Friday, July 24, 2009

Master Hong's Noodle Shop (洪師父麵食栈)

Taiwan is known fo its beef noodles, this is fact. I mean, what other country holds competitions to crown the best bowl of beef noodles? So if I told you that Master Hong's Noodle Shop was crowned top bowl in all of Taiwan in both 2007 and 2008, you're probably already wet (because you're drooling all over yourself of course :D). Stuck in the middle of downtown Taipei, you can find them right across the street from their bitter rivals, the 2007 2nd place winner, and also my favorite noodle shop... Liang Pin. In an unassuming nook, stuck between 2 bubble tea places (you read that correctly... beef noodles, can be followed by your choice of bubble tea), the only thing that would make you stop to look at the store is, well... all the awards they have plastered all over the place. Countless yellow signs adorn the frame of the door, just beckoning you in. I mean, how can you refuse a place that has apparently won every single culinary award in Asia (bit of an exaggeration there, but you get my point). In any case, store front... loud and obnoxious. Inside, it's a bit more mellow... 6 tables on the first floor, more in the basement, the place actually looks really clean. Seriously, they actually put some effort into decor, but... this turned out to be a bad thing.

How could an excellent interior put a damper on a meal you ask? Well, let me explain. In Chinatown, dingy is good. Now, I wouldn't want to eat in a place where I see rust everywhere, and cockroaches creeping around, but a bit of wear to me usually implies it hasn't been bastardized (hi Joe Shanghai!). In Taiwan however, dingy is bad... because here, bad is bad is bad. If a place is insanitary, you might actually get dysentery or something I probably can't pronounce. In the case of Master Hong's, the interior is way nicer than the standard 10 minute sit in shop (yes I made that reference lol), and thus... it shows in the price. I mean, look at the menu! I won't lie, it was really painful for me to pay the 180 NT ($6), especially when I realized I could go right across the street, to what I think is the best beef noodles in the world, and get 2 bowls. Anyway, check the other prices yourself (I got lazy so I just snapped a pic of the menu), they only get worse from there.

Alright, onto the food... that's why you're here to begin with right? I got their award winning traditional 3 beef noodle soup. Appropriately named since they include thinly sliced brisket, slow cooked bone removed short rib, and my favorite, beef tendon. Served with the choice of hand pulled or knife cut (I got knife cut of course) noodles, over a dark rich beef broth, I could see why they won. The different cuts of beef provided a nice contrast in texture, despite a monotone flavor, which in this case isn't a bad thing. The beef tendon proved to be sufficiently tough, but still delicate. The brisket was just pure flavor, and the short rib meat was fall apart soft... all but melting in your mouth. I realize how strange that last bit sounds, but it was really good. The noodles... up there in quality in comparison to Liang Pin, uneven, yet still fairly consistent in texture, of course, cooked al dente... just enough to finish cooking in the soup. The last element... it was good as far as soups go, above average, fringe excellent for sure. It had a nice richness, the familiar pungent beef scent, and wasn't overly saturated with salt. Was it amazing? Short answer... yes. Would I go again? Probably not, it was good... but not twice as good as Liang Pin. Still, if you find yourself in the area (I think it was 漢口街) twice, then you should at least try it... after Liang Pin of course.

I finally stopped being a lazy bum today. Went for a slightly shorter run (during which my cheap knockoff iPod shuffle died) just to stretch out the legs. Finished at 4.38 miles, but for the first 5k, I think I ran around a 7:30 pace. I have no real way of confirming that, but I normally run the 10k around an 8 minute pace, and today felt significantly faster, or maybe I'm just getting fatter and running is getting more difficult, either way... I wanted to ease my way back into running again haha. Oh yeah, when I get back to the US... the biking counter is gonna jump like crazy. I finally caved and bought my bike, let's just say... MSRP makes me have to ride a couple 1000 miles next year to justify the purchase. Pics will arrive when I reassemble in the US.

distance for the day: 4.38 miles
distance biked for the day: 0.00 miles

distance on the year: 448.78 miles
distance biked on the year: 142.68 miles


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oh snap. I can control the text here?