Noodles are a staple of East Asian food, serving alongside rice as one of the cuisine’s great facilitators. Much like bread in Italy, noodles in East Asia bring together ingredients – like vegetables, meat and seafood – that would otherwise have few interesting things to say to each other. The greatness of noodles lies partly in their diversity. They come in countless shapes and sizes, from hair-like strings to hefty squares, and are made from just about anything that can be ground into flour, including wheat, barely, soba, rice and beans.
- From Sirens to Seafood: The Best Restaurants in Southern Israel
- Tel Aviv, the City of Choice for the Gluten-free Gourmand
- The 5 Sauciest Lasagna Spots in Tel Aviv
- Breaking Bread in Tel Aviv’s Best Bakeries
- A Tel Aviv Bread Shop That Goes Against the Grain
For years, Tel Aviv’s restaurants limited themselves to the Pho noodles of pad thai. But something of an Asian noodle renaissance is under way these days. With a little searching you can now find Vietnamese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Cambodian dishes in the city. Thankfully, we’ve saved you the effort and tracked down Tel Aviv’s five best noodle dishes ourselves.
1. Pad see ew at Hanoi
It's no secret that Hanoi is Tel Aviv's newest Asian noodle hotspot. Named after Vietnam's capital city, this small, modest and cheap restaurant offers the best of Malaysian, Vietnamese and Cantonese homemade cuisine. The dishes aren’t sophisticated chef’s interpretations of ethnic dishes, but the real deal, executed in complex and exacting detail by chef Itai Haimovich using techniques he learned from his Malaysian ex-mother-in-law.
The dish: Pad see ew is the sole Thai offering on Hanoi's menu. Haimovich fell in love with the dish, because it reminds him of Italian pasta. He, of course, uses traditional wide bean noodles, but unlike street vendors in Thailand, he doesn’t drown the noodles in soy sauce. Instead he stir-fries them in ginger and chili oils with green onion. The pad see ew is the only dish on the menu that Haimovich allows to stray from its traditional roots, and it’s a worthy exception to the rule.
The noodles come with green onion, basil, broccoli, lettuce, egg, a lot ginger and chili peppers and either chicken or tofu. Haimovich soaks the tofu in a stunningly delicious Vietnamese marinade made from lemon grass. The result is spicy, greasy street food that offers you a slightly new flavor with every bite. Bottom line: A hit dish from the most happening noodle place in the city.
Price: NIS 48.
While you’re there: If you're feeling a bit adventurous, go with the crispy pork. If you want to play it safe, the butter chicken is good choice.
Hanoi – 18 Lilienblum St.
2. Bean noodle salad with green papaya at The Bun
The Bun is just one of many refreshing things that have happened to Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market in recent years. The brothers Shei and Ayal Kitches opened The Bun next to the bustling outdoor marketplace to bring pan-Asian cuisine to Israelis on their own turf.
The dish: The Bean noodle salad is a medley of green papaya, cherry tomatoes, chili peppers, green beans, fried peanuts, herbs and plum sauce. The dish’s inspiration, Thai som tam salad, is always delicious, and the addition of fresh fruit and plums gives it a modern twist. The bean noodles actually play a secondary role, serving mostly to absorb the various flavors. As a whole, the dish is a refreshing mixture of textures and tastes. The meeting of chili peppers, mint and coriander, in particular, will leave your mouth tingling joyfully.
Price: NIS 34
While you’re there: You can't miss the bread rolls. They have the texture of clouds, and unleash an unexpected taste storm in your mouth.
The Bun – 18 Hillel Hazaken St.
3. Panad ki sen Shanghai at Thai House
You can’t talk about noodles in Tel Aviv without mentioning Thai House restaurant. Thai House isn’t just one of the best Asian restaurants in the city; it’s one of the best restaurants in Israel – period. For years, the owners, Yariv and Lek Malili, have been showing Israelis that Thai cuisine extends well beyond the pad thai they find on Bangkok's Khaosan Road during their post-army travels.
The dish: Panad ki sen Shanghai’s complicated name hides a delicious noodle dish. The noodles are large squares made of bean flour with specks of seaweed cooked into them. On top of the noodles, the Malilis add scrambled eggs, black-eyed peas and Thai vegetables, like ka pow, pak kana, broccoli and an colorful array of peppers. The seafood version includes calamari, giving the dish a wonderful sweet, salty and spicy taste, which is impossible to stop eating.
Price: NIS 76
While you’re there: Try the fried sea bass wrapped in a lettuce leaf with somen noodles and tamarind sauce.
Thai House – 8 Bograshov St.
4. Bon che at 44
Chef Osnat Hoffman opened 44 a year and half ago to gather all her culinary favorites under one roof. The restaurant focuses on European and Southeast Asian flavors, sometimes combining them in the same dish. With a particular focus on Vietnamese food, 44 was serving pho and bahn mi before they were cool.
The dish: Hoffman first tasted bon che at a street stall in Hanoi, Vietnam. She recalls the vendor, an old woman, flipping meat over a bed of coals until it was crispy and then serving it as part of a simple and delicious Vietnamese platter.
The basics of the dish are rice noodles and heaps of vegetables, like coriander, basil, mint and green onion. What elevates the ingredients above other wok dishes is the addition of a pork-and-herb eggroll, pieces of grilled pork belly and roasted garlic.
The result is best described as harmonious. Sweet and spicy, soft and hard, with no one ingredient overpowering any other, it captures the essence of Vietnamese cuisine. You’ll wonder why you never considered adding an eggroll to noodles before.
Price: NIS 58
While you’re there: Acquaint yourself with one the restaurant's signature dishes, sirloin tartare with Indonesian peanut sauce.
44 - 29 Nahalat Binyamin St.
5. Che cao lau wong at Zepra
Chef Avi Conforti has had a long, torrid love affair with Asian cuisine. The lovechild is his restaurant Zepra, which offers more than one hundred different dishes from various Asian traditions. It’s one of the few places in Israel where you can get a taste of Cambodian or Indonesian food.
The dish: In Vietnam, che cao lau wong has a street named after it an at least one restaurant dedicated entirely to it. Traditionally, fish or meat is served in a scalding hot skillet in the center of the dining table. Every diner takes a piece and places it in their bowl of noodles, adding herbs and seasoning to their taste. At Zepra, Conforti does the work for you, combining rice noodles, nouc cham sauce made from lime and chilis, Kaffir lime, lemon grass and Vietnamese basil – all at room temperature on a single large plate. The dish is crowned with grilled codfish delicately crusted with turmeric root and a finished off twist of dill.
Price: NIS 109
While you’re there: Start with one of the fruit juices and the popcorn shrimp – you’ve never tasted anything like it.
Zepra - 96 Yigal Allon St.