Noodles & chill: Who’s serving up cool fare for summer?
From matcha soba to icy, spicy Korean cold noodles, here’s what we’re slurping this season
Although plenty of sweet icy treats abound in this city, from gourmet Popsicles to nitro ice cream, there are curiously few savoury chilled meals in North American culture. For many, cool menu items pretty much stop at salads and gazpacho; however, the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans have been battling hot climates with cold noodles for generations. From chilled arrowroot noodles served in bowls of iced broth to springy rice versions coated in sesame and chili oil, there’s a wide variety of icy, salty, vinegary and spicy noods to try this summer. Here are three types of cold noodles you can enjoy in the city.
Liangpi, northern China’s coolest street eat
A popular northern Chinese street food, liangpi, which translates into “cold skin noodles” (for its rubbery texture), is a spicy, tangy, vinegary heap of thick tagliatelle-shaped cold noodles made from steaming the starch that has been separated from rice flour and water. Served in a sauce of sesame seeds, soy sauce, chili pepper and black vinegar and topped with a handful of shredded cucumber, black sesame paste, smashed garlic and bean sprouts, liangpi is a satisfyingly light meal. Artisan Noodle (5421 Yonge St.) is a tiny restaurant in Willowdale that specializes in Xi’An-style street food. Their Xi’An combo comes with a bowl of liangpi, a pork jia-mo (a Chinese shredded pork belly sandwich) and an orange soda.
Hot and cold Korean Naengmyeon
Served in a metal bowl to keep the temperature of the food down, naengmyeon is a beloved cold noodle dish made with arrowroot flour. Often served with pickled radish, Korean pear, cucumbers and a boiled egg, the noodles are thin and long (often scissors are provided to cut them to a manageable length) and gummy in texture. There are two kinds: mul naengmyeon, which comes in an icy broth, and bibim naengmyeon, which is mostly dry, doused in a red chili paste sauce, called gochujang, and served with a bowl of room temperature broth on the side. Thornhill’s Cho Sun Ok (7353 Yonge St.) is known for its extensive menu of naengmyeon as well as its fiery homemade red pepper sauce.
Japanese Soba beats your salad any day
Likely the most well-known type of cold noodle in North America, due to their versatility and nutritional value, Japanese buckwheat noodles are a soft, chewy staple served both hot in the winter and cold in the summer, either with a broth of dashi on the side or dressed. Matcha soba has been making the rounds in Toronto, showing up on menus at Kasa Moto (115 Yorkville Ave.), topped with shiitake mushrooms, cucumber and shishito dressing, as well as at the uptown Tsujiri (4909 Yonge St.). For an authentic taste, Ichiriki (120 Bloor St. E.) turns out plates of handmade Edostyle soba on Tuesdays starting in late June.
Kasa Moto’s tangy and cool matcha soba in shishito dressing