Monday, November 10, 2008

Zhang Mama Beef Noodles

Cold. Wet. Breezy. Gray.

The weather in Taipei is unseasonable - it usually doesn't get like this until December. I wore a coat for the first time in months and braved the drizzly wind to walk up Heping Road, from Guting to Technology Building. Why? Thanks to an afternoon class I don't have time to go to the gym this month so I have to get my fitness where I can. (I only have one day off all month, so I'm not joking when I say I don't have time).

I was hungry and resolved to stop at the first Taiwanese joint serving either breakfast or standard noodle/rice dishes. That first stop happened to be Zhang Mama Beef Noodles, on the southern side of Heping E. Road, just before the car park and inlet to Guting Market.

The restaurant was sparse, with a few dark tables, stool chairs and counter. Their selection of Hakka-style xiaochi was unimpressive, but I was only hungry enough for noodles and didn't want any, regardless.

I ordered the tomato beef noodles after considering the hongshao beef and mountain chicken noodles. At 150-190 kuai a bowl, Zhang Mama is not cheap as far as beef noodles go.

But boy, are they good. The noodles aren't homemade, which is a shame, but the soup and meat are delectable. It comes in a heavy ceramic bowl with a ponderous matching spoon, making it all the more fun to slurp up. The broth was very tomato-ey and full of bursting, citrusy flavor (besides the tomato acids I think there was a hint of lemon juice thrown in), not too oily but with a slightly buttery finish. It was almost an Asian minestrone, but better. Much better.

The meat was delicious - tender to the point of falling apart, fatty in a good way without being too fatty. I did have to peel off a few chunks of lard - I just don't like lard - but they came off easily.

The flavors were intense, and for once I didn't feel the need to add chili pepper. They had already added a hint of spice; just enough to make itself known and frame the other flavors, but not enough to blunt your tastebuds.

Obviously, beef noodles in Taiwan are ubiquitous. It's hard to wax poetic about something that's on every streetcorner (ah, 7-11, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. I love thy Tai-ke doritos, I love thy CC Lemon...), but this place does good enough beef noodles that it's worth it's own blog post.

There's another amazing place in Jingmei that does good beef noodles; I'll get their address and post about them next.

What a perfect way to warm up your insides against a nasty, gray Taipei day.

Zhang Mama Beef Noodles - Heping E. Road Section 1 #18 / Tianmu West Road Inside Lane 41 / Minsheng E Road Section 5 Lane 138 #13

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