Sunday, June 14, 2009

Liang Pin (良品) & Snow King (雪王)

The 2007 2nd place winner in the National Taiwan Beef Noodle Festival... Liang Pin (良品). No I'm not joking, yes that is a real and annual event. Liang Pin literally translates to 'Good Quality,' and that's a pretty good description. I actually don't really want to write this review, since I don't want to ruin my favorite noodle place, but since it's not as accessible as say... something in midtown, I'll make an exception haha. Located on 開封街 (Kai Feng Street), the storefront is another one of those... 'I'd never walk in because it looks so generic' kind of joints (sort of like a generic Manhattan deli). A small nook in the wall, with an unimposing yellow sign above proudly proclaiming 2nd place (who the hell brags about 2nd place?), this place will never be mistaken for an expensive restaurant, but honestly... who cares? It tastes amazing. I should mention though, that the 2007/2008 1st place winner is located right across the street. I actually haven't gotten the opportunity to visit yet, but I'll probably go in the next few weeks.

Right inside the door is their kitchen, with giant pots of broth boiling, dumplings going into hot pots of water, and noodles being hand cut. With only 5 tables, and more of those crappy metal stools, everything just feel right. The small shop feel and more importantly the cheap student atmosphere I associate with most food places in Taiwan. Their specialty is 山西 (Shanxi) style knife cut noodles. Those more familiar with the 山東 (Shandong) style, found more commonly in Chinatown, would be in for a real treat, as these are much chewier, and in general more varied in texture. The basic difference would be that those found in NYC tend to just be straight strips cut from a flattened piece of dough, where as these are 'peeled' off the outside of a ball of dough straight into the pot (I've actually seen an old chef slice them into a pot of boiling water from across the room, it was incredible). When you first walk in, your order is actually taken by a couple of really old men with really heavy 山西 accents, I don't know why this is important, but it adds to the effect of authenticity I guess. Back to the food though, I got the standard 紅燒牛肉麵 (Red cooked beef noodle soup) which cost 100 NT ($3). It indeed lives upto the standard of placing 2nd in all of Taipei... and that's a lot of beef noodle soup. The noodles are the standout here, with the knife cut method adding to the character of the entire bowl. They're just thick enough to seem al dente in texture, but thin enough that you don't feel like you're laboring through uncooked dough. The beef is comparable to that at 永康 with the same fall apart quality, as well as in cut, since both are half brisket half tendon (半筋半肉). The broth is also similar in quality to that at 永康, well flavored, rich in beef taste, moderately spicy. All things considered, with the beef and soup being on par, and with superior noodles and a lower price than that at 永康, I'd suggest a trip here instead (although you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you skipped out on other places just because of my opinion... they're all real good).

After grabbing a bowl of noodles, what could possibly be better than... a bowl of ice cream? Nothing. So I walked a couple of blocks over to 武昌街 (Wu Chang Street) to look for an ice cream parlor that has been around since my mom's high school days. It's a place called 雪王 (Snow King) that boasts 73 different varieties (take that Baskin-Robbins!). Starting from the tame (chocolate, coffee, vanilla), to the exotic (stewed sesame oil chicken, pig's feet, pork floss), to the alcoholic (of varying proof from beer to 120), the choices are truly unmatched. The shop is also just a hole in the wall, with a couple of metal tables and a metal bar along the side, but really... in Taiwan, ice cream won't last long enough for you to sit down to have a conversation over. The prices aren't too reasonable... with the cheapest scoops clocking in at 45 NT and ginseng at 150 NT ($1.50 to $5). I went with the pork floss, since I love the stuff on pretty much everything, and at 100 NT ($3), it was a bit pricey. The scoop is moderate in size, larger than that at Ben & Jerry's or the like, but not a value in my opinion. The taste? Er... it tasted like pork floss? Haha, seriously though, it tasted good. Different, but good. Honestly, I just went because it's an experience, and given the prices, I most likely won't be returning... but if anyone wants to try the pig's feet for me... let me know how it is.

I ran something like 7.11 miles today, even though I was planning on taking an easy day... something like a 5k at my 10k pace. Why would I do this (again)? I got lost. Simple as that. I managed to get lost running in a circular loop around 台灣大學 (NTU). That sounds really stupid, but with all the circles at the end of every edge I got confused. In any case, I did a lot of doubling back to find my way back home. The one good thing though... I ended up running way faster than my 10k pace.

distance for the day: 7.11 miles
distance biked for the day: 0.00 miles

distance on the year: 310.73 miles
distance biked on the year: 142.68 miles


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oh snap. I can control the text here?