Whenever I think of comfort food, one of the first images that pops in my head is a heaping bowl of noodles. A beloved food, noodles are tasty in every shape and form. However, we tend to focus on only a few types of noodles, such as pasta and ramen, and neglect the plethora of options available. Well, today, we're going on a field trip to find the best noodles around the world, to explore how different regions and cultures dress up this staple.


Hawaii: Saimin

Although Hawaii is in the US, its rich history and meshing of different ethnicities has resulted in distinctive cuisines that can only be found on its islands. Exemplary of Hawaii's blend of cultures—Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, and Polynesian—is saimin, which is hailed Hawaii's version of ramen. Thicker, chewier noodles are cooked in a clear broth and topped with bok choy, mushrooms, ginger, and, of course, spam. Spam is a Hawaiian favorite, which is typically enjoyed for breakfast, but would be great any time in the day.

Mexico: Sopa Seca

Literally meaning "dried soup," sopa seca is a Mexican noodle casserole you can whip up in under an hour. Fideo noodles are seared in a pan before being cooked in a well-seasoned tomato sauce, making for a more intense, refined bite. Serve with some crema or cojita cheese, and you've got a creamy, slightly spicy bite.

Peru: Tallarines Verdes

I'm a pesto fanatic. I can put it on anything: pasta, pizza, and yes, even popcorn. So, you couldn't even imagine my elation when I discovered that Peru has its own pesto pasta dish, tallarines verdes, which is elevated with the addition of evaporated milk to make it creamier and a tad bit sweet. Though already delicious on its own, tallarines verdes is typically served with Palomilla steak. Talk about a well-balanced meal!

Puerto Rico: Sopa de Pollo con Fideo

Chicken noodle soup is not just an American staple; Puerto Rico's got their own take on this cure for any ailment or chilly night. The secret ingredient to making sopa de pollo con fideo is the seasoning to make the broth and chicken so flavorful: Sazon, which you can buy in packets or make on your own for an authentic, all-natural spice blend.

Middle East and Africa

Afghanistan: Aush

Noodles and legumes cooked in a tomato-based broth with spices like turmeric, aush is an Afghan soup that can contain beef to serve as an alternative for chili or loads of vegetables to make into a comforting, meatless meal. Garnish with mint leaves and a scoop of chaka (known more commonly as Greek yogurt) to taste aush in all its glory.

Egypt: Kushari

Regarded the national dish of Egypt, kushari is a fairly simple dish that makes use of kitchen staples such as rice, macaroni, lentils, tomatoes, and chickpeas for a convenient, quick meal. Fry some onions to add the finishing touches, and you've got a satisfying vegan dinner that even the biggest carnivores will enjoy.

Iran: Reshteh Polow

Another rice and noodle combination, reshteh polow is an Iranian specialty dish, typically served on occasions such as the New Year. Spices like saffron and cardamon cook together to make a crispy crust that's served atop a bed of rice. Traditionally sprinkled with dates, almonds, and raisins, the combination of the sweet toppings and savory seasoning make reshteh polow a standout and highly regarded Persian dish.

Lebanon: Macaroon Bil Toum

Gnocchi isn't the only type of pasta dumpling out there. The Lebanese dish macaroon bil toum is deceivingly simple, but addictive nonetheless. Homemade flour dumplings are boiled and coated in a lemon garlic sauce that's made in a mortar and pestle to make for an afternoon snack or five-minute dinner.

Nigeria: Indomie

As college students, we're pretty familiar with instant ramen, but instant noodles are also popular throughout the globe. For example, 60 to 80 percent of Nigerians have tried to the Indonesian noodle brand Indomie, which is commonly eaten for breakfast. Add some extra toppings, such as peppers and eggs, to make these prepackaged noodles more filling and nutritious.

Tunisia: Chard and Egg Noodle Soup

Don't be intimidated by the vibrant red color of this Tunisian soup. Spicy from the harissa hot sauce, it's a pleasant, deep taste that lingers at the back of your mouth, but doesn't burn. As a bonus, this chard and egg noodle soup is nutrient-dense, due to the anti-inflammatory properties in the cumin as well as protein-rich chickpeas.


