindrical, thick or thin. Made from unleavened dough, noodles are stretched, extruded, rolled and then cut to make the shape.
With hand-drawn noodles, the technique is similar to the tossing of pizza dough. With pizza, the dough is spun in the air to widen its size but with hand-drawn noodles, the chef quickly undulates the dough to elongate its length.
Then there’s ramen, an egg noodle that gives its wavy shape and is more likely to be served in a broth than dry. Aside from China’s hand-drawn noodles and Japanese’s ramen, there’s the Vietnamese version – Pho – made from rice noodles.
Amidst the roasted meats that are hung in shop windows, the plethora of food markets and laundromats, here are five noodle shops tucked away in Chinatown that you should go slurp up.
Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House
Located on 1022 Race St., this restaurant pulls their noodles for every order. Hand-drawn noodles originated in the city of Nan Zhou, China. This particular dish was made by nomadic people of the northwest, and would be served to guests of high status. The original soup, as pictured above, is the beef-noodle soup.
The broth of hand drawn noodle soup is composed colorfully by its ingredients: the white of the radishes, the red from chili oil and the green from the fresh garnish, all accompanied by the bold flavor of the chosen meat.
Rai Rai Ramen
At 915 Race St., this ramen shop is a fusion of Japanese and Chinese dishes. From the simple appetizer of pork buns to plated rice dishes to savory ramen, this Asian fusion establishment is a great place to cure any ramen craving.
Pictured above, the Hakata Ramen is a shio (salt) seasoned soup that incorporates pork, fish cake, a boiled egg, seaweed, corn, bamboo and other vegetables. The combination of the broth and noodles complement one another; the chewiness of the noodles are quickly softened by the hotness of the broth.
This Japanese noodle house is chic and narrow in its architect and the noodles are traditional egg noodles. Sticking to the traditions, Terakawa simmers their broth for two days to ensure the deep and bold flavors that are extracted from the pork bones. At lunch time, specifically between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., Terakawa is slammed with customers piling through their doors.
With minimal seating, customers choose from counter seats that face the kitchen or tables that are in close proximity to neighboring tables. Based on the traffic flow, the service is not only quick and efficient, the kitchen is too and the food does not suffer.
Another hand-drawn noodle shop in Chinatown, this restaurant focuses on their two broths – original beef broth and Sezchuan style – and their extensive list of toppings. Similar to Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House, Spice C also makes their noodles fresh per order.
In order for the chef to prepare the noodles for every dish, his technique has to be quick and precise. As pictured above, the process took about seven minutes in total from rolling the dough to producing string-like noodles.
On 1000 Arch St., right in front of Chinatown’s arch, sits Pho Cali. A Vietnamese restaurant that serves pho and egg noodle soup, is a different noodle shop than the rest. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that is made similar to any Chinese or Japanese noodle soup. Instead of using egg noodles, pho is made of linguine-shaped rice noodles.
Though, along with serving pho, Pho Cali also serves egg noodles for those who are not in the mood for pho. For drinks, aside from the regular soda and water, they offer Taiwanese bubble tea made with tapioca pearls. With a dimly-lit interior, this restaurant feels like the Asian version of an American diner thanks to the friendly service and cheapness in cost.
– Text and images by Abby Chang and Jessica (Yuxuan) Jia.