The only thing better than soup during Melbourne's famously frosty winters is soup with noodles. It gives your bowl the heft necessary to line your ribs against the cold while the broth works its magic. Whether you're after the hot-numbing zing of Sichuan-pepper spiked Chongqing noodles, or the earthy depths of a pho, we've scoured the city for the best noodle soups in their class, criss-crossing international borders to warm you from the cockles to the crown. These are our top picks.
Best noodle soups in Melbourne
Order this: Spicy braised beef noodle
This no-fuss student haunt has a get-in-get-out policy, so if you’re up for a quick meal or take away, this is the place to go. Broths come nuanced and clear, amped up with soft chunks of radish, slices of braised beef belly and topped off with a chilli-laden spice paste. Another plus is noodles are hand-pulled to order and you can choose your thickness with each bowl.
Order this: Boat noodle soup
If we told you some of the best boat noodles in Melbourne were in a car park, would you believe us? Well, you’ve just gotta try it for yourself. Soi 38 specialises in only four dishes, and you chose your noodle and level of soupiness and adjust each bowl to your preference with the condiment caddy on the table. Our pick is the fragrant, sweetly spiced boat noodles with beef. Vermicelli or glass noodles do an excellent job of soaking up the complex broth, but really, there is no wrong combination.
Order this: Fish slices with pickled mustard greens
If Dainty Sichuan were a fashion house, Tina’s Noodle Kitchen would be one of its diffusion labels. Specialising in thick rice noodles in a double chicken stock base, these soups are served in piping hot clay pots that arrive bubbling, cooking at the table. The fish slices with pickled mustard greens gives more depth than other variation and fills you up without weighing you down. Hard-core fans may opt for super spicy versions, but they often give up before they’re full due to the three-chili rating.
Order this: Black tonkotsu ramen
In the belly of Mid-City Arcade, you’ll find Mr Ramen San tucked away on the Little Bourke St end, usually with a line outside the door. This is due to the superior 24-hour tonkotsu broth and house-made hakata-style noodles. The black tonkotsu ramen receives a dose of black garlic oil and comes topped with thick, braised rounds of charsu, shavings of leek and spring onion, menma, sheets of seaweed and an ever-consistent marinated egg with a runny yolk.
Order this: Sansai soba
Shimbashi is better known for their cold dipping soba, but it doesn't mean their soups aren't just as delicious. Organic Tasmanian buckwheat is ground on site each day and turned into noodles before each service to make a perfectly chewy and nutritious noodle. The sansai soba is one for the vegetarians, where soba is drowned in a light soy-based broth and is topped with a range of simmered vegetables like napa cabbage, seaweed and a variety of Asian mushrooms.
Order this: Pho Saigon
The usual gripe of being in the CBD is that there is no good pho. That’s where Pho Nom has stepped in and saved the day. Not only has chef Jerry Mai opened two stores in the city, ladling out perfectly balanced broths that have been cooking for more than 24 hours, but she uses Warialda beef and Glenloth chickens as the backbone to her dishes, assuring you of the provenance of your meat. The Pho Saigon is built off a deep and clean beef broth, slippery rice noodles, slices of soft-cooked brisket, rare beef and beef balls. A station with the freshest Thai basil, bean sprouts, sliced chilis and lemon wedges are also available for you to adjust your bowl. Can’t go wrong with that.
Order this: Tori soba (add an egg)
They may be ramen by name, but these noodle-heads are no one-trick ponies. If you’re up for a change from the usual pork-heavy ramens that sometimes leave you comatose, this delicate soba dish is a superb alternative. The thick, ramen noodles are swapped out for thin, house-made wavy noodles that sit in a clear but flavoursome chicken broth seasoned with pink Himalayan salt, accompanied by tender slices of chicken breast, house-made chicken meatballs, bamboo shoots and spring onion. Add a marinated egg for a touch of richness if that's your jam. Oishi!
Order this: Traditional grandma chongqing noodles
Grandma Noodle is a global chongqing chain, but the noodles are built off quality and consistency. A range of chillis and spices are fried off and added to a rich stock that builds this deceptively complex bowl of heady noodles. Sichuan peppercorns offer that telltale numbing characteristic of chongqing food. This bowl does not come topped with any proteins, but the spicy and savoury broth hits all sides of your palate, and you won’t be left wanting more.
Order this: Do Dee Lava (level 3)
Tom yum noodles are the specialty at DoDee Paidang, where the heat levels range from zero to seven, and we’ve found that level three strikes a happy balance. The numbers don’t just correlate to the level of heat, but to how many spoons of dried, pounded red chili flakes makes it into the bowl to meet the sweet, porky broth and tangle of springy egg noodles. Toppings include tender slices of pork, ground pork, soft pork bone, pork balls, spring onion, chopped coriander, ground peanuts and a fistful of fried wonton strips. Bowls are traditionally small, so if you’ve got quite the appetite, we suggest you go for the jumbo size.
Order this: Chongqing spicy noodle with pork chitterlings
We know what you’re thinking. Don’t think that. Chitterlings (intestine) usually gets a bad rap for its funkiness, but that’s because the organ isn’t purged properly (yeah, that is what you think it is). But these have been skillfully cleaned to produce a slippery and fatty cut of meat that has been braised in sweet spices, which complement the thick, mung bean noodles in this hot and sour broth garnished with fried soybeans. Open your mind and try something new, you might just love it.