Noodles/pasta are the one universal comfort food that everyone loves. They are found in many cuisines around the world. The cooking variety of this water and flour mixture is its charm. It can be coated with a rich sauce, stir-fried, or even served with a hearty broth. Let’s slurp through a tiny culinary map of noodles and pasta!
1- Udon – Japan
Udon is not the typical thin noodle dish that you think you’d get when you first order it. The noodles are thick and chewy and made from wheat flour. There are many udon dishes in Japan, with a variety of toppings and seasonings. There is the classic udon noodle soup (also called Kake Udon) that is just a bowl of comfort, if I may say. It is so simple yet hearty and fulfilling. The umami broth is to die for.
It’s the perfect noodle dish that can be served hot on cold days or cold in the summertime. The soup broth is made from basic Japanese ingredients that include dashi (Japanese soup stock), soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and salt. There is also Curry Udon, which has the udon noodles covered with curry soup that is made from Japanese curry, which is very different from Indian curry. There is also Yaki Udon, Tempura Udon, Kitsune Udon, and much more. It all depends on your choice of toppings and broth!
2- Cacio e Pepe – Italy
We can’t talk about noodles from around the globe without mentioning Italian pasta. Cacio e Pepe is one of the most delicious creamy pasta dishes that you will ever come across, and its simplicity will draw you in. It translates to cheese and pepper, and it is as simple as that. It just has spaghetti, grated Pecorino cheese, and black pepper. Other ingredients can be added to make this dish a lot creamier, like butter. This ubiquitous pasta dish is a beloved cheap staple in Italy, so make sure you try it when you’re in Rome!
3- Chow mein – China
Chow mein is probably the most famous takeaway/takeout Chinese noodle dish. If you have ordered Chinese food before, you’ve probably come across it. But if you don’t know what it is, don’t worry! We got your back here.
Chow mein is a type of stir-fried noodle dish that is pretty famous in the West. ‘Chow’ means the action of stir-frying and ‘Mein’ is the general word for noodles. This noodle dish is typically composed of vegetables, any type of protein, egg noodles, and the sauce. All of these ingredients get stir-fried and Voila! The dish is ready, and you get one of the most mouthwatering noodle dishes. Garlic and scallions are included to give the perfect aroma for this dish.
Any protein option goes well in this dish, whether it’s chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, or even tofu. They get coated with a mixture of water, cornstarch, and sesame oil. The sauce is a very simple one that has the noodles evenly covered in a mixture of dark and light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and black pepper. Trust us when we tell you that you will be asking for more than one serving.
4- Pho – Vietnam
While Vietnam has many delicious and mouthwatering dishes, Pho might be the most famous one. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup made from aromatic beef broth, chewy rice noodles, and tender meat slices. For language lovers out there, ‘Pho’ is pronounced ‘Fuh.’ A classic bowl of Pho is typically made from beef and beef broth, but there can also be chicken pho and vegetarian pho.
Onions and ginger are essential to the broth. A mixture of spices is also added to the broth to enhance the flavour to the maximum. Spices can be customized but the utmost flavour would come from star anise, cardamom, fennel seeds and cinnamon. All the ingredients accentuate the broth and make this toothsome dish.
5- Japchae – South Korea
Korean food continues to gain popularity these days and it is well-deserved, honestly. Korean noodle dishes are top-notch. But we have a favourite and it is essential during the Korean festive holidays, and that is Japchae! The main ingredient of this dish is glass noodles, which are made from sweet potatoes. This dish requires marinated beef and stir-fried vegetables.
Japchae has the perfect balance of sweet and savoury flavours. The beef marinade is made of soy sauce, sugar, minced garlic, mirin, black pepper, and sesame oil. Noodles and vegetables are seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, and sesame oil. The vegetables should not be too soft or too crunchy. Slices of eggs omelette could be added to add flavour and colour to the dish. The best thing about Japchae is that it can be served hot or cold, so it’s perfect to have for your meals all year round!
6- Laksa – Southeast Asia
We have here another scrumptious noodle dish from Southeast Asia – Laksa. Laksa is a spicy noodle soup dish that is popular among street food vendors in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Laksa originated from Peranakan cuisine, which is a fusion of Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean cuisines. It is a mash-up of Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean flavours. There are two main types of Laksa: Curry Laksa and Asam Laksa.
Curry Laksa is what typically comes to mind when people think of Laksa. It is made of coconut milk, curry paste, and plenty of chilli pepper. Curry Laksa is a heavy dish, containing a lot of ingredients that complement the creamy soup. Such additives include fish balls, tofu puffs, noodles, and prawns or chicken. The noodles are either flat, thin rice noodles or yellow wheat noodles.
