Northern-style pork bun at Minh’s. On a menu brimming with noodle dishes, Minh’s bun cha ($9.75) might be the most irresistible: An order brings a bowl of hot barbecue pork and meatballs alongside a smaller bowl of the salty fish sauce known as nuoc mam. Spoon the meat into a big frond of romaine, add a bundle of cool vermicelli noodles, garnish with torn leaves of mint and cilantro, drizzle with nuoc mam, and you have one of the most irresistible sandwiches you’ll ever eat. 2500 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-525-2828.
Drunken noodles at Nark Kara. “Drunken noodles” suggests “drenched in sauce,” and in most instances the dish is a gloppy mess. The marvelous thing about the version at this Bethesda Thai restaurant is its relative dryness. The thick, broad noodles ($12.95), lightly charred against the sides of a smoking-hot wok, have a chewiness that sets off the fiery stir-fry of basil, chicken, and red peppers. 4928 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-2635.
Pad Thai at Nava Thai. The dish that demonstrates the brilliance of this dining room is the pad Thai ($8.95), a dish many restaurants botch. Tossed with egg, smoked tofu, grilled shrimp, plum sugar, and sweet-salted radish, the noodles arrive in a tidy, folded nest, looking almost burnished. Nava inspires loyalty among its followers, and this is the taste some of them can’t get enough of. 11315 Fern St., Wheaton; 240-430-0495.
Dan dan noodles at Joe’s Noodle House. Joe’s isn’t really a noodle house—the name’s a holdover in part from the previous regime—but one of the best dishes on the 200-plus-item menu is a bowl of dan dan noodles ($4.50). This staple of Chengdu street stalls brings together a sweet, sour, and spicy mix of ingredients: A twirl of chewy noodles is tossed with ground pork, pickled mustard greens, green onions, a garlicky red sauce, and a shot of peppercorn oil made from the famed Szechuan numbing pepper. 1488-C Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-881-5518.
Noodles with ground pork and bean-paste sauce at A&J Restaurant. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was a bowl of spaghetti topped with Cincinnati-style chili from Hard Times Cafe. The $6.25 noodle bowl at the Rockville location of this cash-only, northern-style Chinese restaurant not only looks the part, but it also rivals that Depression-era classic in hearty warmth. Pure comfort. 1319-C Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-251-7878.