China: Zhajiangmian

While ordering at a Chinese restaurant, it can be overwhelming to see so many different items on the menu and tempting to just order chow mein and call it a day. Trust me, I've been there. Branch out and try Zhajianmian, which translates to "noodles in soybean paste." It's Beijing's signature noodle dish for a reason. The fried pork, salty soybean sauce, and homemade noodles are the base of this dish, and are oftentimes complemented by scallions and cucumbers to add some freshness and crunch.

India: Seviyan Kheer

You might have had rice pudding before, but have you ever had seviyan kheer? Hailing from India, roasted vermicelli noodles are boiled in a milk, cardamom, almonds, and sugar mixture, producing a fragrant dessert that can be consumed hot or chilled. 

#SpoonTip: Want to try seviyan kheer out? Here's a simple Instant Pot recipe so you can have a bowl of this comforting porridge in just half an hour.

Japan: Udon

Although I am a ramen fanatic, I believe udon has been seriously overlooked and deserves just as much hype as ramen. Udon noodles are thicker and denser than ramen, so, at least to me, udon feels more filling than ramen. Plus, they're a lot more satisfying to slurp, which is a major plus in my book.

Philippines: Filipino Spaghetti

My parents are from the Philippines, so growing up, the only spaghetti I knew was sweet, made with banana ketchup, and topped with vibrant red hot dogs. Yes, I'm talking about Filipino spaghetti, which I yearn for daily whenever I'm away from home. If you've never experienced the cheesy gloriousness that is the pride and joy of my home country, head over to your closest Jollibee (aka the most popular and adored fast food chain in the Philippines) and order a one-piece Chicken Joy (fried chicken) with Jolly Spaghetti. You can thank me later.

Thailand: Pad See Ew

Pad Thai has gotten the reputation for being the ultimate Thai noodle dish. I mean, "Thai" is even in its name! However, pad see ew is where it's at. Key ingredients of any good pad see ew are thick rice noodles, Chinese broccoli, soy sauce, and an egg cooked in a wok that'll have you feeling like you're on the streets of Thailand.

Vietnam: Bún Chay

Pho (pronounced fuh) is one of the most Asian noodle soups, but Vietnam is home to another one of my favorite noodle dishes: bún chay. It's a cold noodle dish that's more of a salad, since the rice noodles serve as a base for the bounty of fresh veggies and herbs. Coincidentally, traditional bún chay recipes are vegetarian, and with a few modifications, can be made vegan, so everyone can enjoy this Vietnamese noodle dish.


Germany: Käse mit Spätzle 

Germany's version of mac and cheese, Käse mit Spätzle (cheese with noodles) is a decadent dish made of chewy egg noodles that absorb any flavor, serving as the perfect base for the creamy cheese and herb concoction. Top with caramelized onions and more herbs, and serve with a Bier, and you're basically in Deutschland.

Hungary: Goulash

If you're hungary for a meat stew that's reminiscent of something your grandmother would make, look no further than the traditional Hungarian dish goulash. What really sets goulash apart from other stews are the paprika and caraway seeds, which reduce into a warm, comforting dish that you can eat with bread, pasta, rice, or alone.

Italy: Carbonara

Probably the country most closely associated with noodles, Italy's got a laundry list of delectable pasta dishes that you ought to try, but the standout is carbonara. You've got the Holy Trinity of cheese, eggs, and pancetta, which admittedly is not the healthiest things to put in your body, but the runny egg stirred into the steaming noodles, making for a creamy sauce that cuts through the fatty pork, is so delicious that you'll forget about that. 

Spain: Fideuà

If you like paella (a seafood rice dish widely popular in Spain), then you're going to love its cousin, fideuà. Fideuà is essentially paella, but uses finely-chopped noodles (fideos) instead of rice. The fresh prawns, squid, and tomatoes are juxtaposed by a spicy pimentón (paprika) and garlic aioli, which'll have you scooping out serving after serving straight from the pan.

Russia: Pelmeni

Our final destination and noodle dish around the world is Russian pelmeni, which is a dough dumpling filled with salted meat (veal, pork, and turkey are the most popular fillings) and sprinkled with fresh dill atop. It's such an integral part of Russian culture and history that it's considered the World Cup "staple."

Five regions of the world and 21 noodle dishes later, and I don't know about you, but I'm starving. So go out and find a Peruvian restaurant close to you, or try your hand at making seviyan kheer. I promise you that you won't look at noodles the same, after being exposed to the best noodles around the world.