Try Something New: Three Noteworthy Noodle Bowls

Chen's kitchen cooks beef shank for hours until it's soft as butter.
Chen's kitchen cooks beef shank for hours until it's soft as butter. Mark Antonation
On hot summer days, a steaming bowl of noodle soup doesn't appeal to many people, but some tropical regions boast a tried-and-true tradition of slurping soup on the muggiest days in order to restore energy and balance body temperature. Then again, other cultures switch to chilled noodles in order to cope with sultry weather as the sun hits its peak. Take your pick — sweating it out or cooling down — with four new noodle dishes in town, three hot and one cold.

click to enlarge If you've never had Guilin rice noodles, you'll like them — as long as you like pork belly and brisket. - MARK ANTONATION
If you've never had Guilin rice noodles, you'll like them — as long as you like pork belly and brisket.
Mark Antonation

Chinese Noodles

12393 East Mississippi Avenue, Aurora

If you're on a quest for Chinese noodles, you couldn't follow a brighter beacon than the illuminated name of Chinese Noodle, an Aurora newcomer slotted in alongside Pacific Ocean Marketplace. This noodle house deals in the very specific rice noodle soups of China's Guangxi province. Two signature bowls stand out as unique in metro Denver: Luosi rice noodles and Guilin rice noodles. While many traditional Chinese dishes date back thousands of years, Luosi is only about forty years old, and was supposedly the invention of a shopkeeper in the city of Liuzhou, who created a broth from local snails and beef bones. Since the region now exports a snail-broth powder, you won't find escargot-like pieces in your bowl, but the dark liquid has a lovely savory flavor supplemented with wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, pickled vegetables and crunchy peanuts.

More familiar is the rice-noodle soup from the city of Guilin. Thick, chewy rice noodles are coated in a small amount of clingy sauce and served with slices of brisket and pork belly, along with pickled green beans, peanuts and scallions. A side of mild broth is provided as a palate cleanser between bites; you can also add it to the bottom of your noodle bowl so that you can spoon up the last of the tasty bits.
click to enlarge Broad noodles differentiate the beef noodle soup at Chen's Kitchen. - MARK ANTONATION
Broad noodles differentiate the beef noodle soup at Chen's Kitchen.
Mark Antonation

Chen's Kitchen

5934 South Kipling Parkway, Littleton

Braised beef noodle soup isn't a rare find; you can enjoy it at some of Denver's top Chinese eateries. But Chen's is a little different, relying on broad wheat noodles instead of the more typical round, thin variety. Ribbons of noodles with ruffled edges swim in beefy broth beneath hearty slabs of braised beef shank that the restaurant uses instead of the more well-known brisket. Beef shank isn't pretty to look at, with that signature oscillation of fat down the center, but it's cooked until it almost melts, so sometimes it has already fallen apart before it reaches your table. Bok choy and scallions add just enough vegetable crunch, like a reminder from Mom to eat healthy. Get the soup with a side of dry tofu or roasted peanuts to double up on the warming spices.

click to enlarge Chill with Gaku Ramen's hiyashi chuka. - COURTESY GAKU RAMEN
Chill with Gaku Ramen's hiyashi chuka.
Courtesy Gaku Ramen

Gaku Ramen

1119 13th Street, Boulder

Japan's chilled noodle dish isn't an ancient tradition, but has been a summer cooler for the past century. Gaku Ramen is new to Boulder and specializes in creating ramen and other eats in true Japanese fashion. The hiyashi chuka here comes as more of a salad-like composition than a bowl of soup, with julienned omelet, cucumber and pickled ginger topping a bowl of cold noodles. The recipe veers a little from the norm, with a topping of chicken chashu, a poultry version of what's normally braised pork belly. Instead of a brimming bowl of broth, you'll get a shallow pool of shoyu sauce (with the consistency of a thin gravy) that coats the springy noodles nicely. Think of it as a Japanese version of a Cobb salad: refreshing, healthy and perfect for summer.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation