5.112 Niu Rou Mian

Cycle 5 – Item 112

27 (Sun) April 2014

Niu Rou Mian


at Yong-Kang Beef Noodle

-Da’an, Taipei, Republic of China (Taiwan)-


The Taiwan Diet (Day 3)

In Taipei to grab a bite.  Many bites.  Along the lines of my food odyssey to Singapore last year, the plan is to try as many items as I can find, from as many venues as I can hit, improvising for the most part, no scheduled meals, just stuffing my face throughout the day and into the night, whenever I’m no longer feeling stuffed from before.  54 hours on the ground.  Let’s do it.



The restaurant opens at 1100.
I arrived at 1115.

Yong-Kang Beef Noodle is a Taiwanese restaurant.  Founded 1963.  Specializes in noodle dishes, particularly niu rou mian, beef noodle soup.  By many accounts, it’s the ultimate destination for the dish.  The customers queue up for the privilege.

Already too late to beat the crowd.

If I ever get another shot at this place, I might try the 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.

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 – kimchi is the prime example – regardless of the cuisine, be it Korean, Chinese, Italian, French, Nepali, etc.   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.

Each just TWD 25 (about USD 1).

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.

Item 22 – Pickled Cabbage (2.5): kinda like cole slaw.
Item 22 – Dried Tofu and Anchovies (2.0): deceptively spicy.

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.

suan cai (right) + douban jiang (left)

Niu Rou Mian is a Taiwanese dish.  Flour noodles (mian) in broth derived from boiling beef (niu rou) 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.   Widely regarded as the national dish.

Item 24 – Niu Rou Mian (2.5): with half calf tendon & half beef; suan cai added some flavor but still not enough.
Cut-with-spoon tender.

It was okay.  Despite appearances, the broth was neither very spicy nor beefy, surprisingly bland, similar impression to the one at Din Tai Fung the other day.  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.

Item 25 – 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.
I shared the table with 4 other customers, all strangers to each other.

Net, I suppose that I enjoyed the food more than I didn’t enjoy the food, and that includes all the 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 a former school building.
The most intriguing series comprised an exhibition by Korean artist Park Seung Mo: each piece appeared 3-D and photographically sharp, at a distance, but constructed of a few seemingly random jumbled layers of wire when viewed up close and from the side – I couldn’t begin to contemplate how someone would think of doing such a thing.


A few blocks away from the museum, I came upon 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.  I would’ve bought more, but weight was an issue.


With a few hours remaining before my flight back to Manila, the Taipei Diet wasn’t finished yet.

Under the bus terminal for the airport shuttle, I encountered an extensive underground shopping center that featured a restaurant corner.


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

I’d read somewhere that Taiwan is famous for fried chicken.

I got a 1-piece + drink set; just TWD 59 (about USD 2).

Item 26 – Fried Chicken (3.0): seasoned, probably soy-based, vaguely reminded me of Kyochon Chicken, not as intense, though maybe better.

Pretty good.


A couple doors down, a dumpling joint.

Even in a bus terminal, dumpling-making appears to be within a man’s purview.

By this point, obviously, I was just stuffing my face to up the numbers.

Item 27 – Signature Pork Dumpling (2.5).
Mostly pork filling, thick skins.

Okay, I guess, whatever.


At the airport, after checking in my bags, I still had a few minutes before boarding time, so the Taipei Diet was still alive.

Taste of Taiwan Food Court offered a respectable array of made-to-order restaurants.


Hsinchu Hai Rei Meatballs Store appeared 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 30 – Zha Jiang Mian (2.0): I finally got to try it; meh.
Purchased on Day 1, been carrying it around all weekend – cheers!

13 venues.

29 items.

Average rating: 2.5.

As evidenced by the rating, I was satisfied but not all that impressed by the food.  I don’t anticipate coming back of my own accord anytime soon.  But I’m sure that with guidance from somebody who’s familiar with the city, I could make it work next time.



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