On paper, the Taiwanese beef noodle may seem like simple fare. Noodles, soup, braised beef, the odd green and preserved vegetables. The initiated, however, will tell you that the Taiwanese beef noodle is something magical, a bowl of complex flavours that needs hours of cajoling, and one of the obvious rivals to Vietnamese pho as the best noodle soup around.
We ordered the classic: the stewed beef noodle, otherwise known as an underemphatic “A5” on the menu. This is a “red braised” beef, so named for its deep reddish colour, having been cooked in a rich, deep mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, star anise, and sugar, with a hint of Szechuan peppercorn thrown into mix. Each cut of beef is nicely marbled with fat and tendon, tender as all the motherly love in the world.
The soup in itself is something to cherish as well. The Taiwanese beef noodle is itself a re-interpretation of a Northern Chinese staple for the abundant Muslim population, and often served Halal. After an influx of mainland Chinese fleeing the Communist revolution, the beef noodle soup found ground in Taiwan, but quickly morphed over time to suit local tastes and become one of the most recognizable dishes in Taiwanese cuisine. The result is a darker, richer soup, made of stock that has been simmered indefinitely, flavoured with spices, ginger, green onion, garlic, and (from what I can tell) carrot. This is served with housemade noodles, of the thicker, doughy variety.
To round things out, we also ordered the “beef in Chinese pancake,” which at some places is similar to beef flank rolled up in a Chinese roti, but here was rolled up in a Chinese green onion cake. The key is the beef, also braised and flavourful, its tenderness contrasted with the flakiness of the green onion cake, with a light touch of hoisin sauce to provide some sweetness. While the beef pancake was great, the beef noodle is the main attraction: the Beef Noodle King has earned its crown, and there need not be any distractions for its subjects.
Taiwan Beef Noodle King
8335 Oak Street