To say that ramen and pho make up the majority of Orange County's Asian noodle population would be a fallacy. From the deepest corners of Little Saigon to the home court of Knott's, restaurants have been serving noodles in ways too diverse and vast to simplify, illustrating the limitlessness of the noodle's versatility. If you're interested in the county's mainstream spots but also those lesser known, here are some starting points for your upcoming noodle tour.
10. Fukada (Irvine)
Like your udon with duck? Sauteed mushrooms? Seafood? Fukada's where you'll need to go, because it simply has it all. There's nothing flashy about their udon noodles–they're simple and light–but that's the point of udon, after all. (For those who want stronger flavors, ramen is your friend.) If you're not interested in eating udon alone, try the spicy tuna don (rice with spicy tuna and seaweed) and udon combo.
8683 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, (949) 341-0111; facebook.com/pages/Fukada/153148371368621
9. Mas' Chinese Islamic Restaurant (Anaheim)
Dao xiao miàn (which means "knife-cut noodles" in Chinese) was made for fans of thick, chewy noodles shaved from a block of rolled dough–and there's plenty of it at Mas' Chinese Islamic Restaurant. Have it stir-fried or put into a noodle soup, and if that's not your thing, opt for the extra crispy pan-fried noodles with beef and vegetables. Add a side of green onion pie and dinner can't fail ya now.
601 E Orangethorpe Ave, Anaheim, (714) 446-9553; facebook.com/pages/Mas-Islamic-Chinese-Restaurant/105002922876951
8. Binh Minh Restaurant (Garden Grove)
White vermicelli noodles are as much of a Vietnamese culinary staple as pho and banh mi, and whenever you eat them, they often come with well-charbroiled meat and fish sauce (which can be eaten in multiple ways). Near Brodard Restaurant is another Vietnamese restaurant housing worthy of praise, specifically for its bun cha ha noi, a dish consisting of separate plates of vermicelli noodles, charbroiled meats marinated in fish sauce, and greens you're supposed to mix together in a bowl. Tip: order with a side of fried sweet potatoes and shrimp.
9908 Westminster Ave. Garden Grove, (714) 636-7103; facebook.com/pages/Binh-Minh-Restaurant/115842411770472
7. Tanakaya (Tustin)
Excessive soba? Pft. No such thing–especially when you're at Tanakaya, where soba exists as cold, hot, salad-form, with a side of tempura, topped with seaweed, and whatever form you can imagine, really. Cold soba noodles will be lighter in taste, of course, while hot ones remain on the more savory side.
654 El Camino Real, Tustin, (657) 231-6245; facebook.com/tanakayausa
6. S.T. Noodle Bar (Long Beach)
It's hard to ignore the complexity of S.T. Noodle Bar's khao soi, especially when its spiciness, creaminess, and sweetness strike you all at once. A bowl of yellow egg noodles submersed in coconut-curry broth and served with red onions, lime wedges, fried crispy noodles, and pickled vegetables on the side, this noodle dish combines every taste and bite into one seamless slurping experience.
4152 Norse Way, Long Beach, (562) 425-7535; instagram.com/stnoodlebar
5. Ngu Binh Restaurant (Westminster)
It's not hard to find bun bo hue in Little Saigon–several generic Vietnamese restaurants list it on their menu–but it's not easy finding a bowl as consistent as the one at Ngu Binh Restaurant. Like pho, beef is the center of bun bo hue, but it's still an entirely different noodle soup. Lemongrass and chili oil give bun bo hue a distinctively stronger taste than pho. And the noodles? Thick and chewy–perfect for chewing against the provided beef shank and oxtail.
14092 Magnolia St, Westminster, (714) 903-6000; facebook.com/pages/Ngu-Binh-Restaurant/113559052011288
4. Han Yang (Buena Park)
There are two main reasons to frequent Han Yang: galbi tang and sullungtang, two Korean beef soups that contain flavors subtler than the typical Korean palette (read: in-your-face striking and spicy) but still enamor the tongue. Though Han Yang's main star, the galbi tang, comes off plain with its clear broth and vermicelli noodles, its flavor is a surprisingly complex–a mix of sweet and savory. Its beef short ribs are so soft a single tap will cause the meat to detach from the bone.
7152 Orangethorpe Ave, Buena Park, (714) 228-0046; facebook.com/pages/한양-설렁탕-Han-Yang-Restaurant/174223835950602
3. Trieu Chau (Santa Ana)
"I've a feeling we're not in California anymore" is something you might think when within ten feet of Trieu Chau, where crowds wait in front of while a waiter calls out numbers in Vietnamese first and then, when no one responds, English. With a large sign reading "Hu Tieu Nam Vang" on the left side of the building, you already know what the most popular dish here is: a noodle soup topped with meatballs, shrimp, and pork meat (it also goes by the title of Chao Chow noodle soup).
4401 W 1st St, Santa Ana, (714) 775-1536
2. Shin-Sen-Gumi (Fountain Valley)
For Shin-Sen-Gumi virgins passing by the shop, the sight of it may give off church-cult vibes. Why would so many people wait that long to get into such a tiny shop and risk death by claustrophobia? The answer is simple: a large bowl of pork and ramen noodles bathed in cloudy pork broth as luminous as whatever god you believe in–all to be consumed in front of the chefs and with a side of extra noodles.
18315 Brookhurst St #1, Fountain Valley, CA 92708, (714) 962-8971; twitter.com/shin_sen_gumi
1. Pho 45 (Garden Grove)
Good pho is all about a rich, complex broth–particularly one that marinates well with the thin noodles, brisket (and flank and tendon if you're a total pho nerd), and basil. Uncannily enough, this last sentence encapsulates the bowls of pho served at Pho 45, where noodles and super soft beef can be gulped down your throat like water because, damn, all hail that broth!
9240 Garden Grove Blvd #19, Garden Grove, (714) 537-9000; facebook.com/pages/Pho-45/155013431342662?rf=489508744453270