The Chinese are masters of the noodle universe, and you can taste that influence far and wide. Within China (and, increasingly, Atlanta), you'll find a mind-blowing variety of dishes fashioned out of wheat, rice, egg and starch noodles — from dan-dan noodles at Yummy Spicy in Doraville to Grandma noodles at Hai Authentic Chinese in Decatur. Some of Atlanta's best-crafted Asian noodles can be enjoyed seven days a week at LanZhou Ramen on Buford Highway. Through a window in the back of the room, you can watch knife-wielding noodle-lords slice strips of dough straight into steaming broth, or pull delicate threads by hand. The hand-stretched noodles are perfect in soups; I like the one with "stewed meatballs." The thicker, knife-cut noodles are ideal for stir-fries. In that category, the veggie version, with eggs, broccoli, wood-ear mushrooms, red peppers and sprouts, has great flavors and many textures.
LanZhou Ramen. 5231 Buford Highway, Doraville. 678-691-2175; lanzhouramenatlanta.com.
Pad Thai arguably is the most beloved noodle stir-fry in the Asian repertoire. For the so-called national dish of Thailand, rice noodles are bathed in a sweet-tangy sauce of palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind pulp, and tossed with egg, firm tofu, red chile peppers, garlic or shallots, dried shrimp, and additional protein, like shrimp or chicken. A sprinkle of crushed peanuts adds crunch; a squirt of lime imparts a sour note; and bean sprouts add a fresh-musty note. You can get a solid pad Thai at Little Bangkok on Cheshire Bridge Road, but lately I've taken a shine to the beautiful combo version at Hot Cafe, a Thai-Laotian hole-in-the-wall on Riverdale Road. Sweet but not cloying, it's a pleasing tangle of noodles with shrimp, calamari and imitation crabmeat. Fake crab is not my thing, but here it kinda works.
Hot Cafe. 5286 Riverdale Road, Atlanta. 770-996-6544, Facebook: Hot Cafe.
The cuisine of this southeast Asia nation has a number of Chinese-style noodle stir-fries, often with seafood (see the classic char kway teow). Perhaps the most distinctive Malaysian noodle bowls are the spicy, aromatic soups laced with curry and coconut milk. Curry laksa is a fine dish, and you can find a more than dependable treatment at Penang on Buford Highway. It’s a luscious coconut-curry soup, with medium-size rice noodles and enough tender chicken, shrimp and tofu to make it a complete meal-in-a-bowl.
Penang. 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee. 770-220-0308, penangchamblee.com.
You probably know about pho, the Vietnamese rice-noodle soup made with beef (and sometimes chicken) and showered with herbs. That iconic dish is everywhere now, but the Vietnamese eat noodles lots of ways: They wrap the rice vermicelli known as bun into summer rolls and use them as the cooling base for salads with chopped romaine, grilled pork, fresh herbs, sprouts, pickled veggies and spring rolls. The ingredients are mixed together and topped with the fish sauce-based condiment nuoc cham. You can enjoy many varieties of bun all over town, with beef, chicken, tofu and grilled shrimp. One delicious, harder-to-find bun is topped with cigars of chopped beef wrapped in lolot leaves. The newly opened Vietvana offers a killer version, stuffed with grilled beef and pork meatballs. (Look for “bo la lot” under the “bun” section). The cold noodles and lettuce are terrific counterpoints to the unctuous meat and herby lolot.
Vietvana. 2831 E. College Ave., Avondale Estates. 404-963-2757, vietvana.com.
Noodles are relatively new to Korea, according to Atlanta cookbook author and pop-up chef Seung Hee Lee. Koreans incorporated noodles into their everyday diet after the Korean War, Lee said, as a way of making use of flour donated by relief efforts. An exceptional spot for trying Korean noodles locally is Yet Tuh. I love the jjolmyeon ("chewy noodles"). Served cold, and tossed with shredded cabbage, carrots, garlic and bean sprouts, the funky, sinus-clearing jjolmyeon gets its reddish-orange hue from a blast of fermented chili paste.
Yet Tuh. 3042 Oakcliff Road, Doraville. 770-454-9292, Facebook: Yet Tuh Korean Restaurant.