Big fat hand pulled noodles [sic] are taking over Berlin”. The lede writes itself – or rather, Wen Cheng writes it for us on the wall of its new location on Schönhauser Allee, in stark all-caps lettering that makes the sentence seem vaguely like a threat. This second satellite of the Shanxistyle biang biang noodle bar was supposed to help ease the pressure on the first, which has been deluged with customers since opening a year and a half ago. Instead, and predictably, the second most notorious queue in Berlin has merely replicated itself a couple of kilometres down the road. We won’t deny Wen Cheng’s saucy, spicy bowls hit the spot. But as temperatures drop, so does our willingness to stand outside for an hour in pursuit of a dish that’s best slurped up in 15 minutes. With Sichuan-flavoured predecessors Chung King and Liu similarly slammed (and the latter facing eviction early next year), how is a noodle lover to survive the winter? We’ve got six ideas, listed in order from most to least Wen Cheng-like.
If there was ever a reason to set foot inside Bikini Berlin, that dead mall clad in sun glasses à la Weekend at Bernie’s, it’s this new food court stall from Chinese institution Ming Dynastie. On the menu: thick, flat noodles served in a spicy beef soup or as a Wen Cheng-ish bowl with braised pork, veggies or tofu (choose your own heat level). Even better is the thinner, springier variation, which comes with a saucy mix of ground beef or pork and soybeans. You can get a noodle refill if you’re still hungry or tack on an order of pan-fried meat or veggie dumplings. Just save room for dessert – the groovily translucent water ice pudding is not to be missed.
- Budapester Str. 38-50, Charlottenburg, Mon-Sat 12-20, click here for more info.
A year into its existence, the neon-lit Shanghainese eatery off Hackescher Markt has become known for two items. One is the da tang bao, the morbidly obese cousin of the better-known xiao long bao – basically a super-sized dumpling filled with thick pork broth and a few meaty bits. (The metal straw it comes with is more an Instagram prop than anything else; don’t sip the scalding hot soup through it if you want to be able to taste the rest of your meal). The other is the ‘One Meter Noodle’, handpulled ribbons served with chilli oil, vinegar and your choice of toppings, from tofu to duck to smoked fish. Get the braised beef for the most Wen Cheng-adjacent experience; the spice level won’t be as high, but the long, chewy strands and tender, flavourful meat will be just as satisfying.
- Kleine Präsidentenstr. 3, Mitte, daily 12-22, click here for more info.
Need more proof that Chinese noodles are trendy? Just look at all the places that are turning their attention from ramen to lamian. The Friedrichshain storefront formerly known as Ramen X Ramen has become Chi.Bar, with a menu of soups, bowls and dumplings all using handmade dough. And out in City West, the team behind XXX Ramen have opened this narrow counter and takeout window specialising in spaghettithin hand-pulled strands. Get them in a Lanzhou-style soup, with braised beef, white radish and thinly sliced onion in a clear, almost pho-like broth. (Adding your own chilli oil is a must).
- Leibnizstr. 70B, Charlottenburg, daily 12-22, click here for more info.
The name’s no joke. Walk into this Friedrichshain newcomer and you’ll find yourself confronted with smiling yellow emojis on every conceivable surface, a decor choice that has the opposite effect from what the owners, a family from the northern province of Hebei, probably intended. At least the food, a pan-Chinese melange of regional dishes, will turn that frown upside down. Most opt for the dumplings, whether the huge variety of jiaozi or the credibly soupy xiao long bao, but don’t sleep on the thin homemade noodles with toppings like scrambled egg and tomato, creamy sesame sauce or a schnitzel-like fried pork cutlet. Try the ‘Peking’ version with ground pork and fermented soybean sauce, aka zha jian mian – the retro presentation (hello, orange slices) makes you feel like you’re eating in a school cafeteria or worker’s canteen, in a good way.
- Samariterstr. 28, Friedrichshain, Tue-Sun 12-22, click here for more info.
Good Chinese food in Neukölln? We never thought we’d see the day. Granted, the rainbow-coloured dumplings may not be traceable to any particular province (there’s even a dessert option, alongside Indian curried potatoes and a more traditional pork and cabbage filling). But questions of authenticity don’t matter when it comes to the toothsome, comforting noodles, handmade and given a quick whirl in the wok with the sauce and toppings of your choice. A good chunk of the menu is vegan-friendly, including the ‘Kay’s Noodles’ with spicy sauce and veggies, and the ‘Shanghai’ version with soy sauce and scallion oil.
- Flughafenstr. 25, Neukölln, Wed-Sun 12-15, 17-22, click here for more info.
And now for something completely different: contrary to its claims, this new Prenzlauer Berg storefront isn’t the first place in Berlin to serve kalguksu, Korean knife-cut noodle soup. But it’s certainly the flashiest, with its open kitchen where Hyun, the swordmaster in question, rolls out and slices his fresh dough. The thick, chewy strands wind up in one of four bowls on offer: soy sauce and three types of mushroom, spicy chicken, shellfish, or – the priciest for a reason – a majestic hunk of soy sauce-braised beef with caramelised onions and garlic confit (€18.50). They all come with raw kimchi, pickled chillis and chilli paste on the side and all are served steaming hot enough to help you get through the cold winter ahead.
- Dunckerstr. 30, Prenzlauer Berg, Wed-Sun 17-22, click here for more info.