I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: If you hear slurping over people’s voices, it is a sign of a good place to eat noodles

The Yong Kang Street Area is a maze of food and drinks that you could waste a whole afternoon, be gluttonously full and still not have eaten everywhere. Just off of Yong Kang Street is home to Yong Kang Beef Noodles, one of the most notable places to get beef noodle soup in Taiwan. Beef Noodle is one if not the most notable dish of Taiwan; I mean they have a whole entire festival devoted to it. Beef Noodle soup is to Taiwan what, pho is to Vietnam or what Ramen is to Japan, there is the core ingredient base but there are regional variations all over. Yong Kang Beef Noodle is as traditional as it gets and has been opened since the early sixties and the two floor establishment is rarely empty.
Eating here reminds me a bit like Katz where the facade is clearly old and worn and that is an establishment that is visited by both tourists and locals. I arrived here about 11:30 am for lunch and the first floor was already full and when I was seated on the second, it was quickly filled after I left. The no brainer order here is the beef noodle soup, the classic but I also opted for both beef and tendons in the soup. 

Also to start off, something that I notice at main other beef noodle shops is the order of a Mizheng rou, a concoction of intestines, sweet potatoes and something resembling couscous but learning later it is just broken rice. It is a mix that is traditionally of leftover bits of meat or in this case offal that people used to make a meal. However, it is warmly spiced and the intestines are slightly chewy and flavorful and have a subtle barnyard taste in a very good way and a comfort dish in my mind although I do not see this as a go to dish for main when they are down in the dumps.  If I was not about to combat a mammoth bowl of noodles, it would easily be a double order. Where the noodles at?

Beefy goodness

The noodle soup comes out of course piping hot and the steam wafting off the bowl made me thankful that the air conditioning in the restaurant was on full blast. The broth is a deep brown color and reminds me the color of a darken roux. The first sip of broth is an intense beef flavor that makes you wonder how they were able to extract so much of that beef flavor from just the bones. When they talk about eating the “moo” of the cow, I think this broth describes it. With subtle spices of star anise, pepper and soy it was warming and addictive. The beef was tender and the tendons which is my favorite part were cooked perfectly and had that firm gelatinous texture (again if you are into that thing like me) you look for when you eat tendon. Tendon itself does not yield beefiness to it but is a great absorber and soaked up all that wonderful broth flavors. Adding some of the pickled chopped mustard greens cut a bit of the richness of the broth and also they give you a whole bowl for the table, allowing you to add as much as you please. The only criticism I have of the beef noodle is the noodles itself, while they are perfectly respectable, they lack that chewiness or “Q” that is a ubiquitous theme in Asian or specifically Taiwanese. It is similar in wanting al dente pasta in Italian pasta, that bite that extra textural note in noodle eating and a theme that constantly comes up especially in eating in Taiwan. In grading a noodle dish, or arguably anything, “Q” is just as important as the taste. The noodles at Yong Kang noodles were not “Q” and were just mediocre to the vastly superior broth and bountiful and tasty bits of meat and tendon. 

My sister is not a noodle soup fanatic as I am and ordered the dan dan noodles which were perfectly respectable and was heavy on the sesame aspect of the dish and could have used a bit more of the spiceiness. Yong Kang Noodle is a worthy stop for anybody visiting Taipei and for anybody that have not tired beef noodle soup before, a worthy introduction and Yong Kang is worthy as being a benchmark in comparison of what a good bowl of beef noodle should be. If it is a bowl of pho, ramen or just plain street noodles, your body will give you “signs” of a good bowl of noodles because your body knows what you want. Some of the sign is in a sweating, either of the forehead or knees or elbows or a runny nose or the combination of both. Say what you want of these weird bodily signals that may also be signs of sickness/death but they have yet to be wrong about a tasty bowl of noodles. The noodles here most definitely made me break out in a sweat and by the end of the bowl, I was full, content and sniffling from a runny nose.  

Yong Kang Beef Noodle
No. 17, Lane 31, Jinshan S. Rd., Sec.2

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