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5.112 Half Calf Tendon & Half Beef Noodles with Soybean Sauce and Spicy

-Cycle 5, Item 112-
27 (Sun) April 2014

-Chinese-
Half Calf Tendon & Half Beef Noodles with Soybean Sauce and Spicy 

2.5

at Yong-Kang Beef Noodle

-Taipei-

solo

The Taipei Diet, Day 3 (see previously 5.111 Braised Ground Pork Rice).

In Taipei to grab a bite.  Many bites.  Along the lines of my food odyssey to Singapore last year (see most recently 4.267 Chicken Rice), the plan was to try as many items as I could find, from as many venues as I could hit, improvising for the most part, no scheduled meals, just stuffing my face throughout the day and into the night, whenever I was no longer feeling stuffed from before.  Arriving a little past noon Friday morning, I was here for about 54 hours through this evening.

Venue 10: Yong-Kang Beef Noodle


Opens at 11:00.


I arrived at 11:10, hoping to beat the crowds...


... but everyone was one step ahead of me.

Beef noodle soup is a Taiwanese noodle dish.  Consists of flour noodles in beef broth, made from boiling meat and bones for hours, often overnight, seasoned primarily with soy sauce and douban jiang (chili paste), topped with slices of brisket and/or tendon, often garnished with suan cai (pickled cabbage).  Brought to Taiwan by immigrants from Sichuan, where the seasonings also include the infamous Sichauan peppercorn for extra kick (see for example 4.293 Cheers! (Not Really)).   Widely regarded as the national dish.


If I ever get another shot at this place, I might try the zha jiang mian (see generally 5.072 Zha Jiang Mian), as offered in the bottom right corner of the menu; Din Tai Fung also had it, which makes me wonder if it's a common dish in Taiwan.

Yong-Kang Beef Noodle is a Taiwanese restaurant.  Located a couple blocks south of Dongmen Metro Station (red line) (a couple blocks south of Din Tai Fung).  According to the signage, founded in 1963.  Specializes in noodle dishes, particularly beef noodle soup.  By many accounts, it's the ultimate destination for beef noodle soup.  The customers do queue up for the privilege.  


At the entrance, a wide array of side dishes on sale, each just TWD 25 (about USD 1).

Previous experiences with various Chinese culinary traditions all suggest that meals are exclusively about main dishes, nothing else on the table.   I've seen it in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Wuhan, Singapore, Philippines, London, Florence, Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, Boston, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Oakland, LA, San Diego.  The only exception, of course, is in Korea, where meals always include some kind of sour/spicy side dish, regardless of the cuisine, be it Korean--starting with the ubiquitous kimchi, the source of this dependency--Chinese (see for example 5.106 Spicy Taiwanese Crab Stir-Fry), Italian, French (see for example 5.108 Grilled Seabass), Nepali (see for example 3.339 Nepali Set - Mutton).  As a result, Korean travelers are often uncomfortable when eating at restaurants abroad, because they don't get that sour/spicy kick with every bite, especially in Chinese restaurants, as the food is considered greasy, thus necessitating the kick.   

Thus, the side dish aspect of the Taiwanese culinary tradition has been the most interesting revelation of the trip.  The very existence of side dishes is amazing.  I also like the pre-made/on-display/pick-and-choose setup, allowing diners to see exactly what they're getting and get it immediately.  Koreans must feel right at home here.

Another thing, I've always maintained that Korean restaurants should adopt some kind of option system for side dishes, which are served automatically to customers, whether they want them or not, resulting in tons, literally, tons of food waste.

Item 22: dried tofu and anchovies (2.0)--deceptively spicy.

Item 23: pickled cabbage (2.5)--kinda like cole slaw.

Item 24: Spicy Dumpling (1.5)--I'm finding that wontons in Taiwan tend to be very heavy on the skin, which is my least favorite part.

Always on the table, suan cai and chili sauce.

Item 25: Half Calf Tendon & Half Beef Noodles with Soybean Sauce and Spicy (2.5)--the suan cai added some flavor but still not enough.

