With summer in full swing, the thought of eating piping hot stews and steamy soups on sweltering days is far from mind. Instead, whenever the temps start to rise, we turn to refreshing dishes, namely cold Asian noodle dishes, to keep cool.
From ice-cold Korean noodle soup to spicy, chewy Chinese sesame noodles, here are five Asian noodle dishes from East Bay restaurants that we love to slurp when it’s summertime.
Mool Naeng Myun at Seoul Gomtang
For Koreans, mool naeng myun, a traditional cold noodle dish, is a go-to dish for hot weather. At Seoul Gomtang in North Oakland, thin, soft and chewy noodles (made with buckwheat and potato starch) are served in an icy cold beef broth flavored with Korean white radish kimchi, then topped with thin slices of beef brisket, julienned cucumber, Asian pear and one half of a hard boiled egg. The broth is tangy and slightly sweet, and adding a dab of spicy mustard and a splash of vinegar (both offered as condiments) gives the dish an even bolder kick. Seoul Gomtang, 3801 Telegraph Ave. (at W MacArthur), Oakland
Bukkake Soba at Soba Ichi
Over in West Oakland, new Japanese soba restaurant Soba Ichi offers a variety of cold noodle dishes featuring handmade, hand-cut noodles. One great option is the Bukkake Soba. Served in the nihachi style (made with buckwheat flour strengthened by additional wheat flour), the noodles are garnished with natto (fermented soybeans), daikon radish, myoga (Japanese ginger), negi (a Japanese variety of green onion), kaiware (daikon radish seeds) and bonito flakes — all beautifully arranged in a deep bowl. The cold and pleasantly salty tsuyu (dipping sauce) comes in a ceramic dispenser on the side, ready to be poured. (In case you’re wondering about the name, bukkake means “to pour or splash on” in Japanese, which also makes sense if you know the other use of the word.) Soba Ichi, 2311A Magnolia St. (at 24th), Oakland
Bún chả at Kim Huong
Bún (cold vermicelli noodle bowl) is an excellent choice for when a hot day calls for something as light as a salad, but you’re craving noodles. Oakland Chinatown’s Kim Huong makes a version of the classic Vietnamese dish with a bed of lettuce topped with thin rice noodles, pickled julienned carrots, crushed peanuts, your choice of protein(s) (we like the two-item combination, with grilled pork and egg roll), and a sweet, funky dipping sauce made with fish sauce. If you like spice, a housemade sauce consisting of minced habanero, tomatoes and vinegar can be added for extra flavor. While the lettuce and cool rice noodles lend a fresh lightness to this dish, the peanuts, savory pork and egg rolls ensure a filling feast. Kim Huong, 304 10th St. (at Harrison), Oakland
Salad Ramen at Shiba Ramen
When summer hits, Shiba Ramen adds Salad Ramen to the menu. This seasonal offering is a version of hiyashi chuka, a Japanese dish of chilled ramen noodles served with various fresh and cooked toppings. At Shiba, springy alkaline ramen noodles come with Mizuna (Japanese mustard greens), cucumbers, tomatoes, bean sprouts, yuzu kosho (a condiment made with fermented yuzu rind and chiles), a soft boiled egg, nori (seaweed) and your choice of pork or tofu. The addition of yuzu kosho, with its fresh, bright citrus flavor and salty, acidic kick, makes this a memorable bowl. Shiba Ramen, 1438 Broadway (between 14th and 15th), Oakland; also 5959 Shellmound St., at the Public Market, Emeryville
Cold Sesame Noodle, Spices 3
Eating spicy foods on hot days can actually cool you down, so the next time you’re looking to combat the heat with some chili-induced heat, head over to Spices 3 in Downtown Oakland. The vegetarian Cold Sesame Noodle packs a Szechuan-flavored punch. Topped with cucumbers and garlic, the thick, chewy wheat flour noodles are slathered in chili oil for a strong, spicy taste. Unlike the other cold noodle dishes above, this dish will leave you feeling like you’ve had a more substantial, hearty meal while cooling you down with its piquant tang. Spices 3, 369 12th St. (between Webster and Franklin), Oakland