Vietnamese at Pho Hoa (Taipei)

January 27, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

5

A pretty decent, fairly authentic Vietnamese joint in Taipei is Pho Hoa, situated in one of the alleys near Zhongxiao Fuxing/Dunhua MRT station. It’s usually very very busy and always packed out during peak hours, so we went early one day just as they opened up to ensure we’d get a seat.

1

We ordered two noodle soups: the Signature Pho (NT$180), which has an aromatic, translucent (nearly opaque) broth with all kinds of different meat; and the spicy and sour fish rice noodle soup (NT$160), also one of the specials. The noodles come with the usual condiments — lemon, chili and basil — and there is also chili and hoisin sauce for the beef, just the way I like it.

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Their extensive menu has all sorts of other options, such as dry nice noodles, spring rolls and BBQ skewers, etc.

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The highly touted Signature Pho was good, but not as great as I had expected it to be. When I see a soup that thick, I anticipate a burst of flavour, but the broth was surprisingly light in taste. Not bland, just lacking a bit of a kick. That said, it’s still a nice hot bowl of Pho.

4

The hot and spicy fish rice noodle is not something I usually have at Vietnamese restaurants, but it was nice to try something a little different. It wasn’t too spicy and the broth had some tang to it, and the fish was reasonably fresh. I still prefer pho but I didn’t mind giving it a go.

Pho Hoa is regarded as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Taipei, but for me it’s just one of the better ones. That said, I won’t mind going back there again if I’m in the area.

8/10

Details

Pho Hoa (美越牛肉粉)

Address: No. 43, Lane 190, Section 1 Dūnhuà South Road, Dà’ān District, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing / Zhongxiao Dunhua)

Phone: 02 2751 5578

Hours: Mon-Sun 11:00-23:00

pho

Madame Jill’s Vietnamese Cuisine (Taipei)

January 22, 2014 in Food, Taiwan, Travel

4

A quick one about one of the better Vietnamese joints in Taipei, Madame Jill’s (which has a completely unrelated Chinese name of 翠薪越南餐廳), located in Gongguan off Roosevelt Road. As a lover of Vietnamese food, I was spoiled in Sydney, which has some of the best pho around, but Taiwan has so far been a relative disappointment in comparison. That said, Madame Jill’s is definitely one of the more authentic ones I’ve tried over here, with the proper rice noodles and traditional flavoured soup. It’s apparently the first Vietnamese restaurant to come to Taiwan as a result of the Vietnam War and has been in the country for the past 40 years.

The restaurant is spacious, and while clean, has a little bit of that “cheap and dirty” look shared by regular Vietnamese restaurants you’d find in Bankstown or Cabramatta. The menus are very extensive, with a wide selection of pho, dry vermicelli, rice, baguettes, appetizers and cooked dishes.

We ended up ordering three things for two people — a beef pho with beef balls (which comes with the usual vegetables and bean spouts — for NT$150), a set of BBQ pork skewers (NT$130), and a dry vermicelli with fried Viet spring rolls (NT$125).

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3

1

The headliner, the beef pho, was very solid. The soup was nice and hot, very aromatic, but not heavy to the extent that the soup is opaque. The beef come semi-rare, which is great, and it’s topped off with a healthy serving of onions and spring onions.

The chicken skewers taste as good as they look, especially with the dry vermicelli underneath. The chicken itself was tender and contained lot of flavour.

The dry vermicelli with Viet spring rolls was also fairly decent with generous serves of chopped carrots and cucumber, plus a well-blended fish sauce to pour over it. The spring rolls are fried well and contain actual meat as opposed to some cheapskate places I’ve been to that only add taro.

I’ve been to a bunch of Vietnamese places in Taipei already and Madame Jill’s is one I will gladly head back to for repeat visits. It’s not Cabramatta or Bankstown, but it’s good enough.

