The Incredible Adventures of Gourmet Gal

Wednesday, September 06, 2006




Could there be a light I'm seeing at the end of this tunnel?

"Before we go in,”my hubby pinched the space in between his eyebrows with his thumb and index fingers to emulate the phrase “Im deeply concerned and … scared at the same time” in that classic “actors studio” acting technique. “I want you to set your expectations low. Zero. Nada. Otherwise, lets go to a place we know is good.” It was Monday night at 9pm. He just finished work, while I spent the whole day googling the word “meat buns” and perfecting my eyebrows. Poor thing. I crossed my heart and promised to behave like a Stepford wife for the remainder of the night.

J's got some points though. We've passed this place numerous times since moving into the neighborhood. I was tempted to try but never really did it, mainly because this place boasted“excellent beef noodle soup.” Now, let me tell you a little something about my culture. Taiwan is THE capital of the beef noodle soup kingdom. Walk down any random alley blindfolded and you will be sure to find at least a dozen beef noodle soup stands. Movie stars from Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea make bee lines to their favorite beef noodle soup places right off the plane when they arrive in Taiwan. Sometimes even before any public appearances they have been paid to attend. (Don't ask me if Mr. Chow Yun Fat was standing on that line to get in. Go watch the trailer for his current role in "Curse of the Golden Flower." There is even an annual Taipei International Beef Noodle Festival to showcase the best bowls of these delectable beauties and promote healthy competitions among the countless beef noodle soup restaurants.

Now this being said, I knew that the place would not be up to my standard. But I was willing to give it a shot, and I promised J that he could order anything he wanted.

The place was pleasantly spare. The round-faced waitress greeted us warmly with English. I could tell by her accent that she is from Taiwan. A GOOD SIGN! I inquired about the menu in Chinese and she looked slightly startled to hear such sounds coming out of my mouth, but none the less recommended their signature dishes. “Do they have pork chops and rice?” J flipped the menu back and forth wildly. NOW WHY WOULD A BEEF NOODLE SOUP PLACE HAVE … OH, WAIT, HERE IT IS, Pork chop over rice. A promise is a promise. I bit my lips and ordered the followings for us.


“The fried buns with chive & eggs will take fifteen minutes. The chef makes it fresh. Is it okay?” The waitress informed us. HAND MADE FRESH?! Oh, YEAH! We'll wait the whole night if necessary!

To start the meal, the waitress brought us two small bowls of soup. “On the house,” She beamed. I LOVE MY PEOPLE! The soup turned out to be the very tasty “4 spirits soup” which consisted of little pieces of remedial Chinese herbs, slivers of black mushrooms, and chucks of chicken meat. I have not had this soup for over two years! It brought back so many memories. J was not so fond of the soup. I didn't blame him. Not everyone likes that faint Chinese herbal taste.

“Beef with Sesame Cake” turned out to be slices of braised five spice beef shank with julienne cucumber + scallions wrapped in a large sheet of scallion pancake smeared with tangy Peking duck sauce. We both took a piece and dove into a giant bite. Smiles everywhere. IT WAS A HUGE HIT! The pancake was lightly crunchy on the outside and pleasantly chewing on the inside. The beef melted in your mouth with a naughty kick of my favorite five spices. J finished his and immediately claimed the last piece on the plate as his breakfast for the next morning.

All was good so far.

My beef noodle soup came with a jar of pickled sour cabbage, the way it was supposed to be. I placed a spoonful of the cabbage inside the soup and took a tentative sip of the glistening broth, HOT! My eyes lit up. VERY NICE! There is nothing that I HATE MORE than eating a bowl of LUKEWARM SOUP! Soup has to be hot! I proudly inherited this gift from my Cantonese mother, and we all know that the Cantonese people are notoriously obsesses with hot soup! (There is even a “hot soup club”, consisted of five very lively old Chinese ladies in my mom's building.) I took a bite of the noodle. Hum, not hand made, a bit on the limp side. I chewed on a piece of beef with amber colored tendon in the middle. Good. Better than I expected.

“How was it?” J was curious. “Your zero expectations theory worked,” I said. He grinned with delight.

J's pork chop over rice came with a piece of crisply browned chop, sautéed spinach with garlic, and a soy sauce marinated hard-boiled egg. I glanced at it and felt a wave of nostalgia washing over me. It looked like the countless lunch boxes I had growing up! J and I both reached for the chop. I eagerly gnawed the meat on the bone. Proficient. J nodded and gave it a thumbs up.

The “fried buns with chives & eggs” was really what we called, “Chive Box”. It arrived piping hot, but I was disappointed after taking a mouthful. The filling was too watered-down for me. Back home, the chive boxes were PACKED with, well…chives! Here, it was only a couple of chopped chives with lots of other crap. I understand that Chinese chives stink, but some of us happen to like scandals! It's a good thing I've never developed that fine Disney taste.

After leaving the restaurant with a delightfully full stomach, I felt glad that we gave it a shot. “We should come back for breakfast one day!” I announced gleefully. The menu stated that every Saturday and Sunday morning they serve Northern Chinese country style brunch, which consisted of deep fried cruller, sesame cake, sticky rice roll, pancake with eggs, all sorts of dumplings, and home made soy milk (choice of hot/cold/sweet/salty/with raw egg yoke). J carefully avoided eye contact and mumbled, “will there be anything I can eat?”

Love is to love someone without judging what they eat …


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