7 Must-Try Noodle Dishes
We sampled oodles of noodles and found the most slurp-worthy in Montgomery County
Asian-Fusion Hot Pot
at Little Dipper Hot Pot House
The second outpost of Kevin Lui’s Little Dipper Hot Pot House opened in Rockville Town Square in February (the other is in Falls Church, Virginia). This concept takes the traditional Chinese hot pot, in which diners cook vegetables and proteins in a shared pot of broth that’s simmering at the center of the table, and turns it into a fast-casual concept for individual enjoyment. Each diner chooses one of six options (tomato, spicy mala, miso, Thai, curry and veggie) that’s bubbling hot and set atop a small burner at a diner’s place setting. Four of the six dippers are made with pork and chicken-based broth, and two are made with vegetable broth. All pots teem with glass noodles (the miso dipper, with Japanese udon noodles, is the exception), vegetables (such as mixed mushrooms, cabbage, radishes, scallions, kabocha squash, taro, tomatoes, bok choy, corn and lotus root) and other toppings, among them soft tofu, tofu fish balls and imitation crab stick. Except for the already fiery mala dipper, diners choose the level of heat desired and a protein to dip (lamb, beef, pork or seafood). Offered on the side are rice or noodles and, for extra zip and flavor, a variety of sauces: chili soy sauce, sesame, fermented soy, spicy chili oil or Chinese barbecue. The whole affair is delightfully interactive, packed with flavor and thoroughly satisfying. (Dippers are $11.99 at lunch, $13.99 at dinner.)
101 Gibbs St. Unit A, Rockville, 301-605-7321, facebook.com/littledipperhotpot
Shrimp Rice Noodle Crepe
at Hollywood East Cafe
At Hollywood East Cafe in Wheaton, rice noodle crepes that are made to order are a Chinese specialty. A cook spreads a thin batter of rice flour and water onto a cloth that’s stretched over a steamer and cooks it for two to three minutes until the noodle sheet is ready for toppings, explains the restaurant’s owner, Janet Yu. The best-seller, made with steamed shrimp wrapped up in the noodle and served in a pool of ginger-laced sweet soy sauce ($3.95), is available Saturdays and Sundays on the dim sum cart. Other varieties are special order. Hong Kong diners crave the triple flavor noodle crepe ($3.75), spread with plum sauce, sweet soy sauce and peanut sauce, cut into bite-size pieces and sprinkled with sesame seeds, Yu says. “It reminds them of their childhood because kids there buy them at window stalls on the way to school. They come in a wax paper bag with two sticks stuck in them to use as chopsticks.” If the Chinese are all about the noodle, Americans, Yu says, are all about the fillings. That’s why the latter are crazy for the shrimp crepe or one that’s rolled with roast pork. Another favorite is a crispy fried breadstick rolled into the crepe and cut into crunchy sushi-size pieces ($3.75).
11160 Veirs Mill Road, Wheaton, 240-290-9988, hollywoodeastcafe.com
Peter Chang, pictured with Grandma’s noodles
at Peter Chang Rockville
There aren’t many noodle dishes to be found on the menu at Peter Chang Rockville, but one is not to be missed. Grandma’s noodles ($7) originate in Shanxi, a province in northern China. The region is known for the wheat that’s grown there, which is why noodles are the main dish for the locals instead of rice. Chef Peter Chang, a Bethesda resident whose flagship restaurant, Q by Peter Chang, was set to open on East West Highway in Bethesda this spring, says noodle history in China dates back more than 2,000 years, and this particular dish is one of the five oldest. “We name them ‘grandma’s noodles’ because the methodology that goes into making them comes from the villages there years ago and has been passed down over generations,” Chang says in Chinese, with his daughter, Lydia, translating.
The fresh noodles, wide like fettuccine and served at room temperature, have a distinctive chew to them, just barely on the right side of being undercooked. The dish’s most important ingredient is chopped fresh garlic, sprinkled on top of the noodles in addition to Chinese black vinegar, chili flakes, ground Sichuan peppercorns, sesame oil, soy sauce, scallions and chopped cilantro—all meant to be tossed together at the table. “A final splash of hot oil combines all the flavors into one,” Chang says.
20A Maryland Ave., Rockville, 301-838-9188, peterchangrestaurant.com
Soft-Shell Crab Pad Thai
at Thai Taste by Kob
“Here, we are into what Thai food is supposed to taste like originally,” says Max Prasertmate, the general manager of Thai Taste by Kob in Wheaton. “You won’t find our food in other restaurants, and some of the dishes you won’t even find in Thailand because they are family dishes, comfort food that we cook and eat at home.” Prasertmate’s aunt, Phak Duangchandr, is the chef. Both are Burtonsville residents.
Duangchandr’s pad Thai—the ubiquitous sautéed rice noodle dish with fried egg, meat, vegetables and peanuts—is nothing like what Americans are used to. “It starts with the noodles,” Prasertmate says. “Normally they use dried rice sticks that are softened in water and then stir-fried. I don’t like those noodles because they are too thick and dry and often broken. In Thailand, lots of companies make noodles, so we don’t need to use dried. I found a supplier in D.C. that makes fresh noodles for us.” They’re stickier, have some chew to them and absorb more sauce. Sometimes customers who aren’t used to fresh noodles think they’ve gotten the wrong dish.
Duangchandr boils the noodles and then stir-fries them with egg, bean curd, preserved radish, scallions and a sauce made with tamarind pulp and palm sugar that imparts sweet and sour notes. The dish is garnished with shredded carrots, cabbage, chopped peanuts and lime wedges to add acid. The one that’s served with fried soft-shell crab ($15.99), perched like a crown on top of the plate, is magical. Be sure to experiment with the condiments, all house-made. Among them: chili powder, roasted chili garlic vinegar, Thai chilies in fish sauce, and jalapeños in vinegar.
11315 Fern St., Wheaton, 301-942-0288, thaitastewheaton.weebly.com