On a recent trip down to Tainan in southern Taiwan, my former homestay family delighted in taking us on a progressive eating tour of the city. It was lots of fun: we would double park the car in front of one hole-in-the-wall ‘snack’ shop (xiao chi dian), sample a few specialties, and then move onto the next gourmet treat.
One of my favourite snacks during our whirlwind trip was Yeh Family Rice Noodle Soup. I was told to expect rice noodles (米粉 – mifen), so imagined the usual fried vegetables with rice vermicelli side dish. Instead, I discovered that this sixty years old establishment dishes up fragrant and generous bowls of fresh seafood soup. It would be worth visiting Yeh Family’s shop for the seafood alone, but their specialty is actually the noodles – freshly made thick, tubular rice noodles that so reminded me of pasta. They were moist and chewy, and somehow just so un-Chinese!
Oh, and the soup stock itself was also unique. It was savoury, yet somehow addictively sweet. My homestay family’s daughter-in-law, Amy, grew up around the corner and she filled us in on the secret: the soup stock is from another shop, which sells the water it used to boil fresh, homemade fish balls. So the soup stock here is real fish soup with a twist, which perfectly complements the squid and seafood combination. The noodle soup is delicious as is, but I think it tastes even better dusted with a smattering of white pepper. Try it and see.
Yeh Family Rice Noodles is at No 142 Guohua Street Sec 2 (葉家小卷米粉, 台南市國華街二段142號), phone (06) 222 6142. If you have time after enjoying your soup, stop to do some shopping. Yeh Family Rice Noodles is in the middle of Tainan’s discount fashion street. Most of the shops are wholesale, but will also sell retail. The local styles and sizing might not suit, but there are some great (and inexpensive) options for children’s clothing.