Taipei is famous for its beef noodle soup, and there are at least 3,000 beef noodle soup outlets around the city. I have discovered that nearly everyone in Taipei has his or her own favourite beef noodle place. Just bring up the subject of Taipei beef noodle soup and you will be inundated with people suggesting you try this place or that, and excitedly writing down directions on the back of business cards or napkins.
I am yet to try all the recommendations I have received, but I have made a good start at Xiao Chen’s Beef Noodles (小陳牛肉麵). This recommendation came from a friend of mine, who is on posting in Australia as a diplomat. He grew up in the Xinyi area, and whenever he comes back to Taipei heads straight to Xiao Chen’s for a homely bowl of beef noodle soup.
Despite the clientele that it attracts, Xiao Chen’s is not a posh place. On the contrary, it is a somewhat shabby hole-in-the wall snack shop. And I don’t mean shabby chic: apart from the semblance of a sign painted in grubby red letters, there is little to identify it as a restaurant. We could not even find an address, and there are no business cards or other advertisements.
But don’t let the restaurant’s exterior put you off: the noodles are incredibly good. We choose wide, thick noodles that reminded me so much of an Italian nonna’s cooking (Xiao Chen’s also offers spaghetti-like thin noodles). They were silky smooth and yet still slightly chewy. They were served in large bowls surrounded by a rich, slightly spicy broth which despite being salty was clearly not stuffed full with MSG. And the best part was the (Australian) beef: several generous chunks of thick, beef tendon stewed until meltingly tender. The beef noodle soup was delicious as is, but I enjoyed it with a generous spoonful of Chinese-style pickles.
Xiao Chen’s Beef Noodle Soup is opposite No. 143 Hulin Street, Xinyi District [台北市信義區虎林街143號對面]. To get there, take exit 4 from the Yongchun MRT station. Turn right into the laneway at 7-11 and follow the lane down around 100 metres. Xiao Chen is on the right in an unassuming shop set back from the street. A small bowl (which was enough for me) is NTD110 (AUD3.60), and a large bowl (which even my hungry husband found slightly daunting) is NTD150 (AUD5).