When it's sweltering outside and it feels like you could boil noodles in the atrocious New York City humidity, there's only one seriously slurpable way to cool down: cold noodles.
Soba, udon, ramen and all kinds of pastas are all hugely refreshing when served cold for your summertime carbo-loads. Restaurants specializing in the cuisines of East and Southeast Asia are particularly adept at these hot weather adaptations.
Below, a handful of spots to fill up while cooling down.
Soybean Kong Ramen at MokBar, ($13) Imagine a savory iced soy latte but filled with noodles when imagining this dish at Chelsea Market Korean hotspot MokBar. A chilled soybean and black sesame broth offers the perfect pool for a nest of thin ramen noodles, noodle-like cucumber slices (like zoodles, but crispier) and garlic roasted tomatoes that offer a juicy burst of flavor. Completely vegan, this cold soup is provides a nice cool down after a walk on the High Line. Mokbar also serves two other cold ramen dishes, a 'miyeok' ramen ($15) that's the cold soup equivalent of a seaweed salad complete with green tea noodles and a 'yachae' 'bibim' ramen ($15), basically the cold noodle version of bibimbap.
75 Ninth Avenue, (646) 964-5963; website
Hiyashi Udon at Raku, ($9) This chilly udon is served in ice water with a cherry on top (yes, a fresh cherry). Though the small subterranean restaurant is sufficiently air conditioned, we understand the temptation to press this chilly bowl against your sweaty bod on a sweltering day. The noodles, however, are to be plunged straight into your mouth after a quick dip in a side cup of sauce. Imported from Japan, these special skinny udon noodles are designed to be served chilled for that extra snap and all around coolness.
342 East 6th Street, (212) 228-1324; website
Cold sesame noodles at Sheng Wang ($4, cash only) Veer left as you descend into Chinatown's Sheng Wang: You'll get the best air conditioning action at the tables under the handwritten poster board menus. To eat: Slick noodles drenched in sesame oil and soy sauce with just enough bok choy on top to make stuffing your face with a plate piled with wheat noodles feel healthy. Served slightly cooler than room temperature, these noodles can be consumed for a quick lunch in a matter of minutes. They're cheaper than an iced latte. Pair with a can of Jia Duo Bao iced tea and you'll almost forgot the horrendous humidity outside.
27 Eldridge Street, (212) 925-0805
Tsukemen at Momosan Ramen and Sake ($14) A consistent crowd even in the sweltering heat of a midtown summer day at Morimoto's newest restaurant proves that it's never not ramen season. Opt for the tsukemen, a dipping ramen served with a side of soup just slightly warmer than the weather outside. Thick noodles in garlic oil are served chilled with a wedge of lime, almost like a noodle cocktail, topped with bamboo shoots, a thin slice of pork and a soft boiled egg. Mixing the runny yolk with the noodles and a few miniature spoonfuls of the communal hot sauce could be enough flavor to this chilly noodle bowl, but some may enjoy dipping bundles of noodles into the rich tonkotsu sauce, too.
342 Lexington Avenue, (646) 201-5529; website
(courtesy Xi'an Famous Foods)
Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods ($5) These, thick chewy noodles serve as the perfect template to absorb the fail-proof combo of soy sauce, black vinegar, garlic and as much chili oil as you can handle—sweat it out, it's summer—that makes up Xi'an's noodle sauce. Served icy cold with crisp bean sprouts and cucumber slices, along with spongey gluten and a generous toss of fresh cilantro, the only fault with this dish is not being able to get the slippery noodles from your chopsticks to your mouth fast enough. Gluten haters can instead cool down with Xi'an's Mi Pi Cold Rice Noodles, introduced last summer and nearly as good as their gluten-full older siblings. These thin rice noodles tangle together in a cold, tangy sauce with just a few bean sprouts to add some crunchy texture.
Xi'an's noodles come with an ominous warning that takeout noodles will NOT taste as good as eating them fresh in the store, so plan your dining location appropriately.
Multiple locations in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan; website
Noodles with Mashed Sesame Sauce at Vanessa's Dumplings ($4) The sesame noodles at Vanessa's Dumplings are a bargain summer staple. Served cool and coated in nutty sauce, with a heap of carrots and cucumbers, these thick wheat noodles are worthy of replacing any summer sandwich and probably should at any and all picnics. Upgrade to a topping of homemade chili oil for $.46 for some extra heat.
