*** BREAKING NEWS ***
I had talked about Ramen purists and how they defended venerable bowl of Japanese pork noodle soup.
I tried to garner support from a tiny band of Pho purists to defend with equal gusto the traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup.
I saw a glimmer of hope for the Malaysian Curry Laksa in the effort to be recognized in the company of the big boys in Asian noodle soups.
I am still learning about the promise of the Korean Beef Bone noodle soup and their own proud uniqueness.
It is time now for the Taiwanese Beef Noodle purists not to be out done … to stand up and be counted!
And man was I surprised by the turn out.
For the past few weeks, I had been hearing murmurings about the new Taiwanese Beef Noodle (TBN) house opening in the Aberdeen center. I heard it will be upscale and that it will shake the very foundation of the Taiwanese Beef Noodle Houses in Vancouver. There were talks that the kingpins of Vancouver TBN houses were watching with bated breath.
Two days ago, I read in the Loyaukee Chinese Foodie Forum, that Chef Hung had finally thrown opened the doors of his restaurant. So we planned to go for dinner but was faced with lines that is so uncommon in Chinese restaurants, let alone a TBN.
The wait was excruciatingly long. It took us 55 minutes before it got to our turn. People were patient.
While waiting in line, we overheard one of the leaving customers telling her friend who was standing in front of us that it is “hoe sek” with a thumbs up.
There were a few pictures and signs in Chinese just by the entrance. We could not read it but we can pick up the few words on the background of the pictures. We read the words “2006”, “2007” and “International Taiwanese Beef Noodle Compet …”. Chef Hung is some hot shot award winner, it seems.
They have an open kitchen. Eight people were working in that small space. It is a busy night for them trying to keep up with the demands. We saw them hand making the crispy pancakes and grilled dumplings.
I stopped one of waitress. I had to ask who is Chef Hung. I was afraid that Chef Hung is someone still in Taiwan who merely lent his name to open an outlet here in Vancouver.
She smiled and said “black cap” and quickly walked away with a pot of tea for the customer. Oh yeah … if you are there he’s the guy with the black cap and fancier chef jacket.
He personally prepares the noodles — most of the time anyway. I kept observing him. I noticed that every now and then, he takes a spoonful of the TBN soup and tasted it. It was very often, like once every 10 minutes. That’s a good sign … the man himself doing constant quality control.
He does walk out and speak to the customer. He stopped at the table next to ours but he did not ours!! I was dying to ask him tons of questions. We overheard him telling the table next to us that he takes two days to make the TBN soup.
Chef Hung’s TBN restaurant is clean. Decor was spartan. I don’t think anyone cared, not in such places. It was quite big and can fit quite a number of people.
They even have a VIP room which you can have. However you need to spend a minimum of $200 and are limited to 1.5 hours use. First time I came across this.
We read the menu. Our eye brows were raised when we saw that they are charging $11 for a bowl of their premium TBN. That is expensive when you could get top notch TBN for $7-$8 easily. Scanning the neighboring tables we saw that the bowls are not large, just average … we had seen larger ones.
This better be good.
Here’s the food …
On their menu are 14 different versions of the TBN, ranging from $11 down to $6 for just noodle plus soup.
I asked what is their best version. It is the first item and it is called Champignon Beef Shank with Noodle in Spicy Soup.
It looked simple. I had seen more complex looking ones. The soup does look lighter and does not look spicy at all … no red chili and no film of oil floating on top. First thing I did was to taste the soup. Despite the word “spicy” in the name, it was not spicy — just a faint tinge of spiciness. I like it … the soup was marvelous and flavourful.
We get an option between the flat or the thin noodles. I had to have the best and so asked the waitress what she thought Chef Hung would want to serve. She said thin … and I got thin. Very good … al dente to perfection and tasty too. From my table I could see Chef Hung caressing each strand of noodles before he dumps it the cooker. He made sure that every strand is separated and none sticks together. It was good to have long strands that you pick up one at a time to savour.
So … soup, good … noodles, good.
Champignon beef shank … nice! Large chunky ones at that too. Needed at least 2-3 bites to eat it. I took smaller bites to savour it with a spoonful of soup each time. It is not fibrous like other TBNs where you get this annoying problem when the tough meat gets stuck between your teeth. This meat has … errr … integrity? LOL!
While waiting for my TBN, I saw that there is one person in the open kitchen who was assigned solely to torch beef strips … one at a time. I was really curious and wondered what dish that was being prepared. I wanted to order that too.
So, I stopped one of the busy waitress, pointed to the torching and asked what is that being made for. She said, you have it … the beef strips being torched are served with the #1 TBN noodles.
This is it. A little bit of the all important fat. It has a smokey flavour, slightly different from the champignon beef shank.
I can see why this is so popular. It is different from other TBNs and very good — every single component of it. It is also simple without the complex tastes compared to mainstream TBNs.
At the end, I wanted more and asked Nanzaro if he wants to share another bowl. Good sense prevailed — we did not get another bowl.
This is $11. You should try and let me know if you like it.
TBN must have pickled mustard. Theirs is yellowish and chopped more finely. It is served on the side — not thrown into the bowl if you don’t want it.
Nanzaro had the Braised Beef Shank and Tripe with Noodles in Spicy Soup. This is the same as mine except for the beef parts. It is cheaper at $10. Poor Suanne was dying to try the soup but were limited to a few spoonful by Nanzaro and I.
I said poor Suanne, right? She tried something different. It was the Braised Beef with 5 Kind of Vegetables in Clear Broth ($8). What was she thinking of?!? LOL!
She complained that hers is bland – not salty enough. Loads of vegetables that includes corn, bok choy, tomato, brocolli and carrot. Don’t order this colourful dish — trust me.
It is more expensive than other TBNs. I think it is partly because of the location too. The line at the restaurant is testament to its reputation. I am not sure of their story behind Chef Hung winning awards in Taiwan but would like to know.
If you have 1 hour to wait in line and the matching patience, I suggest you drop whatever lunch or dinner plans you have today. It is fun to join in the hype. Let me know if you think it is “hoe sek”.
To us, it is indeed “HOE SEK!”