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Taiwanese beef noodle soup
Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

What Are NYC’s Finest Noodle Soups?

Bowls of ramen, matzoh ball soup, angolotti en brodo, and other warming wonders

Every season is soup season in New York; it’s not uncommon to encounter waits at the city’s top ramen spots even in the summer months. Since it’s chilly outside and we have nearly two months of winter ahead, what better time to discuss favorite spots for hot, nourishing noodle soups?

Dumpling Noodle Soup

Ryan Sutton: Angolotti en brodo at Al Coro

This was possibly one of the smallest bowls of soup and pasta I’ve encountered, especially at the steep price of $38 before tax and tip. Sure enough, I couldn’t finish it, here at Al Coro in the revamped Del Posto space. The clean capon broth tasted like a fat-free distillate of foie gras; it was sweet, dark, and faintly gamy. And the dumplings themselves packed a wallop of prosciutto and Parmigiano so powerful I needed to step back and take a sip of beer in between each bite. Shout out to chef Melissa Rodriguez for making this classic Italian dish taste revelatory and new. 85 10th Avenue, near 16th Street, Chelsea

Robert Sietsema: Matzoh ball soup at Pastrami Queen

With a park backdrop, a plastic bowl of yellowish soup.
Matzoh ball soup at Pastrami Queen.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Starch elevates a soup, and one kind of starch isn’t always enough. The matzoh ball soup at Pastrami Queen — one of the city’s most distinguished purveyors of the pink smoky meat — also has egg noodles tossed in by the handful. The balls themselves are big and bouncy, and still reminiscent of crackers (in this case, matzoh), though flaunting their fine grain. And the noodles, soft already, only bloat and become softer as it sits whether it’s delivered or you’re carrying it to Central Park to eat. The chicken broth is simple and rich, but in its smoothness even it takes a back seat to the delightful sensation that you’re eating wheat starch in its purest form. 138 West 72nd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, Upper West Side

Spicy Noodle Soup

Sietsema: Spicy ginger stamina at Karakatta

Bright red spicy ginger ramen in a white bowl
Spicy ginger stamina at Karakatta.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

One of the surest ways to find a really, really spicy bowl of noodle soup is to seek out your local ramen parlor. Every place seems to offer one or two incendiary bowls — sometimes with a miso broth, sometimes with anything on the menu when a marble-size chile “bomb” is added. But this place specializes in bowls of ramen at various levels of spiciness. The hottest I’ve found is spicy ginger stamina, offered from one to five “flames” on the menu, and achieving its effects with bright red chile oil and raw ginger. 230 Thompson Street, between Bleecker and West Third streets, Greenwich Village

Sutton: Tantanmen at Donburiya

I agree with your thesis, Robert! Most good ramen shops offer a pleasantly spicy bowl or two. But for a true clear-your-sinuses experience, I usually head over to Donburiya, a casual izakaya in Midtown West. The restaurant serves tantanmen, a Japanese riff on dan dan, the classic Sichuan dish where noodles sit in chile oil the color of a venomous trans-Andean coral snake. Yet somehow, tantanmen is spicier. The broth arrives just below boiling; I’ve never not burned my tongue slurping it. The level of chiles is sufficient to induce a minor coughing fit, but then the body adjusts to the creamy, porky, miso-laced broth, while sesame oil adds a hint of aromatic sweetness. You can do it. 253 W. 55th Street, near Eighth Avenue, Midtown West

Light Noodle Soup

Sutton: Xiao mian at Chongqing

A lot of folks seek out pho, shio, or shoyu when they want a more nimble noodle soup. I personally go for xiao mian, or “little noodles,” a traditional breakfast food in Chongqing, China. At the aptly titled Chongqing Xiao Mian in Hell’s Kitchen, the soup is restorative, mid-level spicy, and studded with gently tingly Sichuan peppercorns. A small pile of pork adds sustenance, while grassy cilantro cuts through the salts. Fat white noodles provide stark chromatic contrast to the brick red soup. If only it were open earlier than 11:00 a.m. 796 Ninth Avenue, near 53rd Street, Hell’s Kitchen

Sietsema: Chicken soup at Selo

A thin amber broth with vegetables, bits of chicken, and small pasta.
Chicken soup at Selo.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The soup at year-old Selo in Astoria deploys chicken broth long-boiled with vegetables, with the poultry shredded, the cooked vegetables cubed, and the tiniest of pasta varieties thrown in. It makes a supremely light soup, loved by children, fit for invalids, and the perfect prelude to a meal that is likely to showcase heavier Balkan meat dishes. 33-05 Broadway, between 33rd and 34th streets, Astoria

Vegan Noodle Soup

Sutton: Mushroom ramen at Momofuku Noodle

There’s nothing new about vegetarian ramen or meat-free stocks, but what’s compelling about Momofuku’s mushroom ramen is how it mimics a bit of the creamy mouthfeel and umami punch of, say, pork tonkotsu. Except this lovely potion, as brown as beef gravy, is completely vegan, thanks to a miso-like substance known as chickpea hozon. The broth doesn’t so much give off a powerful mushroom flavor as it does a vegetal earthiness, amped up by the heat of chiles and the garden-y punch of pea shoots. Enjoy the firm, fat noodles that come with. 10 Columbus Circle, third floor, Midtown West

