There would be a hole in Manhattan's heart without its Chinatown. The buzzy, crowded lower tip of the borough is home to the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere, as well as more than just a few culinary landmarks in the city. It's a self-sustaining enclave of Chinese people, culture, traditions, and food that is actively resisting gentrification and the rise of property ownership changes against the favor of longtime locals. But as Chinatown changes and modernizes for better or for worse, plenty of the neighborhood's small, family-run noodle shops — new and centuries old — are still holding strong.
What is the most beautiful thing about noodles? Hard to say, but they're an important vector of flavor. Noodles do the heavy lifting of carrying a painter's palate of flavors and ingredients to our tongues, warming and filling the insides as they go down. In this guide, we factor in each menu's authenticity and consistency, as well as the restaurant's word-of-mouth reputation. Let's take you inside the labyrinth of narrow streets, steamy windows, and late-night haunts to steer you to some of the best noodles Manhattan's Chinatown has to offer.
Xi'an Famous Foods
Xi'an Famous Foods opened its first location in Flushing, Queens in 2005. It claims to be the first restaurant to introduce the U.S. to the cuisine of Xi'an, a city in the Shaanxi province of northwestern China known for its unique blend of Chinese and Middle Eastern influences. The first Chinatown location of the restaurant opened in 2011, and today, the Xi'an Famous Foods empire is 13 outposts strong. It also happens to be one of our favorite spots for vegan noodles in NYC.
The menu at Xi'an Famous Foods is chock full of hand-torn biang-biang noodles, a type of fat, thick noodle characteristic of the Shaanxi province. One of the most popular iterations of the noodle at the restaurant is the liang pi, or cold-skin noodles: The chewy biang-biang noodles are tossed in chili oil, soy sauce, black rice vinegar, and garlic with cilantro, bean sprouts, cucumber, and house-made gluten cubes, which have a texture akin to springy tofu. The liang pi is vegetarian, but it has the umami and depth of flavor of a hearty, meat-forward dish. If you're missing the meat, get your biang-biang with spicy cumin lamb for a gamey and piquant kick in the tongue.
45 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013
Mei Lai Wah
Mei Lai Wah has been a Chinatown bakery staple since the 1960s, but it's more than just a bakery. When the original location closed in 2008, it shook locals and food-seeking tourists alike. But the reopening eight years later has led the bakery on a solid path — in the summer of 2023, Mei Lai Wah opened a second location, called Mei Lai Wah Wonton Noodle, on Pell Street.
While the pork buns are still all the rage, Mei Lai Wah's noodles are certainly deserving of their roses, as well. The wonton noodle soup features spools of yellow egg noodles in a rich but super clean chicken broth with soft wontons and scallions. Not feeling soup? Opt for the pan fried rice noodles coated in funky and umami-laden XO sauce with bell peppers and mung bean sprouts, or the curried, earthy Singapore rice noodles.
62 Bayard St, New York, NY, 10013
Yi Ji Shi Mo
There are plenty unassuming, plain-signed duck-downs scattered around the corners of Manhattan's Chinatown. Often, these spots are the neighborhood's best kept secrets. Yi Ji Shi Mo on Elizabeth Street is one of them, and it focuses on steamed rice noodle rolls: A traditional Cantonese item from the Guangdong province that you can typically find rolling around on dim sum carts worldwide. Steamed rice rolls, also known as cheung fun, are made from a mixture of rice flour and tapioca starch and can be filled with a variety of vegetables and proteins.
At Yi Ji Shi Mo, steamed rice noodle rolls are made from scratch from rice flour that is freshly milled each morning. The slurry of rice flour and starch is steamed to order, and the resulting noodle is served paper thin and steamy, teeming with the ingredients of your choice, and covered in savory-sweet black soy sauce.