8.5/10

Details

Madame Jill’s Vietnamese Cuisine (翠薪越南餐廳)

Address: No. 11, Lane 24, Roosevelt Road Section 4, Dà’ān District, Taipei (nearest MRT Gongguan, green line)

Phone: (02) 2368-0254

Hours: 11:00 am – 2:30 pm, 5:00 – 9:00

Madame Jill's Vietnamese Cuisine

Ling Dong Fang’s famous Taiwanese beef noodle soup (Taipei)

July 23, 2013 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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Doesn’t look like much, but this place is nearly always packed out

There are plenty of clean and delicate restaurants in Taiwan, but to really experience the local culture you must get down and dirty with the commoners. Taiwan is also famous for its stewed or braised beef noodle soup. When you put the two elements together, it means you must visit a local beef noodle soup stall/shop.

And there are few beef noodle soup shops in Taipei more popular than Ling Dong Fang (林東芳牛肉麵) — which I assume is the name of the owner/chef).

It’s a place you wouldn’t look at twice if there wasn’t a massive line outside of it during peak hours. There is an open kitchen, a table for the side dishes, and two small tables pressed against the walls allowing a total of about 10 customers. In summer it can get pretty hot in there despite the presence of air conditioners. Due to its size, most of the customers are there to get the takeaway.

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Condiments including chilli sauce, which is supposedly a must-add

What’s so good about Ling Dong Fang? I ordered the best thing they had, the half-tendon, half-beef noodle soup for NT$190 (the large is NT$220), though the full-tendon noodle soup can cost up to NY$250 (for the large).

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The menu

And as you can see, the meat is plentiful and nicely carved, unlike many other local beef noodle soup joints who skimp on those things. I also loved the green onions. The soup is lighter than I expected, and that’s probably what makes it so popular, as traditional soups are often heavy on the salt and MSG. The noodles are excellent, with a handmade texture and the perfect thickness and bite.

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That’s a nice looking bowl of beef noodle soup!

It was a perfectly good bowl of beef noodle soup, but to be honest I can’t say it is the best I’ve had. It’s a matter of opinion.

8/10

Details:

Ling Dong Fang Beef Noodle Soup (林東芳牛肉麵)

Address: No. 274, Sec 2. Bade Road, Taipei

Phone: (02) 2752-2556

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00am – 5:00am

MRT: Zhongxiao Fuxing, Exit 1

Yipingshan Hand-cut Noodles at Yong Kang Street

March 21, 2012 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

About time for another Yongkang Street special.

Some people like their noodles thin, others like their noodles fat.  I like my noodles super fat and chunky, which is why I am a sucker for hand-cut noodles. For those who haven’t had it before, it’s made by basically kneading a massive lump of dough and then shredding chunks off lump into boiling water. The result: thick, unevenly shaped, chewy chunks of noodle goodness.

Hand-cut noodles go with a lot of things, but most people in Taiwan like to pair them with stewed beef soup. I like that too.

On this day, I went to a restaurant I had been dying to visit for ages — Yipingshan Hand-cut Noodles (一品山西刀削麵之家) on Taipei’s famous Yongkang Street (there are also apparently a few other stores, either in the chain or just have the same name. I understand there is one at Tienmu and possibly another at Shilin).  Just about every noodle place on Yongkang Street is some kind of stewed beef noodle soup award winner, but this one is apparently a ‘multiple’ winner!

Just a few awards

The restaurant itself is small and ordinary looking, and their menu and ordering pad is rolled into one. Basically, the menu has been laminated and you circle what you want on the menu itself with coloured pencils, and they’ll rub it off and re-use it for the next customer. Good for the environment, I guess.

The menu

We got two things: the tomatobeef noodle soup and the pork with stir fried savoury pastry (or savoury shredded pancake). The beef noodle soup requires no introduction, but the stir fried savoury pastry may be quite novel for some. You know stir fried noodles, right? It’s basically that, except instead of noodles they use a chopped up savoury pancake. I don’t dare think about how much extra fat and calories is in the dish, but boy does it taste awesome. Two great dishes mixed into one — genius!

