Monday, March 3, 2014

Taiwan Day 10. Old Wang's Beef Noodle Soup on Taoyuan Street / 桃源街的老王記牛肉麵大王 (Taipei: Jhong Jheng District / 台北市: 中正區)

On the tenth day of my trip to Taiwan, my friend Grace said that she wanted to introduce me to a beef noodle soup shop that she had just a recently.  We navigated the streets only a few blocks away from Ximen Ding (西門町), a young people's hot spot, to Old Wang's Beef Noodle Soup (老王記牛肉麵大王) on Taoyuan Street (桃源街).  Only after leaving did I realize we had eaten at one of the most famous places for beef noodle soup in Taiwan.

Grace and I both ordered the red braised version of the beef noodle soup (牛肉麵 / niú ròu miàn).  Each time I sit down to eat beef noodle soup, I think about trying out the beef noodle soup with clear broth, but it's tough to change old habits.  I always end up getting the soy sauce variation with chunks of tender braised beef and a bed of pickled mustard greens (酸菜 / suan cài) floating around in the soup.  The soup here at Old Wang's is beefy enough and not unbearably spicy, not overly salty, and not overly doused with soy sauce.  The beef breaks apart upon biting it, and the noodles taste fresh without being doughy.  I would prefer them to be a bit more 'Q' or elastic, but I can see why this restaurant has so much loyal fans.

We also ordered the steamed spare ribs (粉蒸排骨 / fěn zheng pái gǔ) often served in Taiwanese noodle houses as a side dish.  What makes this dish remarkable is how much flavor is compact into this petite bamboo steamer.  Not only is there sticky rice seasoned with five spice and chilies packed around the pieces of pork, but there is a bed of sweet potato at the bottom of the steamer as well.  It soaks up all the fatty drippings from the pork as the fat on the meat renders away in the cooking process.  The sweet potato becomes so tender and soft with fatty juice and seasonings that it could be made into a delicious mashed potato.

With all this juicy protein floating around in our noodle soups and steaming away in our seasoned rice, we have to have some vegetables to balance it all out, right? We also had some of the pickled cabbage (泡菜 / pào cài), a local take on what is otherwise more popularly known as kimchi in Korean or tsukemono in Japanese.

The menu is simple: beef noodle soup (red braised or clear broth), pig's feet noodles, steamed spare ribs, pickled cabbage, and variations on the noodles and soup.  Grace and I ordered everything but the pig's feet not due to any aversions but simply because we wanted to save room for some famous ice cream after lunch.  I will be returning for the stewed pig's feet though.  But until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Old Wang's Beef Noodle Soup (老王記牛肉麵大王)
No. 15, Taoyuan St., Jhong Jheng District, Taipei City
MRT: Ximen Station, exit no. 3 / 捷運西門站, 3號出口

ML - 20130709

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