They say Taipei is the World's Capital for Beef Noodle Soup. Quite the cocky claim, is it not? Considering that wikipedia entry says that this dish (or bowl rather) was invented by Chinese Muslims who brought this dish past China and into Taiwan. Maybe somewhere down the line one of the dudes strayed from the faith and discovered his forbidden lust for fine swine and oinkalicious pork bone broth, and thus the early prototypes of tonkotsu ramen was born. But that's another tale another time.
Beef Noodle Soup or depending on how food PC douche you are (to call it Beef Noodles) 牛肉麵 is one of the key staple representatives of Taiwanese food and everywhere you go that serves up this bowl, you will find numerous takes on the classic that is broth, beef, and noodles.
Lin Tung Fong is an unassuming place that specializes in one of the ultimate renditions of the Bovine Noodle Shiznit, aka Niu Rou Mien in Mandarin.
The first time I was here, it was midnight and the place was already 95% full. During most times of the day, expect to see long lines. However the waiting time on average is not very long, as the restaurant space you see in the photos is bigger than what it normally is. After regular dinner hours, they close down the extended indoor restaurant space and only open up the area next to the kitchen, or if it gets really busy they open the overflow area that's a bit brighter and tidier.
People know that they are not here to chit chat or social. It's STFU and eat, slurp, munch, gulp, awww yeah. Then pay the guy standing nearby (who's over 6 feet tall and quite buff in case you try to be a real ass bandito) and leave.
The dining area right by the kitchen (facing the street) is a lot more nitty gritty and street like, so don't expect table cloth and chair dining. You also have to share tables with strangers, which is not a bad thing as that adds to the atmosphere that you are eating with and rubbing elbows with the locals.
On the tables are self serve condiments including 3 kinds of chili oil and spices, something called "butter" in Chinese but is actually a paste essence of beef goodness (aka marinated FAT), in addition to a box of tissue to clean up after yourself. In some cases the tissues come in handy in the event you cry or shed a few tears after tasting your noodle bowl, because it's quite excellent if you want something to hit the spot.
The ordering here is done in a somewhat similar fashion to A&Js in Cupertino, where you are given a checklist sheet entirely in Chinese. They have a small range of appetizers and marinated eats before the main course comes.
And the main course? Well the broth and noodles are standard, you choose between beef (flank cut with the sexiest looking cross cut tendons in between that all melts in your mouth), whole tendons, or half beef and half tendons (as pictured). Choose from bowl sizes Large or Small, and if you can eat the large bowl might be the best choice.
Half beef (flank) half beef tendon noodle soup 半筋半肉牛肉麵LTF is one of the more pricier places for Beef Noodle Soup. A street food stall rendition may run you US$3 or so, but LTF's version is closer to $6 to $7 for a large bowl, which is considered expensive. That's still nothing compared to some places that charge upwards of $100 for a bowl of high end beef (maybe using Japanese Wagyu), but for something that's within the top ten best, I'm sure LTF is pretty high up there.
Menu runs like this:
Appetizer dish (you point and they bring over) - NT$30
Hua Gan - NT$30 (marinated dried tofu)
Plate of tendon - NT$130
Plate of beef intestines - NT$120
Plate of tripe (stomach lining, honeycomb!!) - NT$120
Plate of beef (sliced flank) - NT$120
Beef soup with noodles no meat - Large NT$90, Small NT$70
Beef tendon with broth (no noodles) - Large NT$230, Small NT$200
Beef tendon noodles with broth - Large NT$230, Small NT$200
Beef tendon & beef flank in broth (no noodles) - L NT$200, S $170
As above with noodles - same price
Beef flank with broth - L NT$150, S NT$120
Beef flank noodle in broth - L NT$150, S NT$120
One last tip. Your bowl of BNS may vary depending on the time of day here. Since the vat of BNS broth needs to be continuously cooked, there are certain times when the broth doesn't taste as deep as it should, as the chefs have to pour new broth/liquid in to prevent the levels from going down too much. But still great anyhoo.
That was 2007.
2 years later, came back for another visit. Still as good.
This time we sat in the overflow area. It was past 7 pm.
Self-help side dishes 小菜
Simmered marinated pig's ear (sesame oil, soy sauce) 豬耳朵 - chunky, crunchy yet refreshing delicious like good beef tendon. A lil' bit of chopped garlic made this go a long way. Looked surprisingly like grilled Taiwanese sausage slices. Served cold.
And finally the main course
Half beef flank, half beef tendon noodle soup. 半筋半肉牛肉麵
The cuts of flank are so chunky, yet so soft to the bite and smooth. Criss Cross cuts of tendon inbetween. The tendons have a nice mild bite to them for those who don't like melt in your mouth softies. The noodles are a lot thicker than I had remembered, but like the concept of Japanese ramen where noodle thickness should be paired with and dependent on the type of broth, serves the function of matching incredibly well with the beef stock that is rich in color, deep in flavor, yet humbly light and refreshing (you can tell a lotta labor and love went into the broth).
There are three kinds of self help spices/chili kinda sauces. One must try is a jar of dark brown paste, that in my first visit is I supposed "beef butter" aka beef FAT marinated in spices. A small scoop in your bovine noodle shiznit soup will Emeril-lize the experience, BAM!, and kick it up a few notches. If you dare, try eating this stuff plain.
The best part? You can ask for free refill of the broth! If you've come a long way just to eat here, why not load up on this bovine juice.
林東芳牛肉麵 (Lin Tung Fong Beef Noodle Soup)
台北市中山區八德路二段274號 (Taipei City, Zhongshan District, Ba Der Rd 2nd portion #274)