88 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013
Shu Jiao Fu Zhou
If you're jonesing for a variety of noodles, or you're hopelessly undecided on what kind of noodles you want, Shu Jiao Fu Zhou is the place to be. This cash-only joint slings Fujianese noodles of all sorts, but it's known for its signature peanut butter noodles. These babies aren't much more than a disposable white plate full of wheat noodles and peanut butter soy sauce, but they're dangerously addicting and only $3 — a literal pittance these days in New York City.
Fujianese cuisine has a reputation for being light, clean, and flavorful, and this holds true at Shu Jiao Fu Zhou. The food here is so modestly-priced and delicious that it would be a shame to not get a few different things to try. Grab some minced beef or beef tripe soup with thick rice noodles, and maybe even a heaping plate of chicken and mushroom dumplings without spending more than $20.
295 Grand St, New York, NY 10002
If you're looking for something to keep you warm against the often-brutal New York winters, look no further than Spicy Village, a Henan-style noodle house with chili oil practically oozing from its walls. Opened in 2010 as Henan Feng Wei, Wendy Lian and her husband, Ran Fu Li, have since been putting the food of their homeland on the map. The Henan province is famed for being the starting place of the ancient Silk Road trading route, but it's also renowned for its harmonious balance of all five tastes, especially in its fried and stewed noodles.
At Spicy Village, there many of such varieties, but one reigns supreme — the da pan ji, or "big tray chicken." This behemoth of a meal is a nest of hand-torn wheat noodles served in a spicy chili oil-laden broth with a mountain of bone-in chicken and cilantro. The noodles are delicately textured, chewy, and satisfying, soaking up the savory, anise-y numbing broth they wade in. The chicken is tender at the bone gristle in some parts, but in the best way possible.
68 Forsyth St, Unit B, New York, NY 10002
One of the best (or worst, depending on who you are) kept secrets in New York's Chinatown noodle lore is Super Taste, an impossibly tiny and narrow shop on the edge of the neighborhood, which also opened a second location on the Upper East Side in 2023. The Chinatown spot, which conveniently borders Two Bridges and the Lower East Side, serves cure-all, sinus-clearing Lanzhou fare.
The terse menu is relegated to a few noodle soups and dumplings, all of which are unbeatable. The most popular, though, is the Mount Qi beef noodle soup. The name is referential to the Battle of Mount Qi, which occurred during the Three Kingdoms era around the modern-day Gansu province, where Lanzhou is the capital. The beefy broth is dazzled with chili oil, peas, and corn, and is made fragrant by fistfuls of cilantro and chopped scallions. Down under await chewy, round wheat noodles that seem to have infinite length.
26 N Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002
While Chinatown is known for its hyper-specialized, hyper-local restaurants, there are some that do a little bit of everything really well. Noodle Village is one of those places, serving up Cantonese noodles, xiao long bao, wonton soup, and congee in a cozy spot tucked away on Mott Street. It is even said by some that Noodle Village has the best wonton soup in Chinatown.
There's a lot to love at Noodle Village, so bringing a few friends will behoove you: You get to try a bunch of stuff with your pals. First, definitely order the wonton soup, but the way you choose is up to you. The wontons are silky smooth and ultra-thin without succumbing to the rich broth they soak in. The wonton noodle soup brings on the addition of a nest of egg noodles, which adds a bit of textural variety in the bowl. Also delicious are the Shanghai soup dumplings and the various warm and stew-y congees to pick from.
13 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Right next door to Noodle Village is Wo Hop, a restaurant that has become rather famous after being named America's Classics Winner by the James Beard Foundation in 2022. This basement-level joint opened to the public in 1938 and has been wall-to-wall crowded ever since, but especially now.
Much of the fare at Wo Hop is Chinese American, reflective of the ingredients available in the United States during the early days of immigration. Steamy and savory chow fun and lo mein share the menu with Hunan-style crispy sea bass and Sichuan-style string beans. Try the jajangmyeon — Korean-Chinese noodles with black bean sauce — which are thick, hearty, and coated in a dark and umami-rich sauce made of the fermented black beans. Wo Hop is also renowned for its dumplings, which are made fresh daily, boiled, and pan fried to a crispy golden brown.
