In the heat of summer, man cannot survive on ice cream alone (alas). And so we turn to cold noodles—glorious cold noodles—to power us through the humid days ahead.
I've eaten more than my fair share of cold noodles in this city, but the bowl to beat in my book is at Yun Nan Flavour Garden (British spelling intentional, though I'm not sure anyone could tell you why). The cold rice noodles ($5.50) at this Sunset Park Chinese spot, which recently moved from a zero-frills storefront on 49th Street to a comparatively luxurious sit-down space on 8th Avenue, are wholly unique.
Springy house-made rice noodles are doused in a pungent mix of black vinegar, soy sauce, chile oil and, unexpectedly, sugar; then topped with a small mountain of rich ground pork, scallions, cilantro, roasted peanuts and incendiary chili peppers. It's a riotous mix of flavors and textures, reflecting the diversity of Yunnan province itself, which borders Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Tibet.
The noodles are served cold, and indeed they're refreshing, but there's a spicy heat, too, and the tug of war between flavors is what gets me on the N train every summer.
This exemplary dish notwithstanding, there are other strong contenders in the cold noodle game, too. We salute these refreshing bowls:
Dan dan noodles Chen-du style at Legend, Chelsea ($5.50): Nuggets of minced pork and preserved Chinese greens top a bowl of stretchy fresh noodles at this Sichuan favorite.
Neng myun at Han Joo, East Village ($11.95): This Saint Mark's spot is best known for Korean BBQ, but it's worth detouring to the mool neng-myun, chewy arrowroot noodles swimming in an icy beef broth, topped with a boiled egg, marinated radishes, fresh Asian pears and sesame seeds.
Cold soba with salmon roe at 15 East, Flatiron ($14 for noodles, roe additional $5): The firm, chewy buckwheat noodles at this elegant Japanese restaurant arrive in a pool of umami-rich broth with a touch of fresh wasabi and spring onions. Go ahead and splurge on giant pearls of salmon roe, which pop with a sweet and not-too-salty brine.
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