Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Nothing like a good noodle

When it's cold, there's nothing like a big steaming bowl of tasty noodles to warm you up. Since I love noodles so much, and there are quite a few noodle places featured on my food map, I thought I'd highlight some of my favourites.

Hand pulled braised pork noodles

Hand-pulled noodles with braised pork 
$8 from Xian Food Bar, 945 New North Rd, Mt Albert
Probably the best dish at any Xian Food Bar franchise, these noodles are uniquely 'hand pulled' and resemble long strips of dumpling pastry rather than your usual fare. They're thick, chewy (in a good way) and extremely satisfying. What's even better is when they're covered in this spicy, slowly braised pork sauce. Add a dash of vinegar and you're in carb-and-meat heaven.

Dandan noodles

Dandan noodles 
$5 from 555 Dominion Rd, Balmoral
Probably every inland Chinese cuisine joint will have a variation of this dish, but what makes 555's great is their delicious combination of mince, veges, peanuts and their special soup. You can choose to have it with either rice or wheat noodles, and the best part? A small bowl is only $5! Definitely enough for a light dinner, or you could upsize it for $3, or pair it with some dumplings. Hands down one of the best value meals you can find in Auckland.

Misodare chicken udon

Misodare chicken udon 
$11 from Renkon (Parnell, Ponsonby, Takapuna, Pitt St & Durham St)
When I was working on the shore, I'll always remember how ecstatic I was the day I discovered a Renkon was opening in Takapuna. There's a reason I put all five branches on the food map. I reckon nobody should be eating donburi or udon soup outside of Renkon, really. I've tried many of their dishes but keep going back to the misodare chicken udon. You get tender chicken, flavour-packed soup and a generous heaping of greens. I haven't really come across another udon noodle soup in Auckland that compares, really. It helps that they're so fast and friendly, too. Why pay twice the price to have a smaller bowl of something not even as good elsewhere?

Tonkotsu (pork bone soup) ramen
$9 from Daikoku Ramen, Cnr Britomart Pl & Tyler St, CBD
I've been told a few times that Tanpopo is pretty awesome, but until I manage to make it there, Daikoku Ramen has set the bar for me. The shop is an unassuming little hole in the wall which feels like it could be in Tokyo, and I love how all the staff greet and thank you as you arrive/depart. Service is as speedy as any fast food chain, and the highlight is of course the signature pork bone soup. When it comes to noodles I usually prefer other types like udon, rice or even wheat, but the soup makes it very easy to polish off even a giant bowl of these - and that's the only way they serve them.

Beef noodle soup

Taiwanese beef noodle soup
$10.90 from My Kitchen, 543 Dominion Rd, Balmoral
Before today I would've recommended having this at Neighbour's Cafe in the city, however now that I've been to My Kitchen I'm definitely a convert (plus it's much more conveniently located for me). A good Taiwanese noodle should have 'al dente' (I guess?) noodles, a deep, rich beef soup base with no MSG, and of course, tender and flavourful chunks of beef brisket that's been expertly seasoned and slow cooked to perfection. I'm happy to say that My Kitchen delivered on all of these, plus it came with a cute (and superfluous?) orange wedge. That part is definitely not traditional, but I guess quite a nice touch nonetheless.

Raw beef pho noodle soup 
from Spring Vietnamese, 552 Glenfield Rd
It's been a while since I last came here so I can't recall the price, but I'm sure it didn't exceed $15. Pho is the signature Vietnamese noodle dish, and Spring does a great job with a fragrant broth that doesn't leave you thirsty - a hallmark of MSG-usage, and unfortunately my experience at Hansan (another popular Vietnamese noodle chain). The beef is sliced thinly and served raw on the noodles, but pretty much get cooked through if you leave them in the hot soup long enough. Being the raw food fan I am though, I usually fish these out quickly to retain that delicious beef tataki/carpaccio-esque quality.

Pad see eiw
$12 chicken/pork/beef or $14 prawn/seafood from Zap 4, 10 Commerce St, Auckland
Moving away from the noodle soups, I love these thick, flat rice noodles, and they taste great stir fried with most things, particularly Thai flavours. I inevitably go for seafood or prawn, which makes this probably the most expensive of my noodle picks, however it's definitely worth it. Zap manages to NOT overcook prawns which is a pet peeve of mine. With some extra fish sauce and a squeeze of lime, for me this is the ultimate fried-noodle dish.

Rice cake soup
$10.50 from Yummy Korean, 1 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead
Okay, not strictly noodles but still a soup dish, I thought this deserved an honourary mention. On the odd occasion I don't feel like dolsot bibimbap (hot stone pot) when having Korean, I'll go for the rice cake noodle soup. They're served as oval slices of chewy, sticky rice cake in a milky egg-drop type soup. It's not the firey, kimchee-red tinged dish that most people think of when it comes to Korean, but it is definitely a very comforting dish, perfect for winter. If you've never had rice cake before and wanted to have a try, this is a great dish to go for.

Fish ball noodle soup

Hong Kong style fish ball noodle soup
Possibly one of my favourite meals of all time, unfortunately I have not found a single place in Auckland that does this justice. It's probably the fish itself - I suspect you can't get the species/breed they usually use in HK fish balls in NZ. There's a special flavour and texture which is always missing from the ones here. Plus they also never bother to serve it with the deep-fried fish slice rectangles either, unlike Hong Kong. I've been let down so many times I pretty much never order this locally anymore... Definitely one that I am hankering for next time I go back.

Finally, if you've been wondering what that picture in the background of this blog is, it's another one of my favourite HK noodle dishes, beef tripe noodle soup. Again, from the places I've tried, nothing's even come close in NZ so far. I blame the cows...

That's it for now - next time I'll feature some non-noodle dishes, but in the meantime, I urge you all to go out and try some of these dishes/places! I promise you'll enjoy it. =)

1 comment:

  1. * If you like zap4's noodles, try Zap2 Thai 639 Dominion Rd Auckland. Same owner. I like Thai food from there.

    * Taiwanese Beef noodles from My Kitchen
    Had it tonight. Thanks for the recommendation. you're right. It is very very good. There's a difference between their version and the ones found at the mainland chinese eateries nearby.

    There's a real depth/richness in the soup that is lacking at the mainland chinese eateries nearby.

    Both use braised beef brisket. However the difference perhaps comes in the final prep.

    My Kitchen (and the ones I like) uses the Beef Brisket's braising sauce as base for most of the soup, watered down only bit a bit of stock. It gives it the depth/richness. Whereas it seems the others nearby seem to have normal soup stock which they top with a bit of the beef brisket's braising stock when they add the beef to the dish. This means quite watered down soup.

    Both use fresh veges but My kitchen also add up chopped up picked cabbage and maybe a bit of chilli? so there's an added but slight sour and spice to the dish. Also Spring onions - the mainland chinese noodle soups don't seem to have a lot of spring onions.

    Just my take after trying My Kitchen's noodles tonight.