Sunday, October 25, 2009

Noodlemania in NYC

For me, no trip to NYC is complete without a bowl (or three) of yummy noodles. I once did a mad cross-town scramble with my now-husband to sneak in a bowl of Eastern Noodles two hours before our flight back to San Francisco. Since we go to NYC about four to five times a year to visit fellow noodle-loving friends, I have scoped out what I think are the must-eat noodles in Manhattan. Here's where I ate during our trip last week.

Ippudo Ramen

There's a ramen war going on in the East Village, and it's a war in which everyone wins. Choosing between Setagaya, Momofuku, and Ippudo is a mouth-watering dilemma for any noodle lover, but I've sided with Ippudo. First of all, you get a choice of several broths, including a spicy tonkatsu, which I order extra spicy (you can even add on a $2 side order of their special spicy sauce, which packs quite a kick). Second, the noodles are amazing: thin, resilient, with a satisfying bite. The world is made up of this and that: sweet and salty, male and female, hot and cold, black and white. In the world of soup noodles, people either care more about the noodle or the broth. And as far as I'm concerned, it's noodle all the way.


The noodle is definitely the star at Soba-ya. Cold soba is traditionally served very plainly, with just a slightly sweet dipping sauce, some green onions, and some grated daikon and/or wasabe. This simple dressing allows you to truly appreciate the nutty buckwheat taste and a texture that is somehow both substantial and delicate at the same time. I ordered my soba as a set with a refreshing and colorful bowl of chirashi sushi. Next time, I'm going to try Sobakoh. This is the problem with noodle excursions in NYC, eating begets more eating.

This video of Anthony Bourdain visiting Tokyo shows a real soba-making master at work:

Lanzhou Hand Pulled Noodle

I've saved the best for last. It's hard to sum up how much I love the texture and taste of Chinese hand-pulled noodles, but I'll try. These noodles made me agree to have my husband's baby. No joke. We were sitting in another of the la mian shops in Chinatown (the gamut of which is discussed at length on Chowhound) and I paused mid-bite, looked thoughtfully at the woman who was busily spinning humble dough into heavenly strands of deliciousness, and mused to my then-boyfriend, "If we could hire a nanny who makes hand-pulled noodles, I would have a baby." We're now married, and we had our reception at that very noodle house. Since then, we've switched allegiances to Lanzhou Hand Pulled Noodle at 144 East Broadway, one of finest bowls of noodles I've found in the fifty states.

Did I skip your favorite noodle spot in NYC? Let me know, please!

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