Multiple locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn; website
Design your own Cold Noodle Salad at Vien ($10.50) This unsuspecting order-at-the counter Vietnamese interpretation to Chipotle is a fantastic spot for a heaping portion of cold noodles. The chilled rice noodle base, made from thin vermicelli strands of rice noodle, serves as the perfect starting point for a customizable bowl topped with grilled ginger beef, seared turmeric tofu, lemongrass chicken, slow-cooked pork or spice roasted vegetables. Top with a variety of garnishes including spicy bird's eye chilies, fresh herbs and an avocado smash, i.e. guac, which is $1.50 extra.
Spicy and sweet sauces can be drizzled on top and portions are generous enough to rival Vien's Mexican-style chain competitor. Ingredients are sourced from local farms and producers, so you can feel good about eating the giant portion of cold noodle salad. Just a few blocks from the Hudson River, this takeout chilled noodle bowl comes picnic-ready.
220 Varick Street, (212) 255-8808; website
Cold Sesame Noodles at Han Dynasty ($7.95) It's hotter uptown and therefore the noodles are cooler. Well, kind of. Han Dynasty's uptown restaurant uses a thinner Taiwanese noodle in its cold sesame noodle dish, as opposed to the thicker noodles of Han Dynasty's East Village location. These more authentic noodles stay springier longer, and hold up to the thick coating of not-too-sweet peanut sauce. Think peanut butter toast, but cooler and really easy to shove in your mouth with chopsticks. Visit during happy hour, 5 -7 p.m. on weeknights, for $5 beers, $6 wine and $7 well drinks.
215 West 85th Street, (212) 390-8685; website
Hiyashi Chuka at Jin Ramen ($14) An unintentional twist on every Midwestern mom's favorite summer slaw with ramen noodles, this ramen salad is too good to bring to a potluck. Cold curly noodles are dressed in a lemon soy vinaigrette and twist well with the tomato, cucumber and bean sprout garnish. Topped with pickled ginger and tempura flakes for extra texture and flavor, diners can also opt for ham, tofu or chashu pork (+$2) to top the zesty cold noodle salad.
462 Amsterdam Avenue, (646) 657-0755 and 3183 Broadway, (646) 559-2862; website
Naengmyun at Gammeeok ($13) Escape the sweaty streets of Herald Square with a visit to K-town 24-hour restaurant Gammeeok. Order a bowl of Naengmyun, which features homemade thin potato noodles bathing in an icy slushy of cold broth. Thin slices of cucumber, Korean pear, beef and a soft egg help break up the starchiness in this savory soup.
9 West 32nd Street, 2nd Floor, (212) 868-1180
Zaru Soba at Cocoron ($8.80) Homemade soba noodles are presented on a platter as tempting as a free stretch of beach on a hot summer day. Available with various toppings and sauces, Cocoron's magnificent noodles are best enjoyed in the buff, with a quick dip in bonita-based soba sauce stirred with your desired amount of wasabi and scallion. The pile of noodles is far too easy to devour, so pace yourself with an iced green tea before putting in a second order.
61 Delancey Street, (212) 925-5220; website
Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar ($14) This cold ramen dish brings on some heat with crumbly Sichuan sausage, but feel free to add more hot sauce if you need to sweat it out. Noodles are topped with cashews, which add a satisfying crunch and just enough greens to color your Instagram happy.
171 First Avenue, (212) 777-7773; website
Bun at Saiguette ($10.50) When it's too hot for pho, this casual Vietnamese joint within walking distance of Morningside, Riverside and Central Parks is perfect for a quick order of cold noodles. Bun, rice noodles served room temperature, is available with a variety of not-cold proteins, including spring rolls, grilled shrimp, pork belly and more, and is topped with very-cold toppings including bean sprouts, lettuce and cucumber. Pour a generous portion of nuoc chom sauce on top, mix it up, and you're in for a lovely symphony of flavors and textures. Pair with a bubble iced coffee, because summer.
935 Columbus Avenue, (212) 866-8886; website
Melissa Kravitz moved to New York City in 2009 and has been writing about food ever since. Her work can be seen on Thrillist, Mashable, Elite Daily, First We Feast and more. She eats mostly noodles and is working on a novel.