17 Mott St, Basement, New York, NY 10013
Great NY Noodletown
In 1981, Chinatown was graced by the presence of a new Hong Kong-style institution: Great NY Noodletown. Canonized food writer and former food critic of The New York Times Ruth Reichl wrote a gushing review about Noodletown in 1994, praising its wok chi, or "the elusive energy that comes from cooking food very fast at very high temperatures." This bustling spot is still as busy, quick-serving, and full of finesse as it was in the '90s, purveying some of the city's most delectable Cantonese cuisine.
Carnivores, vegetarians, pescatarians, picky eaters, and the adventurous among us will all fare equally well at Great NY Noodletown, with — you guessed it — noodles as the common denominator for mutual pleasure. Try the dainty-thin wontons in rich, translucent broth, the cracker-crisp pan-fried seafood noodles with yu choy and a light gravy, or some of the many barbecued meats hanging succulently in the window.
28 Bowery St, New York, NY 10003
Joe's Steam Rice Roll
The press and internet alike have been kind to Joe's Steam Rice Roll over the years. YouTube videos of the custardy slurry of rice flour and starch coagulating in great metal steam trays behind the counter at Joe's have gone viral, for example, while The New York Times gave the restaurant a rave review. The way the cheong fun are scraped up effortlessly, folded with ingredients, sliced, and plated up in seemingly one swift motion, is as mesmerizing as the result is delicious. Joe Rong, owner and chef of Joe's Steam Rice Roll, opened his first food stand in 2017. These days, he's got three locations around the city: two in Manhattan and one in Flushing, Queens.
The Chinatown location of Joe's Steam Rice Roll opened in November 2018. The restaurant stone-mills its own rice flour daily to make the batter for the jiggly and tender (and almost French omelette-like) rice rolls. Arguably the best thing on the menu is the chef's favorite: The Joe's Signature Rice Roll, which is a combination of pork, beef, dried shrimp, egg, and lettuce. Get it doused in sweet soy sauce and chili oil.
261 Canal St, New York, NY 10013
Home to the delightful, stick-to-your-ribs Cantonese breakfast favorite is the eponymous Congee Village. Though technically inside of the border of the Lower East Side, Congee Village is still an OG in the world of Chinatown necessities. As the restaurant's website states, "Cantonese people are very particular about the cooking of congee," and Congee Village has taken its craft seriously since opening in 1996, and then launching a Flushing, Queens location two decades later.
Congee Village's rice gruel is a subtle, sticky, and perfectly textured backdrop to various ingredients one might choose to throw into the mix, like pork floss or dried shrimp. That said, congee isn't all that's up to snuff here. Plenty of noodles of all varieties grace the menu at Congee Village, which serves heaping piles of chow mein and lo mein by the plate-load. Choose from an array of proteins, like beef, chicken, pork, or seafood, or even take a left turn toward the noodle soups. The soups are even more customizable with the added options of wontons or mushrooms.
100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
Vanessa's Dumpling House
Vanessa Weng opened her self-titled dumpling house on Eldridge Street in 1999 to fill a niche she felt was missing from the canon: dumplings. Technically another Lower East Side border-rider, Vanessa's Dumpling House is undoubtedly still an off-Chinatown classic. Weng's brand has since expanded exponentially, opening locations across the boroughs and the border into Jersey.
There is plenty in the way of crispy and supple pan-fried and boiled dumplings, with a little something on the menu for everyone. But the noodles at Vanessa's are not to be missed, either. Sichuan's classic dan dan noodles make a guest appearance on the menu, in all their chili-oil-drenched goodness, but are made with a spicy beef sauce (there's even a veganized version as an option) instead of the traditional minced pork. A bounty of noodle soups, from beef to hot and sour are also available. The thick and round wheat noodles are steamy, comforting, and just fine to eat right out of the quart deli container on a mid-afternoon winter walk.
