July 5, 2022

Beef noodle soup: hers and his

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We're back in Taiwan so one of the things we must do is to have beef noodle soup (牛肉麵). Sankala and I each have our favorite shop for this, so we found time to hit both.

First up is Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodles (林東芳牛肉麵), Sankala's favorite. It's not a very premium version but does a very good job delivering good value for one's money.

Half tendon half beef noodle (半筋半肉麵) - I took a small bowl today whereas Sankala chose the bigger portion, much to my surprise. I still do like the star anise in the clear broth along with other Chinese herbs, and the beef shank and tendon were both tender.

Hua gan (花干) - signature dish of dried tofu cooked in stock.

Beef tripe (切牛肚) - a little too salty today.

We wanted to buy a few jars of the spicy beef fat () that the restaurant serves as a condiment, but alas... they ran out of stock today and it would only be available in a few hours. Will definitely need to grab some before we return to Hong Kong!

We also managed to find time for my favorite place in Taipei - Beef Father Beef Noodles (牛爸爸牛肉麵). The place has long been famous for its top-end offering which has, surprisingly, stayed priced at TWD 10,000 for more than 20 years. It's been more than 10 years since I last tried one of their premium bowls, and I decided it was time to try again.

We ordered a couple of side dishes but since I was taking the expensive bowl of noodle, they decided to throw in a couple of extras for us.

Braised peanuts (花生) - I have, in the past, waxed lyrical about these peanuts. They were as good today as they have ever been. Incredibly soft, packed full of flavors from the sauce they were braised in.

Blanched chayote shoots (龍鬚菜)

Blanched cabbage (高麗菜)

Shredded pressed tofu (豆干絲) - pretty tasty, and a light, springy texture made these more enjoyable.

Tomato beef noodle (蕃茄牛肉麵) - I had a taste of what Sankala ordered. The acidity was nice and it means one doesn't feel the grease from the beef, but I still prefer a more "pure" version when it comes to beef noodle soup.

I don't care much for the condiments, as I prefer the original flavors, but I did try some of the pickled mustard greens (酸菜).

5,000 dollar beef noodle (5000元牛肉麵) - the restaurant had decided to raise prices nearly 10 years ago, so what used to be TWD 3,000 became TWD 5,000. I didn't blink before ordering my last bowl 10 years ago, but at this price, I must admit I felt a tinge of hesitation. Of course, I never doubted that Mr. Wang - who has handed the reins over to his son when they moved to the present location some years ago - would deliver a quality product.

The soup was intense, much more beefy. The cuts of beef shortribs were as tender as they come, thanks to the marbling. They seemed to still use the tender parts of shank with a high amount of fat and, much to my surprise, I found it overly greasy... So mcuh so that I actually those to discard the fat to one side. This, as Vizzini used to say, was just "INCONCEIVABLE!"

So where does that leave me? Back in 2010 I had to think whether I could justify paying USD 100 for a bowl of beef noodles soup, although I clearly felt good enough to want to try it again. Now with the price approaching USD 200 after factoring the exchange rate, the calculus has changed somewhat. While it was a very delicious bowl, given the slight unease I felt after tasting the grease, I may be more inclined to go back to the more economical VIP beef noodle (貴賓牛肉麵) or even the entry-level version - costing just 1/10 of the price. We shall see.

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