If vermicelli, flat noodles, pad thai noodles, or Vietnamese pho noodles come to mind when thinking about different types of rice noodles, add Guilin rice noodles to the list. These long, white spaghetti-shaped noodles originating in southern and southwest China – namely from the city of Guilin and the Yunnan province – can now be found at a few restaurants around Atlanta. And if you haven’t tried Guilin rice noodles yet, a dish dating back more than 2,000 years, you should.
The origins of Guilin rice noodles can be traced to China’s Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.). Historical records suggest that when northern China invaded the south during the reign of emperor Qin Shihuang, the invading forces from the north weren’t accustomed to eating rice, preferring noodles made from wheat flour for their meals. To adapt to their new surroundings, they instead created noodles using rice. With Guilin rice noodles, in particular, it’s believed the crystal clear waters and high mineral content of the Li River used to make the noodles contribute to the unique springy texture the Chinese people, and later, many people around the world, grew to love.
Guilin rice noodles are all about mouthfeel. These noodles are delicate and silky, soft and smooth, and chewy and springy seemingly all at the same time and still carry the flavor of the broth in which they are immersed. The noodles are served in a separate bowl with a choice of beef, pork, chicken, sour cabbage, tomato, kimchi, or even miso broth served in a hot stone bowl. Guilin rice noodles also come with an assortment of accouterments, like pickled vegetables, lettuce, ham, corn, wood ear mushrooms, bean curd, fish cake, crab stick, seaweed, and a quail egg, all of which you then submerge in the broth, along with the noodles.
Here are three restaurants around Atlanta to try Guilin and Yunnan rice noodles.
5090 Buford Highway, Doraville
Located at Intown Plaza on Buford Highway, Dagu Rice Noodle is a popular restaurant chain in China. The rice noodles with braised bone-in pork is Dagu’s signature dish and well worth navigating around the large pork bone in the broth. The meat is succulent and slides right off the bone. Add mala sauce for mouth-numbing spiciness, as well as sour vegetables to brighten the flavorful broth even further. Dagu Rice Noodle is the quintessential Guilin rice noodle experience with all the usual accompanying sides to add to the dish. And if you’re with a group, order the whole fried chicken at Dagu, which comes with a dry seasoning dip for eating the meat and crispy chicken skins. This fried chicken might give Southern fried chicken a run for its money.
6035 Peachtree Road, Doraville
Part of the collection of restaurants found in the Doraville H Mart complex, Ten Seconds Yunnan Rice Noodles is another franchise chain from China. The name in Chinese is Shi Miao Dao and literally means “ready in ten seconds.” Needless to say, instant food gratification is where this restaurant shines. Apart from the fast and attentive service, there are dozens of easy-to-navigate broths on the menu at Ten Seconds, from a simple savory chicken broth to spicy Szechuan or tangy tomato broth, each with either one, two, or three chili peppers to indicate the level of spiciness desired. Try the sour cabbage fish rice noodle option with generous slices of white fleshy fish. For appetizers, order the wood ear mushrooms in black vinegar and the mala tripe.
2180 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth
Neighboring Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth, Yunnan Crossing Bridge Rice Noodles is backed by the owners of Buford Highway hand-pulled noodle institution Lan Zhou Ramen. Instead of wheat noodles, Crossing Bridge specializes in Yunnan rice noodles or “crossing bridge noodles”. It’s a name shrouded in mystery, but is said to center around the story of a cantankerous scholar and his accommodating wife who would cross a bridge to an island daily to bring her husband food. In order to prevent the noodles from becoming soggy, the wife would carry the hot broth in an earthen pot with the noodles and other ingredients separately, only mixing everything together once she crossed the bridge. Try the tomato broth at Crossing Bridge with fatty beef. This broth is hearty and flavorful and almost has the consistency of creamy tomato soup. Unlike other restaurants offering these rice noodles, Crossing Bridge constructs the dish for you right before it hits the table, just like the wife from the tale.