Edinburgh is currently profiting from a Chinese tourist boom. In a parallel development, there’s no let-up in the numbers of Chinese students coming to Scotland to study. So Edinburgh now has a solid year-round contingency of Chinese who won’t be fobbed off with the old Sino-Scottish chestnuts- lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork- and who know chains, such as Wagamama, for what they are: unconvincing corporate renditions of the real thing.

The world of Chinese takeaways that Timothy Mo described so wryly in his 1982 novel Sour Sweet, where pragmatic immigrants from Hong Kong served bastardised dishes to locals, dishes that they themselves would never eat, is looking old and tired, shown up by a new wave of authentic Chinese restaurateurs who won’t edit out visceral ingredients to pander to queasy UK palates, restaurateurs who represent the cuisines of China’s regions, their characteristic dishes and skills.

Here at Noodles Home opposite the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, it doesn’t instantly look promising. A laminated menu is stuck to the street level entrance and then there’s a linoleum and metal edged stair leading up to the first floor. We walk into the empty echo of these bi-partite premises. Like Dumplings of China, which I already reviewed in these pages, the lighting is approaching laboratory-bright and the ambient temperature doesn’t encourage lingering. But with its shiny champagne-coloured fake silk tablecloths, its glittery, Lurex-like wallpaper in a 1950s-like helix pattern, its stuck-on plastic wall mural of ancient Chinese mountain houses, its all of a piece and well kept. The two dining rooms are divided by a pillarbox red reception desk where a pleasant young Chinese woman explains the drill to us. Choose a table, pick your dishes, order them from her, and they’ll be brought to you. And just in case you hadn’t lifted your eyes enough to clock the massive Noodles Home on the building outside, she explains to us that noodles are the thing here, but here’s the thrilling bit, they’re all made on the premises.

The other diners are, if not all Chinese, at least Asian, people who are here for a square meal. From the kitchen the sweet, warming animal smell of bubbling bones in stock, and the unmistakeable, saliva-triggerng smell of a well-seasoned wok, what Chinese people call the “breath of the wok” (wok hei).

Then the dishes, huge portions, pile up, each of them epic. So there are two main sorts of hand-made wheat flour noodles, explained to us as ‘pulled’ and ‘sliced’. These noodles required a lot of dough-slapping and shredding earlier, and they’re how Chinese people like them: chewy, bouncy, springy like the coils of telephone cable, with a distinctive density about them. You have them stir-fried or in broth.

In the first category come the fat, wriggly worm-like ones, turned in a blisteringly hot wok with thin slices of blackened carrots, spring onion, a definite undertow of dried chilli and garlic, a few fat prawns that are barely cooked, and crunchy beansprouts. They are sensational. As are the sliced beef noodles in broth, a hot-cold mix-it-up-yourself bowl of flat noodles with mahogany-brown mince that has a fermented fruity taste, slices of cooked turnip, matchsticks of cucumber. The complimentary heat and texture contrasts stoke the appetite.

We focus on the conch shell-shaped dumplings that enclose very soft, finely minced, delicately seasoned, slightly gingery pork. They float alongside seaweed, which, in the best possible way, has the jellied consistency of pondweed, in a broth that smells like a joint of roast beef. It warms us to the tips of our toes. Then just to show that noodles aren’t everything, we get to the steaming rice. Sticky, yet each grain separate, it wafts an intoxicating perfume, with it, pink soft chunks of beef that seem to have been gently simmered then combined with stir-fried fresh tomatoes and heaps of mellow garlic. The unctuous fat on the meat has produced a rich sauce that glistens, cut by the acidity of the tomatoes.

I thought we’d never eat it all when these substantial helpings arrived but we did, testament to how good Noodles Home is. It’s cash only, but so affordable, you won’t need a lot.

Noodles Home, 14a Nicholson Street, Edinburgh 0131 556 7777

Food: 9 and a half/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Service: 9/10
Value: 10/10

Joanna Blythman
Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018