Noodles and soup are great on their own, but bring them together, and you have something greater than the sum of its parts - a savory, satisfying bowl with the combined soothing effects of a weighted blanket, a Melatonin sampler platter, and an Ina Garten voiceover. And now that the temperature has dipped all the way down into the 60s (sometimes even the 50s!) you’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect food. From pho and udon to budae jjigae and laksa mee, here are some of our favorite noodle soups in LA.
You can find us at Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine any time the thermometer drops below 70 degrees. Actually, scratch that, we’re there regardless of what the thermometer reads. The expansive menu at this Indonesian/Singaporean restaurant in downtown Alhambra is stacked with tremendous dishes, but it’s the Laksa Mee that always has our attention. This Singaporean curry soup is filled with shrimp, fish cakes, fried tofu, and marinated egg, and topped with scallions and corn for a pop of sweetness.
Boat Noodle Soup
We don’t need to tell you about the boat noodle soup at Sapp, mainly because we’ve told you about it so many times already. (Seriously). This soup from our favorite Thai Town cafe is a remarkably complex bowl of noodles, with an endless list of ingredients combining for super-interesting combinations of flavors and textures: It’s funky, spicy, sour, and sweet, with tender slices of beef filet and firm rice noodles bathing in a cinnamon, galangal, and anise broth. Just before serving, it’s topped with crunchy bean sprouts and fried pork skin. If this soup’s not appealing to you, frankly, we don’t know why you’re reading this.
Matzo Ball Soup
There are plenty of worth competitors for the crown, but our favorite bowl of matzo ball soup can be found at Brent’s Deli in Northridge. Why? It starts with the glistening chicken broth, simmered to perfection, and filled with carrots, shredded chicken, and silky smooth noodles. And in the middle of it all - a softball-sized chunk of matzo sitting royally like Dev Patel in The Green Knight. Do you see it? Has that image formed in your mind? No? Fine, just refer to the actual photo above then. That’s the last time we try to get creative in these captions, damn.
Why settle for Top Ramen (no offense), when there are three Daikokuyas in the city? Located in Little Tokyo, West Hollywood, and on Sawtelle Blvd., this is where you go when you want to experience the mother of all LA ramen. There are a few variations on the menu, but we recommend keeping it classic with the Daikoku Ramen. It comes with a silky tonkotsu soup base and is topped with tender pork belly chashu, a marinated boiled egg, bamboo sprouts, green onions, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. This is the equivalent of riding in a 1970 Corvette Stingray, or watching Gilda Radner in her prime.
The menu at Hyesung Noodle Shop is like an 87-minute movie in a sea of seven-part documentaries - short, simple, and, quite possibly, perfect. Since opening last year, they’ve added a few more items, like chicken wings, fried dumplings, and half-gallon jars of kimchi (swoon), but the star of the show here is still clearly the kalguksu - a knife-cut noodle soup served with a savory anchovy broth, dense noodles, and shredded pieces of chicken. Perfect for cold days, rainy days, and days when you just need something warm, like, now. Unfortunately, no matter the situation, you’re going to have to wait: They’re temporarily closed - but plan to reopen in mid-January.
Beef Vermicelli Soup
Golden Leaf is a remarkable diner in a San Gabriel strip mall, with excellent ground pork chow mein and oyster pancakes. But our number-one draft pick here is the beef vermicelli soup, with heaping portions of green onion, suan cai (Chinese sauerkraut), and spinach, in a marrow-rich broth. Golden Leaf also has their takeout game figured out, with everything individually packaged so nothing gets soggy on the drive home.
Filled with chewy, house-made noodles, chashu pork, wontons that deserve to be their own entree, and a truffle-and-soy-based broth we’d drink out of a pint glass, the Soba #1 at Kazan is one of the most unique and memorable bowls of soba we’ve ever eaten. At $20, it’s certainly not the most affordable bowl of soup in town, but then again, it’s in Beverly Hills, so maybe it is. There’s a sign out front that reads “Pinnacle Of Noodle,” and we’re not going to disagree with that statement.
There are a handful of LA restaurants with incredible khao soi (Spicy BBQ, Pailin, and Sri Siam, just to name a few), but for us, Northern Thai Food Club takes the top spot. This tiny spot in Thai Town only opened in 2019, but has already catapulted itself to the upper reaches of LA’s Thai restaurants - and the khao soi is a huge reason why (another is the sai oua). Rich, creamy coconut milk broth with a giant chicken leg that’s so perfectly cooked the meat falls off with one brush of your fork - if you aren’t already gnawing at it with your mouth, that is.
Maybe it’s because it’s in a sleepy part of Pasadena, but people don’t talk about Bone Kettle nearly enough. This innovative Southeast Asian spot opened in 2017, and there’s a lot to love about their menu - Malaysian char kway teow (stir-fried noodles), Pinoy crispy pork belly sisig - but their eponymous bone broth soup is very special. To make it, they simmer beef, onions, garlic, and ginger for 36 hours, to create a thick, aromatic stock that we’d drink by itself. They then load it with a protein of your choice (which should be the brisket or the oxtails) and tender wheat noodles. Don’t leave without an order of their fried oxtail tips, either.
