Noodle soup is warm sustenance for the stomach, comfort food for the soul -- but above all, it's a cheap, hot meal for cold, wet weather.
At Noodle Avenue in Tustin, a steaming bowl of it is brought to me faster than an In-N-Out Double-Double takes to cook and is ten times more satisfying during a downpour.
My current addiction is their House Noodle Soup ($4.75), which like the other noodle soups they offer, comes with a question: Will it be udon, thin rice, wide rice, or egg noodle?
I chose egg noodle. The canary yellow strands, as thin as angel hair but with more bounce and body, is submerged in a shimmering broth -- a hot soup bright yellow and clear with flavor culled and coaxed from simmering pork and chicken. On the side, always, is a plate of raw bean sprouts and a wedge of lime for squeezing.
Then on go the toppings.
What I like best about the House Noodle is that it comes with a little bit of everything.
First, there are the meat balls. Formed into pinball-sized orbs from a mousse of pureed beef and tapioca starch, these pasty grey spheres bob like buoys and are just as springy when bitten. Functioning more as a textural foil, they are mild in flavor.
Chicken comes in the form of blanched, thin slices as spongy and wispy as a cloud. The white meat shavings playfully float along with floppy, rectangular pieces of fish cake, itself stark white and pock-marked with air holes.
Curled in a fetal repose and as pink as a cherub are the steamed shrimp. There are three swimming in the broth, each jiggly and crystal fresh.
Think that it ends there? Not yet.
There's the pork, which comes in two styles; a thick dark slice from a roasted loin and small blond nuggets of the ground meat. The pebble-sized morsels of ground pork dot the broth and lends a coarse but meaty chew, while the former is reminiscent of tender char siu.
A garnish of chopped scallions, golden fried bits of garlic, and cilantro completes this cold weather remedy in a bowl. But the MVP is the garlic. These flavor crystals burst with enough power and punch to make the town of Gilroy proud. But more importantly, it imparts a distinctively pungent sweetness to the broth.
With my mouth straddling the brim, the wide bowl slowly eclipses my face as I tilt it to guzzle the soup down to the very last drop.
I smacked my lips and let out a satisfied sigh. Outside, rain pelted the ground, but I was warm and full.
13816 Red Hill Ave
Tustin, CA 92780