118A Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002
Cafe Himalaya is a little against the grain in the way of Chinatown noodle shops for a few reasons: It's not Chinese, and it's technically not in Chinatown. It is, however, adjacent enough in both areas; but more importantly, its noodles are fantastic. Cafe Himalaya is a Tibetan hole-in-the-wall conjuring up some of the best cheap late-night eats in the East Village.
Known mostly for its momo — rounded little dumplings filled with chicken, beef, or vegetables — this spot has a few limited but choice noodle dishes that are integral to the menu. Vegetarians will rejoice at the tsel gyathuk ngopa, thin and flat sautéed wheat noodles with tofu, wilted greens, and scallions. The sauce is subtle, but you can choose your spice level. For a heartier meal, opt for the thukpa, a traditional Tibetan noodle soup chock full of veggies, with the option to add beef, chicken, or shrimp.
78 E 1st St, New York, NY 10009
One of the newer players in the Chinatown noodle game is a buzzy Vietnamese spot on the edge of the Lower East Side. Mắm started as a pop-up by husband-and-wife duo Jerald and Nhung Dao Head. The name Mắm means "sauce" in Vietnamese but refers to Mắm tôm. This fermented shrimp paste is used as the cornerstone of the menu item that put the restaurant on the map: bún đậu mắm tôm, a beautifully sectioned banana leaf-lined platter of silky fried tofu, pressed rice vermicelli noodles, various sausages and offal, and herbs galore.
The use of the noodle in bún đậu mắm tôm is notably a left turn from the other restaurants in this list, but it works, like the others, as a vector for the more concentrated flavors of the whole plate. It allows the palate to taste the intensity of the shrimp sauce, the silken brevity of the tofu, and the fragrance of the mountain of herbs. In more recent months, Mắm has been venturing out into a rotating menu, switching from hearty and clean Hanoi-style beef phở, spicy and aromatic bún bò huế, and sometimes a special few seatings of lẩu riêu cua — Vietnamese crab hot pot.
70 Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002
Wu's Wonton King
Any list about Manhattan's Chinatown would be hopelessly incomplete without spotlighting Wu's Wonton King. Opened in 2016 on the border of Chinatown and the Lower East Side near Dimes Square, this enormous restaurant is a godsend for groups looking for quick, reservation-less tables on any night of the week. With breezy seating and service inside or out, Wu's has a novel-length menu of Chinese classics, from peking duck to enormous Alaskin king crab, cooked fresh to order.
Wontons are, as you may imagine, king at Wu's. The wonton soup is some of the best and brightest in the city, and it's doled out by the ladleful tableside. But noodles swath across the menu in many fashions, from braised to pan-fried to souped-up. Try the saucy braised noodles with crab meat or the super-fine tai pang rice noodles with seafood -- to share, of course.
165 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002
This list was carefully curated with a few things at the forefront of the mind — authenticity, consistency, and reputation. We looked for restaurants that are purveying not only a sense of authenticity in its food, but actual, tangibly authentic cuisine that is representative of a particular group, region, nationality, or ethnicity. Authenticity spans from hyper-specific regional eats from Lanzhou to Hanoi, or Chinese-American hybrid classics.
Consistency is equivalent to a restaurant's dedication to quality and replay value. A restaurant that scores high in this category is undying in its commitment to delicious, honestly prepared food that never deviates from its flavor or quality. Finally, as arbitrary as reputation might be, it is a necessary evil to judge the "popularity" of a restaurant. How much buzz has the restaurant generated online and via word of mouth? Even the most underground and unmarked, frill-less haunts in New York will be quickly discovered, as this city's unbridled appetite for the next best spot is never satiated.
We hope you will use this guide as a means to patronize some of the most wonderful food in Manhattan's Chinatown, but by no means is it exhaustive. Use it as a reference point, not a framework — and do look beyond these restaurants to find others nearby that are just as delicious.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.