The Best Southeast Asian Noodles in Los Angeles County

Beef stew egg noodles at Kim Kee Noodle House | Photo by Dylan Ho

In cultures around the world, noodles are an integral part of everyday life, from waiting two hours outside of a ramen stall in Japan to the instant form that’s become a rite of passage for college undergrads. Noodles offer therapy for those feeling under the weather or homesick, or to begin the healing process after a night of overindulgence. Whatever the case, for millions of people hardly a day goes by without noodles at some point.

Los Angeles and its surrounding areas offer a lot of heavy noodling, and for aficionados there’s even more enjoyment to be found with noodles than Chinese dumplings. During the late 1970s, the Vietnam War caused an influx of Asian immigration into the United States. The people of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) sought refuge here and they brought the one thing that kept them alive for generations: noodles. A key influence on the noodle dishes from these countries are the Southeast Chinese from the province of Chiu Chow (pronunciation in Cantonese), Chao Zhou (pronunciation in Mandarin), Trieu Chau (pronunciation in Vietnamese) and Teo Chew (pronunciation in Thai/Cambodian).

Historically, the Chiu Chow Chinese are some of the smartest, fastest-moving, hardest-working merchants and sojourners of the Chinese diaspora. Their footprints can be tracked in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Taiwan (Fujian), Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and even the Philippines. Essentially, they are everywhere, and so is their food. When you walk into a restaurant that offers 3-4 different languages on the menu, you're most likely in a Chiu Chow establishment. It will usually be Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and sometimes Thai.

The following round-up of some of the best noodles in Los Angeles County focuses on dishes from Southeast Asia's "Golden Triangle" and Southeast China (Chao Zhou/Fujian/Hainan provinces).

House Combination at New Kamara | Photo by Dylan Ho

New Kamara

If you're into noodles, there are a few hidden gems in Chinatown in case you don't want to drive into the San Gabriel Valley. After the Heang family left New Kamara nearly three years ago to return to Cambodia, it was reclaimed by a nice Cambodian man named Khien Chhun, who had worked previously at the popular Hak Heang Restaurant in Long Beach's Cambodia Town. The House Combination noodle soup is recommended for breakfast, consisting of pork balls, boiled pork, ground pork, shrimp and slices of kidney. You can order it with soup or you can order it "dry," meaning a seasoning sauce is mixed in and it comes with a bowl of pork leg bone soup. Try this with thin, yellow egg noodles. Their version of pork wontons (hoanh thanh) have a nice bite to them. Non-noodle dishes you might like include Cambodian fried leek cakes and Cambodian-style steak cubes over rice (Vietnamese shaking beef: bo luc lac).

Thai Boat Noodles at Pa Ord | Photo by Dylan Ho

Pa Ord

Lawan Bhanduram is truly a noodle connoisseur. She has owned several noodle shops in Thai Town Hollywood and the Valley, and does in fact sell soup noodles from a boat when she goes back to Thailand. Thanks to a restaurant expansion you won't have to wait as long at Pa Ord for her specialty: the Thai Boat Noodle, a Thai take on Chinese Beef Noodle Soup but with more attitude and offally goodness. The broth is tinted with various Thai seasoning sauces, pork blood and spiced heavily with five spice powder and served with fried pork belly, pork blood cubes, beef tripe and pork liver. What's great about Thai noodle shops is that many of the dishes come in small sizes so that you can sample more than one. But you'll probably end up ordering another bowl of Thai Boat Noodles. Warning: the Thai definition of spicy is completely off from American spicy. Mild is already enough for most people. If you ask for hot, they may make you sign a waiver.

Khanom jin namya at Pailin Thai | Photo by Dylan Ho

Pailin Thai

At Pailin Thai, owner Andy Markkern offers your standard Thai fare as well as Isan (Esaan) specialties, and the latter is what you'll want to order. Isan refers to the Northeast region of Thailand that borders Laos. Markkern's khanom jin namya is a delicious Thai take on a childhood favorite, a Lao fish and coconut milk noodle dish called khao pun. A spicy curry with house-made fish paste, herbs and bean sprouts is served over some Thai vermicelli. If you loved the offals at Pa Ord, then you may also love what can be referred to as Thai-style "menudo." This five-spiced broth contains pork tongue, kidneys, stomach, liver and pork blood cubes. The rice starch noodles used are originally square but roll up once they are boiled. The khao soi here is also done really well.

Khao soi at O-Chai | Photo by Dylan Ho


Khao soi is Chiang Mai, Thailand’s signature dish. Typically overshadowed in Thai restaurants by noodle dishes like pad thai, rad nar and pad kee mow, khao soi is a must for its beautiful colors and flavor profile. Tender chicken swims in a rich and silky coconut curry with slippery egg noodles, topped with Chinese pickled mustard greens and tear-inducing shallots to balance out everything. What many people don’t know is that this dish isn’t originally from Thailand, but rather a surviving memory of centuries of migratory movement due to political turmoil, war and general commerce originating in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. The Yunnan Chinese brought this dish to Myanmar (ohn no khao sway) and Chiang Mai, Thailand (khao soi) and both have created their own renditions with local ingredients. Luckily, the good people at O-Chai have saved you the trip and offer a beautifully balanced bowl of khao soi in a humble little strip mall. The khao soi is all you should order from O-Chai, which gets huge bonus points for offering drumsticks in their khao soi when other places give you super dry chicken breast or slightly tough chicken thigh.