Ohn No Khoo Swe
Operating out of a commercial commissary space in the Arts District, Burmese, Please! is one of our [favorite new pop-ups in the city]. About twice a month, chef Jesse Nicely cooks up delicious Burmese food that she hand-delivers herself right to your car. The menu changes frequently, but one dish you can count on being there is the Ohn No Khoo Swe. This sweet and savory coconut chicken soup is filled to the brim with thick wheat noodles and boiled eggs, and topped with split peas fritters to add some crunch. We’re not sure “comfort soup” is officially in the dictionary, but if it was, this would be its definition.
Myung Dong Kyoja in Koreatown has a number of tremendous soups on their menu (the cold soybean soup has saved us during countless heatwaves), but come wintertime, our heart only has eyes for their kalguksu. This traditional, chicken broth-based soup comes topped with ground chicken, pork dumplings, and vegetables, but what really makes this soup are the perfectly cooked knife-cut noodles floating inside. If you want some heat (which you do), be sure to order it spicy.
House Beef Noodles
Mian is a modern noodle shop from the chef behind Chengdu Taste, and that fact alone gets our attention. But more importantly: Mian lives up to expectations. The Chongqing-style noodles they serve are fantastic and chewy, with a spiciness that creeps up on you. We could point to numerous outstanding dishes on the menu here, but it’s the house beef noodle soup that remains the star of the show for us. Tender strips of beef submerged in a broth so spicy and flavorful, you’ll wonder if you can just order it as its own side. We haven’t asked yet, but honestly, it’s worth a shot. Order a plate of the peppery pork dumplings to round out your meal.
In Westwood’s Little Persia neighborhood (or Tehrangeles, as it’s often referred to), you can find aush reshteh (a strained yogurt and noodle-based soup) on the menu at most restaurants. Laziz Grill’s version is our favorite. Filled with lentils, chickpeas, fried onions, and chopped fresh herbs like mint, parsley, and dill, this is the kind of soup that feels appropriate to eat no matter what the temperature is outside.
Slack Season Noodles
The Slack Season Noodles at Joy, the Taiwanese restaurant in Highland Park, packs a ton of comfort into a small bowl. The deep flavors don’t come from its toppings - a single, beautifully tender shrimp, some seasoned ground pork, and green onions - but from the soup’s clear base. The shrimp and chicken broth imparts a subtle (but necessary) ocean flavor to the chewy wheat noodles. Add on some shrimp wontons in chili oil or a thousand layer pancake, while you’re here - both are great, and balance the soup’s simplicity with some huge punches of flavor.
Chef Kang Sul Box
Made with Spam, sausage, and instant ramen, this spicy kimchi stew isn’t exactly a who’s-who of the butcher shop, but if you order from Chef Kang Sul Box without getting it, you’ve done it all wrong. It’s spicy, savory, and definitely large enough for two meals - a steal considering it’s only $13. Be sure to throw in some signature Korean wings to complete your feast.
Pho Tai Nam Gan
The pho at Golden Deli achieves an immaculate balance in its translucent broth, right at the intersection of fatty, sour, sweet, and - most definitely - salty. There’s an oily shimmer on top of the broth that lets you know you’re in for some excellent soup, and while the noodles are sometimes a bit gummy, the beef brisket, ribeye, and tendon are tender and extremely flavorful, and more than make up for the soft noodles. Make sure to use the sliced lime and housemade chili sauce on the side to deepen the flavors.
Le Croissant Doré
Mi Bo Kho
Le Croissant Doré is a French/Vietnamese bakery in Westminster, and while we certainly endorse getting involved with their excellent fruit tarts and chocolate croissants, a bowl mi bo kho in nonnegotiable. You can find this Vietnamese beef stew at many places around Little Saigon, but this is our favorite. The broth is dark, meaty, and slightly cinnamon-y, and the beef itself essentially melts in your mouth. But perhaps the best part is ripping off bits of the crunchy, house-made baguette that comes on the side and sopping up all the extra broth.
Phnom Penh Noodles
Phnom Penh is one of the best Cambodian restaurants in Long Beach, and frankly, one of our favorite spots in the whole city, period. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 7am-3pm, this tiny place specializes mostly in breakfast comfort dishes like rice porridge and meat pies, but it’s their house special noodle soup with pork bone broth that we’ll brave even the foggiest of mornings to eat. You can choose between rice or egg noodles, but we actually prefer doing a mix of both.
Xi Quach Duoi Bo
In reality, you could spend an entire month trying every pho spot in Little Saigon - and most of them would be pretty damn delicious. But if you’re short on time and simply looking for the best, go to Pho 79. The landmark Vietnamese restaurant in Garden Grove, open since 1982, is one of the most well-known restaurants in all of Orange County, and even during a pandemic, still has takeout lines to prove it. You can put a variety of different meats into the soup (the oxtail is their signature), but at the end of the day, it’s about the broth. Simmered in oxtail for 12 hours and infused with star anise, it’s rich, cinnamon-y, and unlike any other pho you’ll find in California. Cash only.
Uni Sea Urchin Cream Udon
Before the pandemic, Marugame Monzo in Little Tokyo had a perpetual line, both for the menu and the performance - you’d watch noodle makers inside a glass-walled room throwing and cutting udon like they were on stage. But Marugame is just as great for takeout, even without the show. The fat, dense, noodles are excellent in many forms, but for something a bit different, go for the udon in uni cream sauce, which is flecked with incredible bits of Santa Barbara urchin tongue. For a more standard noodle soup, the Hot Dragon Udon, with a light, spicy tonkotsu broth, and excellent spiced ground pork.