Fusion-y Noodle Soup

Sietsema: Wonton ramen at Zutto

Noodles and wontons in the same small black bowl.
Wonton ramen at Zutto.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Wonton soup and ramen in soup are a couple of the city’s favorite potages, the former simple and straightforward, the latter existing in innumerable subtle variations that are sometimes annoying by their sheer numbers. But what if we simplified things with a fundamental ramen soup without a lot of bells and whistles and then tossed some wontons in? One choice, two cultures, and twice the noodles — if you consider wontons a form of stuffed noodle. 77 Hudson Street, between Jay and Harrison streets, Tribeca

Sutton: Jerk ramen at Miss Lily’s

Japanese noodle soups trace their origins to Chinese immigrants, and Jamaica boasts a strong Chinese diaspora, which makes jerk ramen seem like a logical enough combination. But equally importantly, it’s damn delicious when done right, as it is at Miss Lily’s. Chef Adam Schop uses jerk seasonings to spice a pork-based shoyu, adds slices of jerk pork belly and chicken, and then throws in some marinated ackee and fermented scotch bonnet paste. The soup is gorgeously dark — almost like squid ink broth — but it’s not as salty or umami-heavy as most bowls of ramen. It’s an easy drinking soup that shows off notes of garlic, allspice, and tongue-stinging scotch bonnets, with their fruity, floral heat. I wish this is how more New Yorkers could enjoy ramen, outside of specialty shops, and in random restaurants with chefs who want to test out a fun idea or two. 109 Avenue A, near East Seventh Street, Alphabet City

Seafood Noodle Soup

Sutton: Nyonya Laksa at Daisy’s Dream

Hot seafood broths remind me of summer nights in Nice. I’ll sit outside in a cafe and order a steaming bowl of soupe de poisson, its coastal tang piercing my nostrils just a stone’s throw away from the Mediterranean. I wish there were more of these aromatic soups in New York, and quite frankly find it rude that French spots don’t give you a pile of hand-ripped biang biang to dump in your bouillabaisse. For now, however, when I crave seafood noodles, I go to the Peranakan stall, Daisy’s Dream, at Urban Hawker. Flecks of chile and shrimp paste stain the hot coconut milk, turning it a hue of soft pink. The tropical fruit tames the aroma of the crustaceans — a clean tidal funk with a delicate sweetness — while a wedge of lime lets you add a touch of citrus-y brightness. Swish the ultra-firm noodles around in the broth and slurp. 135 W. 50th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, at Urban Hawker Market, Midtown West

Sietsema: Mohinga at Thar Gi Hohinga

A plastic bowl of brownish soup with wad of cilantro and noodles visible.
Mohinga at Thar Gi Hohinga.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

When I go for a fishy soup, I’m more interested in flavor than texture. Much seafood turns rubbery or simply falls apart when used in soup. The national dish of Myanmar takes this into account. Mohinga incorporates the kind of fish that much of the world’s population eats — small, bony, strong-tasting fish not commercially viable. This recipe poaches them and removes the bones, then crushes the flesh as seasoning and thickener. The mohinga at this HK Supermarket stall that specializes in it is further inflected with lemongrass and ginger before rice noodles and chickpea-flour fritters are dropped in, making it one of the world’s tastiest fish soups. HK Supermarket Food Court, 2-02 45th Avenue, at 82nd Street, Elmhurst

Beef Noodle Soup

Sietsema: Beef soup and tendon with flat wide noodles at Happy Stony Noodle

A bowl with brownish red broth, white broad noodles, and big hunks of beef.
Beef soup and tendon with flat wide noodles at Happy Stony Noodle.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

As Taiwanese food has ascended in popularity, a few dishes have really stood out, and one of them is a distinctive beef soup with an aromatic dark brown broth and plenty of wide wheat noodles. Called niu rou mian, it can be mild (as at Taiwanese Gourmet) or it can be spicy — that’s the case at Happy Stony Noodle. But cannabis smokers don’t hold your breath: the actual translation of the Taiwanese name is “happy beef noodle.” But the soup is spectacular, with a broth in which beef trumps all other flavors, supple and substantial noodles, and torn tendon that will remind runners to treat their own tendons with care. 83-47 Dongan Avenue, at Broadway, Elmhurst

Heartiest Noodle Soup

Sietsema: Hiu tu nam vang at Kitchen Co Ut

A bowl of noodle soup with sprouts and chile oil on the side.
Hiu tu nam vang at Kitchen Co Ut.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Well I’m taking “heartiest” literally in this category, because this soup from southern Vietnam contains actual pig heart — along with the porcine liver, tongue, and skin. A few more organs and you could begin reconstructing the pig. But it also fulfills the more common meaning of hearty by being thickly populated with rice noodles, ground pork, and shrimp in a stout broth flavored with scallions, onions, and chives. It’s hard to imagine a heartier repast than this noodle soup at Kitchen Co Ut, a sit-down Chinatown offshoot of a solid banh mi shop. 85 Chrystie Street, near Hester Street, Chinatown

Sutton: Tori paitan ramen at Ivan Ramen

I tend to shy away from the creamier ramens — just as I’ve never been a particular fan of New England clam chowder (sorry, Red Sox fans) — as I find them a bit too heavy for everyday slurping. But every now and then when I need some serious calories and animal protein, like after a tough workout on the bike, I’ll indulge in a bit of tori paitan, the golden poultry analouge to porky tonktotsu. Ivan Ramen is my go-to joint for this and it’s pretty much what you’d expect: chicken broth emulsified with so much luscious fat that the broth appears to have dairy added. A pile of minced chicken and crispy togarashi chicken amp up the powerful fowl flavors, while thin rye noodles efficiently absorb all the surrounding flavors. 25 Clinton Street, near Stanton Street, Lower East Side

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