Asam Laksa is another version of Laksa. The soup base is typically made of fish broth and sour asam, which is usually tamarind. Spring onions, shrimp paste, and a spice paste are added to give an umami flavour to the dish. It is finished with a garnish of cucumber, pineapple, and mint to cool down the heat from the rest of the ingredients.
7- Kushari – Egypt
Considered a comfort food for many Egyptians, Kushari is packed with carbs, and most importantly, pasta. Two types of pasta go into this dish – spaghetti and ditalini or macaroni. When we tell you that it is packed with carbs, we are not kidding. Not only pasta is involved in this, but rice, chickpeas, and lentils are all essential to making Kushari.
A lashing amount of crispy fried onions are added on top of Kushari, giving the dish a delicious flavour and smell. Tomato sauce and a mixture of garlic, cumin, and vinegar sauce are what distinguish this pasta dish. Kushari is truly a dish of comfort and we will guarantee that you will be asking for more servings.
8- Pad Thai – Thailand
Pad Thai is another popular Asian noodle dish that is famous in both its native land, Thailand, and in Thai restaurants in other countries. ‘Pad’ means stir-fried and it is a noodle dish that is done in Thai style. This dish has a sweet, savoury, spicy, and nutty flavour all in one! The noodles that are used in this dish are rice noodles -they kind of look like fettuccine- and they are the perfect companion to all the other ingredients in a pad Thai dish.
The sauce is a mixture of chilli garlic sauce, tamarind paste, sugar, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots. The options for the protein added to this dish vary from shrimp, beef, and chicken, though the most traditional option is shrimp. Eggs and tofu are also incorporated in this stir-fried dish. The nutty flavour comes from the crushed peanuts that are added as a topping. Carrots, cilantro, bean sprouts, and spring onions or chives are also popular toppings to pad Thai.
9- Ramen – Japan
This is probably the most famous noodle dish that has been circulated around the world in the last 20 years. Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish and it is probably considered the national dish of Japan, after sushi. If you ask anyone what is the first word that comes to their mind when they hear ‘Japan,’ it would probably be one of these three words: anime, sushi, and ramen. The first fundamental of ramen is the broth. There are many types of soup and they are categorized according to the base.
There is Shoyu Ramen which is the most common type of ramen you will find in Japan. The soup is a clear, brown broth flavoured with soy sauce (shoyu) as the base. It is typically made out of chicken broth, but pork, beef, or fish can also be added. There is also Shio Ramen which is made out of chicken broth and seasoned with salt (shio).
The next two types are Miso Ramen and Tonkotsu Ramen, which are very unique on their own. Miso Ramen has miso (soybean paste) as its soup base, which results in a very creamy broth and complex flavour. Tonkotsu Ramen is made of boiling pork bones and the soup resulting from this is flavoured with chicken broth or pork fat.
The second fundamental of ramen is noodles. They can be thick or thin and straight or wavy. It can be customized to your liking. The third fundamental is the toppings. There is a wide variety of toppings and it all can be customized. Chashu is a common topping for ramen. They are fatty slices of braised or roasted pork. Seaweed is also commonly used for all types of ramen. Tamago is marinated eggs that are a popular topping as well. Whatever your taste is like, you will find the perfect ramen for your taste buds.
10- Dan Dan Noodles – China
This one is for all the spicy food enthusiasts. Dan Dan noodle dish is Sichuan’s speciality. It is spicy, nutty, meaty, and definitely addicting. It is beloved street food for all Sichuanese people and we are sure that it will be yours as well, once you try it. This scrumptious noodle dish has three fundamentals and they are essential for having it as authentic as possible.
A thick sauce is the first fundamental. It is made from Chinese sesame paste, chilli oil, ground Sichuan pepper, soy sauce, and black vinegar as the basic ingredients. Flavourful ingredients that go as toppings consist of minced meat, preserved vegetables, and fried peanuts. The classic plain wheat noodles are the third fundamental of this dish, along with some leafy vegetables.
11- Pad Kee Mao – Thailand
Rice noodles coated with a savoury, spicy sauce? That’s a yes from us! Pad Kee Mao is a Thai noodle dish that is literally translated to ‘Drunken Noodles.’ Thai people call it that because it is a great dish to have for a hangover and it is also a great company with a cold beer to wash off the spiciness of the dish. The noodles that are used in this dish are a bit unique in shape. They are wide rice noodles that are just perfect for holding the flavour of the dish in them.
Thai Holy Basil or Thai Basil leaves are what makes this dish special, along with the sauce. The sauce is made out of Thai red chilli paste, soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar to balance out the salt. Any type of protein is added to this dish and is stir-fried with a variety of vegetables.
12- Spaetzle – Germany
German has contributed to the grand noodles world with its authentic noodle dish, Spaetzle. Spaetzle is a Swabian speciality that is also popular in Austria and Switzerland. These noodles are basically egg noodles, but they look like they are condensed.