Shan noodles at Yoma Myanmar | Photo by Dylan Ho

Yoma Myanmar

The Shan tribe is one of 125+ ethnic tribes in Northern Myanmar and believed to originate from Yunnan, China. The Shan noodles at Yoma Myanmar are served with al dente rice noodles and topped with a flavorful heap of braised chicken and spices. Add a little bit of the accompanying soup to loosen up the chicken spice paste. The crushed fried garlic and peanuts adds great flavor and texture and is very similar to the noodles served at Phnom Penh Noodle. There's also ohn no khao sway, which is the Burmese version of Thailand's khao soi dish. In addition to Golden Triangle and Jasmine Market, you can sample more Burmese food at an annual Burmese food festival held by the SoCal Burmese Association.

Bun bo hue at Nha Trang | Photo by Dylan Ho

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is a tiny noodle shop in a strip mall, with just over a dozen seats. It is also the home to some of the San Gabriel Valley’s most favored version of Central-region soup noodles called bun bo hue. It is a spicy, lemongrass soup noodle sure to enhance your senses for its color and aroma. There is a beautiful mix of tender beef shank, toothsome pork blood cubes, pork foot and tasty, slippery vermicelli brought over many decades ago from Yunnan, China. A few pieces of hand-torn basil, mint and peril herbs, and you'll understand why the Vietnamese are true noodle masters. Something to keep in mind is that the owner opened a larger location on Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park. The original location is recommended because when the boss is present, the staff are always on top of their jobs and making better food. Other standout noodle dishes include mi quang (dry-mix yellow noodles with pork & shrimp) and bun rieu (crab/pork and tomato/dill vermicelli soup). Note that these final two dishes may only be available at the newer location.

Boss Noodles at Kim Kee Noodle | Photo by Dylan Ho

Kim Kee Noodle House

Phillip and Shirley Hui own three noodle shops: Kim Kee Noodle (South El Monte), Noodle Cafe (Monterey Park) and Kim Ky Noodle (Alhambra). It's basically equivalent to an American coffee shop serving eggs, pancakes and toast. At 7 a.m., you’ll find people of all ages filling up their stomachs with noodles, porridge, rice and Chinese cruller doughnuts. Hui is from the Chiu Chow province and offers both Chiu Chow and Hong Kong-style noodles. You'll want to try the "Boss Noodles" (老 板 麵), which is Phillip's most simple yet delicious noodle. Specially-imported thin egg noodles are blanched for seconds, then topped with crispy shallots, ginger/scallion slivers and a nice hit of Chinese shrimp roe “bottarga” (蝦 仔) for some umami points. Two spoonfuls of accompanying broth, some red vinegar and white pepper, and you’re in noodle heaven. Make sure they aren't being shy with that shrimp “bottarga”, you'll want more. 

The egg noodle in beef stew (潮 式 牛 腩 麵, hu tie bo kho) is also worth ordering if you're into Vietnamese-style beef stew (bo kho). This is done the Chiu Chow way, and compared to the Vietnamese version, it is much richer and alive with with anise/dried orange peel. You can have this with your choice of rice or egg noodles (or both if you like) or with bread. It's very comforting on a cold day.

Kim Kee offers a delicious and approachable pork kidney dish sauteed with ginger/scallion slivers and a sweet soy sauce. The texture of the kidneys in this non-noodle dish is really nice.

House Special at Vinh Loi Tofu | Photo by Dylan Ho

Vinh Loi Tofu

Ten years ago, Vinh Loi Tofu owner Kevin Tran decided to give up meat and started training for marathons and triathlons. But it was hard for him to give up the Vietnamese food he grew up on in Vietnam. Using his creativity, he recreated vegan versions of the most popular dishes in Vietnam including pho, bun bo hue and charbroiled pork rolls. If you're a vegan/vegetarian looking to eat healthy, tasty versions of Vietnamese food, Vinh Loi Tofu is your answer. You’ll surely feel less guilty plunging your teeth into a soy-based "pork patty" roll with vegan peanut dipping sauce. If you ask Kevin what to order, he'll point you to the House Special noodle, which is sort of a vegan take on hu tieu saté. The broth is cleverly composed of daikon and jicama to replicate the sweet broth that’s typically made from boiling pork bones, dried squid, fish sauce and rock sugar.

Phnom Penh Noodle | Photo by Dylan Ho

Phnom Penh Noodle

In Long Beach, you can find Cambodia Town, a small but concentrated enclave of Cambodians. Though not as large as Koreatown or Little Saigon, there are enough restaurants out there for you to enjoy. The second you walk into Phnom Penh Noodle, you'll get that family-run feeling as the young staff greets you in what was formerly someone's house. You can get the same dish mentioned above from New Kamara, the eponymous Phnom Penh Noodle with thin rice noodles. It's the closest thing to noodles in Cambodia, and you'll love the extra hit of fried garlic for flavor and texture. You're also served a bowl of pork leg bone soup. Try ordering some of their freshly-fried Chinese crullers to dip in the soup. This place is heavily packed in the mornings, but it's well worth the wait.