So many cultures have wonderful ways with the noodle—whether tossed in a sauce or simmered in a soup, they evoke comfort in every country in which they are eaten. The Chinese are responsible for the almighty ingredient, according to Jen Lin-Liu, the author of On the Noodle Road (Riverhead), whose references stem back to China in the third century A.D. East and West, here are some of the best varieties at eateries around the globe.
PHO Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
The Vietnamese typically start their day with the steaming bowl of noodle soup known as pho (pronounced “fuh”). It fuels the economy of street stalls that dish out rice-flour noodles into rich beef or chicken broths, aromatic with herbs and spices such as clove, star anise, and basil, and garnished with crisp vegetables like bean sprouts and green onion. It’s not hard to hunt down a good one in Vietnam’s largest city. One stand-out, Pho 2000, promotes that it serves “pho for the President,” commemorating a visit from Bill Clinton in 2000.
KHEER New Delhi, India
While the Vietnamese may relish a breakfast of noodles, that’s what’s for dessert in India. Kheer is a sweet pudding made by slow-cooking vermicelli noodles with milk, sugar, dried fruit, and cardamom. It is a common treat available from the humblest of street vendors to one of the best restaurants in the world. Dum Pukht, as a matter of fact—number 17 on the San Pellegrino list of 50 Best Restaurants in Asia—serves a stunning version enhanced with rose petals. itchotels.in
RAMEN Yokohama, Japan
Though it may bring to mind quick meals in a college dorm room, ramen is actually one of the most revered of noodles in Japan—so much so that there are three museums devoted to it. The original, the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, which opened in 1994, not only chronicles the history of the thin, long, wheat noodles, but also includes a replica of a Japanese streetscape from 1958, the year instant ramen was invented. There, ramen shops serve different variations, offering light or thick broth, curly or straight noodles, and garnished with meat, fish, or vegetables. Note: Slurping is not only tolerated, it’s encouraged! raumen.co.jprestaurantelilla.es
PASTA Florence, Italy
Perhaps the most commonly thought-of noodle, the popularity of pasta has spread well beyond Italy. But there’s one place to try your hand at making it, and that is in its very homeland.
There are few more scenic settings in which to learn than the Michelangelo-designed Villa San Michele in Florence—once a 15th-century monastery, now a luxury hotel and cooking school. Chef Attilio di Fabrizio kicks off his annual, intensive three-day pasta-making course each spring, where participants walk away with a newfound appreciation for the art of regional spins on the famous Italian meal. belmond.com
Fideuà Valencia, Spain
Known as “pasta paella,” Fideuà contains thin vermicelli noodles subbing in for the usual rice in Spain’s national dish. Seafood, such as shrimp, squid, and monkfish, are also essential parts of the plate, which is usually garnished with lemon or aioli.
Fideuà also comes with a wonderful folkloric history. The story goes that the dish was invented in the early 20th century by a cook onboard a fishing boat. The cook was so skilled at making traditional rice paella that the captain would gobble it down, leaving little for the other fishermen. In order to discourage the captain’s over-indulgence, the cook decided to change the ingredients and make the paella with noodles. His plan, however, backfired: Not only did the captain become even more obsessed with this dish, the entire Valencian community did as well.
The region is so fond of its Fideuà that a competition is held each June: the Fideuà International Contest. The beachside restaurant L’illa, opened in 1987, is a local favorite and one-time champion. restaurantelilla.es