The tomato beef noodle soup with hand-cut noodles is one of their signatures

Stir fried savoury shredded pancake

The tomato beef noodle soup was pretty good. The soup base, to be honest, was nothing too special but the hand-cut noodles made it great. On the bright side, the soup is quite clear and light, meaning it isn’t too bogged down by oil, so it was actually quite refreshing to drink. The stir fried pastry was great. A little on the oily side but that was expected.

Some small side dishes, if you are so inclined

In all, a very satisfying meal. I wouldn’t say it’s an all-time favourite by any means, but it’s definitely a place I would go back to. In Taiwan, where there are enough restaurants to keep you eating at a different place every day for the rest of your life, that’s a pretty decent compliment.

7.5 out of 10!

Address: No. 10-6 Yongkang Street, Taipei

Phone: (02) 2321-1562; (02) 2393-1339

Mazendo: Noodles and Dumplings (Taipei)

January 8, 2012 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

I love my noodles and dumplings.  Not long ago I was walking the streets near Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall MRT station and saw this packed out joint that appeared like a bit of a Din Tai Fung clone.  It is called Mazendo (麻膳堂) and there’s always a line during lunch and dinner time.  I did some research and it came highly recommended by a lot of bloggers.

A few days later, on a rainy evening, I went to check it out.  Fortunately, because of the rain and the relatively early time (6pm), we didn’t have to wait to get a seat.  The interior is not particularly big, but that’s because part of the space is dominated by a see-through glass kitchen, where the chefs are busy preparing dish after dish.  Like many Taiwanese restaurants, they give you an order form which you fill out yourself and hand to the waiters, but be warned — they only have a Chinese version, so bring someone who can read Chinese with ya.

The menu is varied but not extensive.  There is an assortment of stewed beef soups with noodles or vermicelli, and you can choose whether you want it spicy (mala) or not.  There’s also the usual selection of dry noodles, from minced meat (zha jiang mian) to sesame sauce to spicy sauce to pickled vegetables (mustard).  Of course, they also have fried rice (pork and prawn) and a selection of dumplings and pan-fried gyoza (potstickers), but what they don’t have is xiaolongbao.  On the bright side, the prices are quite reasonable — the beef noodle soups are around NT$120-140, while everything else is between NT$60 and NT$90.

This is dry noodle with minced meat and cucumber strips (炸醬麵)

We ordered a minced meat dry noodle (zha jiang mian), a bowl of dumplings in red chilli oil, a plate of potstickers and a spicy beef noodle vermicelli.  Naturally, it was far too much for two people.

Dumplings with red chilli oil (紅油水餃)

Potstickers (煱貼)

I have to admit, the photos look pretty good, but must say I was somewhat disappointed after all the hype.  The food was pretty decent for the price, but it was nothing exceptional.  The zha jiang mian in particular was very bland, and I’ve had better at stalls on the sides of random streets.  The dumplings in chilli oil were good but a little different because usually the oil goes with wontons, and it’s usually sour rather than sweet.  I didn’t mind it but my wife thought it wasn’t particularly appetising.  The potstickers were average and by the time they arrived at our table, not particularly hot, like they had been out for some time.  And the spicy beef noodle vermicelli, their signature dish, was interesting because it was different (it had sliced beef and blood cubes), but it wasn’t the type of flavour that appealed to me.

The signature dish, mala beef noodle soup with vermicelli (or noodles) (麻辣牛肉細粉)

So ultimately, I guess it was a personal thing.  For the price, it was a decent meal, but in terms of the quality of the food, I’m afraid Ma Shan Tang doesn’t quite live up to its reputation.

6.5 out of 10

Details

Mazendo (麻膳堂)

Address: No. 24, Lane 280, Guangfu S. Rd, Taipei (nearest MRT: SYS Memorial Hall, exit 2)

Phone: (02) 2773-5559

Opening Hours: 11am – 2:30pm; 5pm-10pm (7 days)

Price: Around NT$100-200 per person, depending on what you order.