You're not alone if the thought of hunching over a bowl of hot noodle soup, the broth steaming up your glasses while shovelling noodles into your mouth, makes you actually and longingly dewy-eyed for the cold weather. But where best to beat Melbourne's big, bad chill? Check these entries out, or get a blanket - and don't leave your couch for the next three months.
Myanmar's national dish is moh hin gha, a fish soup with rice vermicelli that is a staple breakfast. At Burmese House (open for dinner only), they use pink salmon instead of the traditional catfish, and cook it with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli powder and onion. It's topped with sliced boiled egg. They also do a coconut, chicken egg-noodle soup, which has been likened to laksa, simply topped with chicken and sliced boiled egg.
303 Bridge Road, Richmond, 03 9421 2861; burmesehouse.com.au
They've whittled out the Chinese dishes usually found on lengthy Vietnamese restaurant menus and expanded on the Vietnamese offerings, which means you'll find not-everywhere dishes here. All the recipes have been handed down from the owner Michael Nguyen's mother and are prepared by his wife and co-owner Tiffany Truong. You'll find pho, bun (rice vermicelli soups), hu tieu mi (rice egg noodle soup), as well as the special tangy soft-shell crab soup that Michael says his mum introduced to Melbourne, via a Springvale restaurant, 10 years ago.
Shop 27, Showgrounds Village, 320 Epsom Road, Flemington, 03 9376 2961
At Middle Fish the tom yum – that heady broth of lemongrass, chilli, garlic, lime, and galangal clouded with milk – comes with glass noodles, instead of the usual rice. The translucent noodles (from Thailand) are made with mung bean flour. "They work well with the tom yum," says chef/owner Pla Liamthong, "and they're healthier." It's topped with tiger prawns and Chinese broccoli, and the condiments invite you to sweeten, sour, salt or spice it the way you like it.
122 Berkeley Street, Carlton, 03 9348 1704; middlefish.com.au
Also known as Jewish penicillin, chicken noodle soup at NY Jewish-style deli Miss Ruben is made the proper way, with bones and vegies, cooked for hours to form a tasty, golden broth. It comes with a giant matzo ball (matzo meal, egg, oil and water) and short noodles. Does it cure all ills? "Definitely," says owner Amanda Ruben. "A lady just came in and said she felt terrible yesterday, but was much better after soup, so came back for more." Also available to take away.
76 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, 03 9042 5933
Mr Ramen San
Of the myriad regional styles of ramen, the rich, creamy pork-based tonkotsu from Kyushu (an island of Japan in the south-west) is taking hold of Melbourne. Tonkotsu here is salty and creamy rich, topped with charsu, nori and egg. You can order it spicy, or half-spicy. There is a veg ramen, as well as regional specials like a black tonkotsu, with black garlic, "deeper flavour". You'll find it down a wind-blown arcade (near the queue for Royal Custard Puff's hot, custard-filled doughnut balls; there's dessert).
Shop 12a, 200 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9042 1588; mrramensan.com.au
M Yong Tofu
Ordering the signature yong tofu involves a few decisions. Step 1, choose from four types of noodle: hokkien, egg, rice or vermicelli. Step 2, select a soup base: curry (laksa base), chicken or tom yum. Step 3, choose a combination (six bits in each combo) of add-ins: processed fish-paste-stuffed vegetables, balls, dumplings and puffs. This humble cash-only place also does a mighty seafood curry laksa with good grit and loads of plump seafood, and a funky Penang assam laksa with mackerel and pineapple pieces.
314 Racecourse Road, Flemington, 03 9376 0168
Nanyang Bak Kut Teh
Part of SugarBun (the Malaysian fast-food chain, in the same heritage building), Nanyang specialises in bak kut teh, a dark broth made from 23 herbs and spices that's plump with pork ribs, pork balls and belly fat, but no noodles. Fortunately for noodle chasers, they also specialise in Sarawak laksa (less coconut milk, more prawn flavour than you'd taste in a curry laksa), and full with vermicelli, beansprouts, strips of omelette, shredded chicken and prawns.
205 Russell Street, Melbourne, 03 9650 4336; nanyangbkt.com
Pho Chu The
It's pho fast at this Victoria Street speciality shop that serves only pho. It comes a few ways, with chicken, with giblets, etc, and the menu is posted on the walls, along with a cool line-drawing mural. There is fresh chilli and sliced red onion on every table, as well as a flask of hot jasmine tea to balance the umami beef broth.
270 Victoria Street, Richmond, 03 9428 7797
Jerry Mai's pho is richly flavoured, and made to her mother's recipe, using top ingredients. Choose classic pho bo with sliced rare beef, pho bo Saigon with beef, brisket and meatballs, or pho wagyu with sliced sirloin. The chicken (ga) pho is made with free-range birds, and, if you can't choose, go the ga bo, with chicken and beef. Vegetarians, there's mushroom and tofu pho for you.
Store 33, lower ground, Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale Street & 567 Collins Street, Melbourne; phonom.com.au
Shimbashi Soba & Sake
The soba are made fresh every morning and every afternoon by chef Taka Kumayaya who starts at the start of the noodle-making process, and stone-grinds Tasmanian buckwheat. They're moist without being tacky and have a subtle wholemeal flavour. The soup base is teased out of imported bonito and mackerel shavings. The two are brought together and topped with six combinations, such as mushroom and wild vegie, or dumplings and chicken fillet. Also available with thick, udon noodles.
17 Liverpool Street, Melbourne, 03 9654 6727; shimbashisobamelbourne.net
Thai boat noodles, from a food cart, in a car park. At Soi 38, chef/owner Top Kijphavee buys fresh ingredients each day to make just three noodle-soup dishes. The signature boat noodles (originating in Ayuthaya, the Venice of Thailand, and originally sold out of boats) is a dark beef broth, topped with thin-sliced rump, house-made beef balls and a braise (maybe shin, but whatever's good that day). You can choose your noodle and listen to the pork crackling actually crackle when it hits the broth. Take it any direction with table condiments: chilli, pickled chilli, fish sauce or sugar.
38 McIlwraith Place; Melbourne, soi38.com
Tina's Noodle Kitchen & Dainty Noodle Express
Work through a wide-mouthed bowl maybe brimming with beef and vegetables in an electric-red broth with the double-punch of chilli and tongue-numbing Sichuan pepper. That's just one of the 37 soup choices, all laden with slippery rice noodles, that include veg options and milder flavours. Dainty Emporium (in the same restaurant family) does a spicy beef soup in a kicking broth made with springy wheat noodles, popular in northern China.