Whether stir-fried, simmered or steamed; served hot or cold; in soups or complete dishes, Asian-style noodles have captured our hearts since time immemorial. Noodles are said to have been created in China’s eastern coastal region during the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) and were first enjoyed by nobility. Along with rice, they are daily staples throughout Asian cuisine, and each region has a myriad of ways to serve noodles.
Fung’s Kitchen, 3231 N. Classen Blvd., offers home cooking at its finest with its Chinese beef with dry flat noodles ($8.95). These wide, flat, Chinese-style noodles are accompanied by scallions and mung bean sprouts in a sweetened soy-based sauce — what Mom would make at home. Infused dried chrysanthemum blossom tea would be perfect with this — the blossoms puff out beautifully when hot water is added. For adventurous foodies, here’s an insider tip: There is a separate, authentic Chinese menu (not the American-Chinese menu) available upon request. Most notable are duck tongue in salt and hot pepper ($14.95), marinated jellyfish ($8.95), needle flower with clam ($12.95) and deep-fried pig intestines ($9.45).
In Korean cuisine, wheat noodles often appeared on the table as festive wedding fare. Until recently, Koreans would affectionately pester their unmarried friends by asking, “When will you treat me with chanch’i kuksu (feast noodles)?” In other words, when are you finally getting married? A wedding day is also referred to as a day to eat kuksu, feast noodles.
There’s no reason to wait for a wedding to sample festive noodles at Seoul Garden Korean Restaurant, 6012 SE 15th St. The flavorful Jap-chae ($5.99) is made with cellophane sweet potato noodles, cabbage, carrots, spinach, onions and Korean bulgogi beef, all in a savory sauce. Served with rice, two mini chicken-filled dumplings and a pork egg roll with a sweet dipping sauce, this is a full meal in itself. The kimchi (fermented vegetables) is the freshest I’ve ever had. It’s crispy and spicy, and I could eat it all by itself as a separate course.
The first thing that comes to mind when mentioning both Vietnamese cuisine and noodles is the ever-popular pho noodle soup with fresh green herbs. But there’s more to Vietnamese noodles than the flavorful pho. Pho’Nomenal, 7504 N. May Ave., offers a classic thin vermicelli noodle dish of stir-fried broccoli, onions, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas and water chestnuts topped with a classic Vietnamese condiment of fried shallots ($6.95). The noodles are springy and cooked to perfection, a perfect foil for the sauce and vegetables.
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish traditionally made with four components. First is the soup base from pork, chicken, seaweed and sometimes dried bonito fish. Next is the tare, a delicious flavor essence such as miso paste or soy sauce. Third are the wheat noodles themselves, which are finally topped with slices of pork, chicken, scallions, nori seaweed and cooked eggs.
Here in Oklahoma City, the Kaiteki Ramen food truck (kaitekiramen.com) serves up fresh, creative Asian-fusion comfort food that is deliciously stalk-worthy. This is not the ramen you scarfed down as an impoverished college student — it’s the real deal. Choose the signature Kaiteki ramen ($8) with a shoyu broth, braised pork belly, noodles, marinated egg (the egg is so yummy), nori and kamaboko fish cake.
Accompany this with the pork belly bao ($3.50), a handmade steamed bun with roasted pork belly, Kaiteki’s own plum sauce and pickled cucumbers. These are small; order one to accompany ramen or three on their own — they’re that good. Note: To be a ramen noodle pro, there’s actually an authentic method to the madness. First, slurp the noodles. Then sip the soup and savor the toppings.
Char Kuch Teow is a popular Malaysian street food dish, meaning “stir-fried rice cake strips.” Banana Island, 1117 NW 25th St., has a lovely version of this with stir-fried noodles, succulent shrimp, calamari, crispy bean sprouts, eggs, soy sauce and spicy chili paste ($8.95). This Penang version reigns supreme with its lightly charred fragrance of noodles stir-fried over high heat — authentic and heavenly.
The cozy Thai Thai Asian Bistro, 780 W. Main St., in Norman offers its adored pad thai ($9.99), featuring flat rice noodles. A dish originally believed to be introduced by Vietnamese traders visiting the ancient Thailand city of Ayutthaya, pad thai became popular in the 1930s, when the Thai government pushed to reduce domestic rice consumption as part of its nationalism campaign. Thailand’s largest export was rice at the time, hence the popularity of rice noodles.
Usually served as part of a luncheon meal or as a midday snack, this healthy noodle dish features chicken, beef, shrimp, pork or tofu with rice noodles and a homemade peanut-lime sauce. Refreshing spring rolls with cucumber salad round out a wonderful meal.
Hot and slurpy
Asian noodle dishes can be a delicious, quick lunch or an elegant dinner, and are all easy to find in the metro area.