There are few things more satisfying than hunkering down with a bowl of piping hot noodle soup. The basic broth and noodle combination is a staple in so many cuisines for good reason. Apart from the obvious deliciousness, the steaminess and hydration factor help to relieve cold symptoms, and the broth is often laden with immunity-boosting ingredients like garlic and ginger. Not that we need an excuse.
Whether you prefer your bowl filled with rich tonkotsu, deeply herbal pho, or scattered with tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, there’s no shortage of soupy goodness in Sydney. Here are eight of our favourite noodle soups to warm your cockles.
Looking for other ways to stay warm? Try one of Sydney's five spiciest dishes.
More of a dumpling fan? Check out Sydney's best Chinese dumpling restaurants.
Feel like a cold weather adventure? Here are 39 cool things to do this winter.
Sydney's best noodle soups
Order the: Fat Soy ramen
Chaco Bar’s ramen menu is limited to a tight three choices, which makes it very hard to pick just one. The chilli-coriander chicken ramen is often namechecked by chefs about town (Neil Perry is a big fan), but for pork lovers, the fat soy is impossible to resist. The style sits close to tonkotsu, but the base is actually chicken stock, made in-house to utilise the offcuts from the bar’s chicken-heavy yakitori menu. To serve, it’s laced with soy sauce and a choose-your-own-level of pork back fat. (Tip: ‘normal’ level turns the soup completely opaque and leaves your lips slicker than Osher Günsberg’s hair.) Charcoal-kissed chashu, crunchy black fungus and shallots are the finishing touches, and a bed of springy noodles awaits underneath. This is a dish every self-respecting Sydneysider should try once.
Order the: Vegan shio soy ramen
The building blocks of many noodle soups are bone-based stocks, or fermented fish sauces and pastes, meaning the great options are rarely vegan friendly. You might find a light and brothy number, but rarely anything with the heft of a meaty tonkotsu. This may be one of the many reasons why RaRa Ramen is often a full house with a queue that stretches out the door ten minutes into lunch service. The concise menu offers one pork ramen, two vegan options, and a couple of mazesoba (dry ramen). Grab a stool by the open kitchen and watch the deft chefs draw ladlefuls of stock to start each bowl. The vegan shio soy ramen uses soy milk for creaminess and amps it up with house-made tare, soy sauce and salt. Hakata-style noodles are made on-site with plenty of bite, and round out the bowl, along with grilled tomato, bamboo shoots and an optional soft egg. The resulting ramen has a creaminess offset by the sweetness of the tomato and soy, with a whack of black pepper thrown in for good measure. It’s completely unlike any other ramen in Sydney.
Order the: Pho dac biet
Just like any good aunt, the team at this Marrickville favourite are determined to send you home with a full stomach. Case in point: their pho dac biet. It’s a deeply satisfying bowl of soup, served with all of the requisite trimmings and a side of the restaurant’s signature chilli and lemongrass oil. The broth veers more towards richness and umami than super-fragrant clove and star anise flavours. Fresh rice noodles come with thin slices of rare Angus beef, chunky meatballs, braised brisket and a hunk of bone-in just-blackened beef rib, to seal the deal. If your mum isn’t available for a hug, we reckon this soup might just be the next best thing.
Order the: Chicken and prawn laksa
Ho Jiak’s laksa is considered Nyonya-style, the coconut-and-curry-heavy variation popular in Malay-Chinese cuisine. The soup is equal parts creamy and spicy, tinged red with a hefty layer of chilli oil that plays off against the richness of the coconut, and a served with a side of dried shrimp-laced chilli oil for extra funk. Opt for the chicken and prawn number (though there’s also Hainan chicken, seafood and vegetable options), and you’ll score a calorific boon big enough for two. Yellow mee and vermicelli noodles are loaded up with braised chicken, sweet little prawns, fried tofu chunks, thick slices of fish cake and half a soft boiled egg. As if that wasn’t enough, a generous handful of bean sprouts and fried garlic finishes off the party.
Order the: Chongqing spicy noodles
It’s not hard to understand why Dainty Sichuan’s chongqing noodles – chewy, thin wheat noodles bathing in spice-laden chicken stock – are so immensely popular. It’s a simple looking dish, without an avalanche of toppings to hide behind, so the quality of the ingredients is key. The soup deploys both house-made sesame and extra virgin rapeseed-based chilli oils. Then there’s the crunch of the burnt chilli flakes and peanuts against the slippery noodles, and the intricate layering of mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, preserved vegetables and bok choy. The overall impact is addictive, and just begs you to slurp through the mouth-tingling burn. The noodles are a staple on the menu, served as simply as is, or piled high with braised beef, minced pork or chitterlings. Whatever you choose, be prepared to break a serious sweat. These chilli-laced noodles are the perfect antidote to chilly Sydney winters.
Order the: Khao soi
Throughout northern Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai, tiny roadside stalls dishing out bowls of khao soi are a common sight. Laksa might seem like the most immediate point of reference for this coconut curry-based soup, but the flavour profile sits somewhere between that and massaman curry. Sydney stalwart Chat Thai follows the bone-in chicken tradition, but subs chicken wings for the traditional Maryland cut. House-made chilli oil delivers the spicy component of that crucial spicy-salty-sweet-and-sour complexity, backed up by pickled Chinese mustard greens and a wedge of lime. Sturdy, fat egg noodles are also a point of difference, providing a more elastic bite than laksa’s yellow mee, and so is the crowning glory – a hearty garnish of crisp fried noodles to finish.
Order the: Pho bo
If you’ve been searching for an excuse to take the train to Cabramatta, this is it. Sydney’s little Vietnam has no shortage of pho options, but Pho Tau Bay is a bona fide institution that’s been doling out bowls of soup for over 35 years. The steamy pho bo is textbook, the clear broth packed with a depth of flavour that knocks your average pho out of the park. Stacked with rare strips of beef, brisket and tendon, the bo option has plenty of bovine protein, but offal lovers can upgrade to the pho dac biet for ribbons of chewy bible tripe.
Order the: Spicy cold noodle soup
Cold noodles for winter might seem contradictory, but in Korea, it’s standard practice. Traditional icy-cold noodle dishes, locals believe, are filled with ingredients that are quite warming to the body. At the Mandoo, that means your Naengmyeon arrives chilled to the point where you can almost make out ice crystals when the bowl jiggles. A tight twist of slippery thin noodles stands tall in the clear broth, finished with a careful arrangement of spicy gochujang, kimchi, cucumber and boiled egg. Take to the noodles with a pair of scissors, and mix well to get that fermented gochujang funk through every bite. In the unlikely event that the cold noodles don’t warm you up, a few extra spoonfuls of chilli should do the trick.