The brisket, cut-with-spoon tender.

I shared the table with 4 other diners, also solo, all eating the beef noodles.

The food was okay.  Despite appearances, the broth was neither very spicy nor beefy, surprisingly bland, similar impression to the one at Din Tai Fung (see generally 5.110 (Chicken?) Xiaolongbao).  On a positive note, the brisket was perhaps the tenderest and most succulent piece of beef that I can recall experiencing in recent memory.  The tendon was quite nice, too, perfectly cooked so as to be delicately chewy, not rubbery or mushy.  The flour noodles, whatever.  Net, I suppose that I enjoyed the food more than I didn't enjoy the food, and that includes all the other dishes that I ordered, but I'd never again want to wait in line for it. 

For the final sightseeing activity: the Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in an old school building.

Through June, the entire museum is dedicated to K-POPa special exhibition featuring works by Korean artists.

The most intriguing series comprised these pieces by Park Seung Mo.

Constructed of wire, they appeared 3-D and photographically sharp, at a distance, frontal view...

...but consisted of just a few seemingly random jumbled layers when view up close and from the side

I can't even begin to imagine how the artist, or whoever invented the technique, thought of doing this, much less put it into application.

This sense of awed befuddlement is what I love about visiting modern/contemporary art museums.

A few blocks away from the museum, I discovered a retail outlet for KA VA LAN, a Taiwanese single malt whisky producer.

Although I'd never heard of it until that moment, didn't even know that Taiwan single malt existed, I bought a bottle in good faith--as soon as I walked into the store, done deal--I would've bought more, but weight was an issue.  

In my apartment, I now have single malts from Scotland, Sweden, and Taiwan, as well as bourbon from America; I should get a bottle of Philippine whisky to expand the global collection--come to think of it, I'm an expat now, so maybe that's what I should be drinking (see comments under 4.270 The Original - Verena).

With a few hours remaining before my flight back to Manila, the Taipei Diet wasn't finished yet.  Under the bus terminal where I'd take the shuttle to the airport, I encountered an extensive underground shopping center that featured a restaurant corner.  


Venue 11: TKK Fried Chicken

Having read somewhere that Taiwan is famous for fried chicken...


...which made me raise an eyebrow, a Korean-American living in the Philippines...

...but of course I'm always a sucker for point-of-sale marketing...

...so I got a 1-piece + drink set--just TWD 59.

TKK is a Taiwanese fried chicken chain.  Founded in 1974.  Currently 48 locations throughout Taiwan, 2 in China.

Item 26: fried chicken (3.0)--pretty good; seasoned, probably soy-based, vaguely reminded me of Kyochon Chicken (see generally 4.094 Original Soy-Garlic Chicken), not as intense, though maybe better.


Probably not what I'm thinking.

Venue 12: [?]

A couple doors down was this dumpling joint.

The dude--again, male (see generally 5.110 (Chicken?) Xiaolongbao)--making the dumplings right there in the open.

I went with the signature dish, the one that the dude was working so hard to make.


Item 27: Signature Pork Dumpling (2.25)--okay, I guess, whatever; mostly pork filling, thick skins.

Funny, I somehow understood precisely what this was supposed to mean.

Sauce District

At the airport, after checking in my bags, I still had a few minutes before boarding time, so the Taipei Diet was still alive.  The airport offers a food court with a respectable array of made-to-order restaurants.


Venue 13: Hsinchu Hai Rei Meatballs Store

This seemed to be the most Taiwanese of the bunch.

Item 28: Meatball Soup (1.5)--decent chicken broth, but the chicken meatballs had an odd/off artificial flavor/texture.

Item 29: glass noodles with minced pork sauce (2.0)

Purchased at 7-11 on Day 1, been carrying it around all day--cheers!

Done.

54 hours.

13 venues.

28 items.

2.11 average rating.

As evidenced by the average rating, I wasn't all that impressed by the food.  I don't anticipate coming back of my own accord anytime soon.  But who knows, maybe with guidance from somebody who's familiar with the city, I could make it work next time.  

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