Between the animal parts floating around in your soup and the raw leaves and stalks in front of you, it can be easy to be intimidated by a bowl of Asian noodles. But don’t worry—we’ve got your back so you can identify and enjoy exactly what you’re slurping.



Photo by Shantal Cheong

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup comprised of broth, thin rice noodles, herbs and meat (typically chicken or beef). It is served with a variety of garnish options that include bean sprouts, basil, sliced lime or lemon and sliced chiles.

Bonus: it’s also a recommended hangover cure by many bleary-eyed college students.


Original ramen

Photo by Gabby Phi

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish, served with wheat noodles in a meat-based broth. The two most common varieties of ramen are tonkotsu (pork bone broth-based) and miso (a Japanese seasoning made with fermented soybeans). The dish is often finished off with an extensive list of toppings, including but not limited to braised pork, boiled eggs, sprouts, bamboo shoots, dried seaweed, corn and butter.

In American college culture, “ramen” has come to refer to a variety of instant noodles, which, although tasty, are not based on the Japanese cousin.

Lo Mein/Chow Mein

Veggie Chow Mein in Vancouver, BC

Photo courtesy of SweetOnVeg

Lo mein or chow mein is a Chinese dish characterized by wheat flour or egg noodles, vegetables and some type of meat or seafood. The noodles are usually tossed with seasonings and soy sauce, giving the dish a brownish tint. Both have become extremely popular in the United States in American-Chinese restaurants and as take-out.

Chow mein is usually fried to varying degrees of crispiness while the noodles in lo mein are kept soft.

Pad Thai

Lauren Eiden-Pad Thai

Photo by Lauren Eiden

Pad Thai consists of stir-fried rice noodles, eggs and tofu. It is flavored with a mixture of fish sauce, tamarind juice and red chili, which results in a sweeter flavor. The dish may also come with chopped peanuts, chives and bean sprouts, among other options.

Want to know more about the type of noodle in each dish? We break it down for you right here.