The Noodle Exchange is a booth returning for the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival in Walt Disney World. In this Global Marketplace review, we’ll look at the menu prices, share food photos, and offer thoughts on what is—and is not—worth your money. (Note: This Global Marketplace opens on August 15, 2023.)
Everyone has things about which they’re oddly prideful. No one else cares, but for that person, the thing is a big deal for whatever reason. For us, one of those things is noodle consumption. When in Japan, we have ramen, soba, udon, etc. on a daily basis.
Back when Takumi-Tei was rumored but hadn’t been officially announced, our hope was that the intimate venue would be an authentic back alley ramen shop. It’s not, but hard to complain there since Takumi-Tei is something special. Every year, we’re optimistic that the Japan booth will finally get a good ramen to showcase why the dish is not just for broke college students. Hasn’t happened yet, but we keep the faith.
With the Noodle Exchange, it would seem that our wishes have finally been answered. In the wise words of my grandma, I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth…
The underlying issue with the Noodle Exchange is that it’s an outdoor booth located between World Showcase and Future World. This area of Epcot around the relatively new Starbucks seems to have had “innovative” extra-hot pavement installed, while also having minimal shade to further facilitate the heat.
All of that plus hot bowls of noodles in the middle of Florida’s hot and humid summer season is not exactly ideal. With that complaint out of the way, the good news is that the Noodle Exchange offers reasonably ambitious bowls that surpass any past ramens in the Japan Global Marketplace.
Here’s the menu for the Noodle Exchange food booth:
Ramen with Shaved Beef, Shiitake Mushrooms, Pickled Carrots and Dakion Radish, Shaved Peppers and a Soy Egg in Citrus-Sesame Broth
Impossible Pork Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms, Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish, Baby Bok Choy and a Soy Egg in Savory Chicken Broth
Thai Shrimp with Rice Noodles, Shiitake Mushrooms and Basil in Coconut-Curry Broth
Ramen with Tofu, Shiitake Mushrooms, Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish, Shaved Peppers and Baby Bok Choy in Citrus-Sesame Broth (plant-based item)
Noodle Exchange Beverages:
Parish Brewing Strawberry Mochi Berliner Weisse, Broussard, LA
Pacific Rim Old Vines Riesling, Washington
Now our photos and reviews of each item from last year at this Global Marketplace at the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival…
Shrimp and Coconut Curry Rice Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Thai Basil ($6.25) – This one has a bit of a kick, which is common from red curry meets coconut milk broth bases. This one was a bit soupier–nothing like Japanese or Indian curries served with rice–but the flavor was great.
There’s a lot going on with the heavy broth, and a generous portion of quality shrimp helps elevate this dish. It’s a good pick if you’re after something hearty and filling, or with a bit of punch. Recommended.
Traditional Spicy Vietnamese Beef Pho with Shaved Beef, Enoki Mushrooms, and Thai Basil ($5.50) – This is listed as spicy, which is accurate by Epcot standards, but it’s still pretty modest. (If you’re averse to a little heat, avoid the top three bowls of noodles–only the udon is mild.)
The shaved beef here is the highlight, and you really can’t go wrong with that plus noodles and broth. As compared to the other bowls, this is the least ambitious–but perhaps despite the name, it’s probably going to be the biggest crowd-pleaser.
Tofu Pho with Enoki Mushrooms and Thai Basil ($5.50) – The first word of this dish’s name is going to turn off at least half of Walt Disney World guests. If you’ve never had a good tofu dish, we’d recommend giving this one a shot.
The tofu here is good, and the broth base, mushrooms, basil, and peppers help make the dish more robust. It’s probably not going to blow your mind, but if you view the Epcot Food & Wine Festival as a fun event for trying new things, this might fit the bill. Recommended.
Char Siu Pork Udon with Enoki Mushrooms, Bok Choy, and Soy Pickled Egg ($5.50) – This is far and away our favorite dish at Noodle Exchange, which isn’t a huge surprise since it’s the closest to ramen. One highlight here is the noodles, which are somewhere between thin udon noodles and thick ramen noodles.
This doesn’t have the most nuanced broth, but it’s flavorful and delicious without being overly heavy. The char sui pork, soy egg, and vegetables round out the bowl nicely. It’s definitely comfort food, while also being sufficiently ambitious to give guests a taste of what noodles can be like when elevated. Highly recommended.
Overall, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the Noodle Exchange. However, we’re also not noodle snobs–we love everything from 7-Eleven noodles to those at Michelin-starred restaurants. As with burgers or pizza, there’s something to be said for both the simple and sophisticated takes on comfort foods.
The options at Noodle Exchange fall somewhere in the middle between simple and sophisticated. At least three of these bowls are more ambitious than we would’ve expected for something served from a small food kiosk, and all of them offer a great introduction to the wonderful world of noodles. Given the prices and circumstances, we’re impressed by the inaugural lineup at Noodle Exchange. Now we’ll just wait a few months so we can order the Pork Udon on a cold night and really enjoy it!
If you’ve tried any of the bowls at the Noodle Exchange food booth, what did you think? Did you have better or worse luck than us with what you ordered? Have you tried any of the drinks at this Global Marketplace? What was or was not worth the money? Do you agree or disagree with our food reviews? Questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!