While every day for the last 4,000 years has been noodle day here in China, we’ll take any opportunity to celebrate one of the world’s greatest culinary creations. To mark this year’s International Noodle Day (Friday, Oct 6), we’ve put together five of our favorite noodle restaurants here in Beijing. While this top-five list focuses on the noodles, we’ve deliberately chosen restaurants at which the whole menu is worth a try, so go ahead and order broadly and with confidence when you visit.
Pang Mei Noodles 胖妹面庄 (Pictured above)
The emerging dǎkǎ (打卡, punch card) tourist culture in China sees millions of young tourists racing around cities snapping shots of themselves at trending landmarks, aiming to adorn their social media accounts with as many as possible before it’s time to go home. These landmarks can often be safely dismissed as gimmicky tourist traps, but when it comes to this noodle house, the selfie-seeking masses have got it right. Offering up popularly and expertly acclaimed Chongqing-style spicy noodles, Pang Mei was attracting crowds of locals and expats long before it became popular with tourists. Their signature dish is the 豌杂面 (wān zá miàn), boiled noodles topped with hot and spicy fried ground pork and and mushy yellow peas, which give the whole dish a starchy, velvety texture. On weekdays, arriving slightly before the restaurant opens at 11am should see you secure at table in the first sitting, but on weekends and holidays arrive early to avoid long queues.
69 Dongsibei Dajie 东四北大街69号. Located a few meters west of the corner, on Xiang Er Hutong 香饵胡同. 300m south of Beixinqiao Subway Exit D. Hours: 11:00-21:30. Tel: 158 0150 4172
Yun Er Xiao Zhen 云洱小镇
The only rice noodle dish on our list, 腾冲大救驾 (téngchōng dà jiù jià, Tengchong great rescue) is named for the city of Tengchong in Yunnan Province. It’s said that after the fall of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) armies arrived in Tengchong without supplies and at the point of starvation. Locals came to the rescue by frying and serving 饵块 (ěr kuài), a type of rice noodle for which the city is famous. Erkuai are flat slices of rice noodle and, at Xiang Er Xiao Zhen, they’re fried with Yunnan ham, egg, tomato, cabbage, Chinese chives, pickled vegetables and bean shoots. They’re also cooked with salt rather than soy sauce, making them especially bright in both color and flavor. In our opinion, all noodles are breakfast noodles, but these would be particularly suitable as a first meal for late risers. The restaurant, too, with its sunny hutong rooftop, makes a great venue for a local Beijing brunch.
84 Beiluoguxiang 北锣鼓巷84号. Located around 1.5km south of Andingmen Subway Station Exit A. Hours: 11:00-23:00. Tel: 8404 2407
Beisantiao Hutong Noodles 北三条胡同面馆
Beijing’s very own noodle dish, 炸酱面 (zhà jiàng miàn, fried sauce noodles) can be a difficult dish to track down. Many locals say authentic zhajiangmian can’t be found in restaurants, and with Beijingers mainly eating it at home, it can be tough to find restaurants serving it that aren’t mainly catering to tourists. Made by cooking down pork belly and frying soy bean paste (干黄酱, gānhuángjiàng) and sweet flour paste (甜面酱, tiánmiànjiàng) in the fat, restaurant versions can often end up a little on the greasy side. This vegetarian version cuts down on the grease, delivering the traditional punchy flavors and contrasting textures by frying the sauces with chopped mushrooms and scrambled egg. Served cold with boiled soybeans, soybean sprouts, and shredded cucumber and rose heart radish, this version is our pick of those we’ve tried in restaurants.
153 Yonghegong Dajie 雍和宫大街153号. Located a few meters up 交道口北三条. 350m north of Beixinqiao Subway Exit A. Hours: 9:30-21:30. Tel: 6402 4288
Ling Er Jiu Oil-Splashed Noodles 零贰玖油泼面
Oil-splashed noodles are made by placing minced garlic, chopped green onions and chilli flakes on top of freshly boiled noodles and splashing them with scalding oil to create a fresh and fragrant chilli oil that is stirred through the noodles with soy sauce and aged vinegar. Usually made with thick, hand-pulled strap-like noodles, this simple dish is far greater than the sum of its parts. Ling Er Jiu’s signature dish, 贺氏秘制油泼扯面 (hèshì mìzhì yóupō chěmiàn, He Clan secret-recipe oil-splashed hand-pulled noodles), may just become your new favorite noodle. If it does, let us know. We have a very well-tested recipe for making this simple dish at home.
Just east of the southeast corner of Chunxiu Lu and Xinzhongdong Jie 春秀路与新中东街的交叉口. 1.5km southeast of Dongzhimen Subway Exit C. Hours: 11:00-23:00. Tel: 5715 2029
Zhang Mama 张妈妈
If you’ve read our blog or seen our Instagram account, you’ll know we are big fans of Sichuan restaurant Zhang Mama. We featured Zhang Mama’s dumplings in spicy sauce in our Five Best Dumpling Shops in Beijing post last month and now the restaurant is making our top five list again, this time for its dandan noodles (担担面, dāndān miàn). Served as a side dish rather than in a main-sized portion, these petite bowls of fresh noodles are topped with heavily seasoned ground pork fried with pickled vegetables, fermented bean paste and peanuts. This restaurant can be busy, so visit outside regular mealtimes to avoid a queue.
76 Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie. 交道口南大街76号. 1km south of Andingmen Subway Exit B on Line 2. Hours: 10:30am-10pm. Tel: 188 1119 5778.