Editor's note: It's time for another guide from our intern extraordinaire and resident Manhattan Chinatown expert, Gordon Mark. You may remember his Guide to Bakeries in Manhattan's Chinatown, posted here last month. Now, he has set his sights on soup noodles, ladling out an equally impressive guide to navigating the food in Manhattan's Chinatown. —Zach
Manhattan's Chinatown is a huge neighborhood that just seems to keep growing. Although it's a good thing that the neighborhood offers a nearly endless number of eateries, you may be overwhelmed by all the choices. Where do you go on an empty stomach? What do you order? Sometimes, when you're faced with such a wealth of options, it's best to narrow your focus a bit. So, following that bit of advice, we're excited to present a guide to soup noodles in Chinatown. As in our guide to Chinatown bakeries, this post will cover what's available in the "main" part of Chinatown (between the Canal Street and Grand Street subway stations). Also, this guide doesn't cover pho or hand-pulled noodles—those tasty bowls of goodness will be dealt with in future Chinatown guides.
You can find a decent bowl of soup noodles in most restaurants in Chinatown. They're filling and pretty inexpensive, about $4 to $7 depending on what you get. In regards to the broth, I wouldn't recommend drinking it. It's usually not worth it. When deciding what to get with your noodles, know that you can pretty much choose any of the things that are on the menu. If it’s a more unusual combination, you’ll probably get a funny look from the wait staff, but they’ll probably make it for you anyway.
Noodle Types: A Primer
There are quite a few varieties of noodles. Here is a brief explanation of the different types you'll come across. This is not, by far, a complete list of noodle types.
- Mein pronounced in Cantonese as meen not main. (Not exactly sure how to say it in Mandarin, though)
- Lo mein is the small yellow noodle
- Mai fun is the small white rice noodle
- Ho fun (pronounced haw in Cantonese) is the wide, flat, white rice noodle—and my personal favorite
- E-fu (yi mein in Cantonese) is the yellow, slightly chewy noodle. If you've ever been to a Chinese banquet, these are the noodles in the dish that is traditionally served last
- Udon is the big, thick, white Japanese noodle
- La mein is a hand-pulled noodle
Recommended Soup Noodle Shops
These are some my personal favorites—definitely worth visiting.
Hong Kong Station
Here you can build your own bowl of noodles. You first tell them which type of noodle you want, followed by the toppings. There’s a wide variety to choose from, but I recommend the beef shank, fish cake (regular or pan fried), and, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, the pig blood or any of the beef or pork innards. After choosing the toppings you pick the type of broth you want, spicy or not spicy. Hong Kong Station, 128 Hester Street, New York, NY 10002; and 45 Bayard Street, New York, 10013
New Chao Chow
The type of cuisine at this restaurant is slightly different than other ones in Chinatown. As you can gather from the name, they cook Chiuchow style. I don’t know the intricacies of the differences but I do know when I order my favorite here, the beef stew with ho fun, the broth is a savory red. New Chao Chow, 111 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013
Big Wing Wong, Big Wong, Hsin Wong, Fu Wong: These are my go to places to grab a quick (takeout) lunch in Chinatown and are all dependable for a good bowl of soup noodles. I like to usually get some variation on wonton and/or roast pork with ho fun. Like Hong Kong Station, you can come up with your own combination of toppings, request more of any particular toppings, like extra wonton or vegetables, and even request for them to add an egg to your bowl of noodles (prices will vary). Big Wing Wong, 102 Mott Street, New York NY 10013; Big Wong, 67 Mott Street, New York NY 10013; Hsin Wong, 72 Bayard Street, New York NY 10013; Fu Wong, 100 Bowery, New York NY 10013
Not surprisingly, you should try the wonton here- but when ordering lo mein, make sure you specify explicitly that you want the noodles in a bowl with soup. Otherwise, when you order fish cake and wonton lo mein (like I did), you’ll get it on a plate, Hong Kong style, like the photo above. It's not exactly what I wanted (this is a soup noodle guide after all), but I was ok with it. I liked how they added oyster sauce and that there was a lot of fish cake. Another interesting thing at Wonton Garden is that all the waiters wear Hawaiian shirts, don't ask me why. Wonton Garden, 56 Mott Street, New York NY 10013
Marco Polo Noodle Shop
I had only previously been to Marco Polo Noodle Shop Inc. once, a long time ago, but recently returned to try their hand-pulled noodles. You might be able to catch them making some through the opening into the kitchen. Marco Polo Noodle Shop, 94 Baxter Street, New York NY 10013
Food Sing 88
This is a new restaurant that also specializes in hand pulled noodles, which are featured in half of the menu items. I got the pork chop hand-pulled noodles and it was great. The salty flavorful broth went well with the hand-pulled noodles, vegetables, sour vegetables, and the pork chop. You can choose to get other types of noodles, but why would you, with hand pulled noodles this good? You can also see them pulling the noodles from the window outside. Food Sing 88, 2 East Broadway, New York NY 10013
- Great N.Y. Noodletown: A good place for noodles especially late at night (they're open till 4 a.m.) 28 Bowery, New York NY 10013
- Bo Ky: My favorite pork chop soup noodles. 80 Bayard Street, New York NY 10013
- Noodle Village: They say that they don’t use MSG. 13 Mott Street New York, NY 10013
- Congee: I really like the shredded chicken with preserved diced vegetable with mei fun (make sure to specify soup mei fun). 98 Bowery, New York NY 10013
Just to Be Completist
Here are some of the soup noodle venues in Manhattan's Chinatown that I think you can skip:
79 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10013
48 Bowery Street, New York, NY 10013