This dish is enjoyed with a variety of sauces and toppings and is perfect for feasts. It is actually a popular dish to find in Oktoberfest that is celebrated in Germany. Gravy is a well-known pairing with spaetzle. One of the most well-eaten variations of spaetzle is Kaesespaetzle, which is a cheese spaetzle casserole topped with crispy fried onions. This is sure to become your comfort food once you try it!
13- Haluski – Poland
One of the tastiest yet simplest noodle dishes comes from Poland. This dish combines egg noodles, cabbage, onions, and bacon or sausages all sauteed in a rich amount of butter. Cabbage and onions get caramelized in the butter and the bacon becomes crispier for the perfect haluski dish.
14- Aglio e Olio – Italy
Aglio e olio is one of the simplest yet most addictive pasta dishes in Italian cuisine. Spaghetti aglio e olio literally translates to ‘spaghetti with garlic and oil.’ Garlic, the star of the show, gets infused with olive oil till it is cooked to perfection. This infusion of olive oil and garlic gives the al dente salty spaghetti pasta an aromatic flavour. The dish is usually finished with a sprinkle of red peppers or red pepper flakes to give it a kick. Black pepper is also added to season the pasta.
15- Pastitsio – Greece
This one is the ultimate Greek comfort food. Pastitsio is one of the classic casserole Greek dishes. It is similar to moussaka but it replaces the eggplant layer with pasta. Pastitsio is made out of layers of pasta, meat sauce, and a creamy bechamel sauce. The typical pasta that is used in making Pastitsio is bucatini pasta, which is spaghetti-like with a hole in the centre. Penne and ziti pasta are also used.
The hearty meat sauce is made out of lean ground beef that gets browned with onions, wine, cinnamon, clove, and tomato paste. The bechamel sauce is very basic, with whisking all-purpose flour, milk, and butter in a pan till it gives us the creamy velvety sauce. Cheese is also added to the bechamel sauce to make it more toothsome!
16- Mie Goreng – Indonesia
If you are a fan of the sweet and savoury taste, you will love this noodle dish and often crave it. Mie Goreng is n Indonesian stir-fried noodle dish. It is very popular in other Southeast Asian countries as well. The key ingredient to the Mie Goreng sauce is kecap manis, which is Indonesian sweet soy sauce. It is added to ketchup, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
The most common protein used in this dish is a mixture of shrimp and chicken. They all get stir-fried with shredded cabbage, green onions and egg ribbons. The noodles used could be instant ramen noodles or any type of egg noodles. These ingredients are all added to the pan to make the possibly best sweet-savoury noodle dish you will come across.
17- Carbonara – Italy
Spaghetti alla carbonara is such an iconic and indulgent dish from Roman cuisine. This luscious pasta dish has simplicity at its core, yet it can be so addicting. Cooked spaghetti pasta gets coated with a creamy, velvety sauce that will make you come back for more. The traditional ingredients for this dish include guanciale, pecorino Romano cheese, eggs, black pepper, and of course, spaghetti.
There are other variations of this carbonara that substitute guanciale with pancetta or bacon and pecorino Romano cheese with parmesan. The eggs don’t get cooked in this dish, they are used instead to make the silky sauce, along with some fat from the guanciale. It’s definitely worth the try when you are visiting Rome or ordering from an Italian restaurant!
18- Mei Fun – Singapore
Singapore Mei Fun is one of the most popular menu items in Cantonese eateries and Chinese takeaways in America. Although it is called ‘Singapore Mei Fun,’ it has no association with Singaporean cuisine. It is believed that Mei Fun is a creation by Hong Kong chefs, with influence from Southeast Asian cuisine. This appetizing dish consists of rice vermicelli, crunchy vegetables, eggs, shrimp, and Chinese BBQ pork all seasoned with curry powder, soy sauce, and sesame oil. It is an easy dish but it is one that’s bursting with flavours.
19- Tallarines Verdes – South America
Tallarines Verdes, or Green Spaghetti, is a Peruvian pasta dish that is similar to pasta with pesto sauce. The source of the vibrant green colour comes from the spinach-basil sauce. This sauce has evaporated milk to make it creamier and less oily. This dish is hearty and will surely become your favourite if you are a fan of pesto-based dishes.
20- Túrós Csusza – Hungary
We are finishing this toothsome list with noodles from Hungarian cuisine. This dish contains cottage cheese as the main superstar. Túrós csusza has the perfect combination of hot and cold, with a portion of hot home-made egg noodles cooked with cottage cheese, and then a big scoop of cold cottage cheese that is then topped with hot and crispy bacon bits, and the final layer is a generous scoop of cold sour cream. This is the perfect comfort food from Hungarian gastronomy.