Warning: This will make you hungry.
You know a city takes its beef noodles seriously when they actually organise an ANNUAL FESTIVAL to celebrate this culinary tradition and decide on which restaurant is deserving of the claim that they have the best beef noodles in the city. To the husband’s horror, I made it my mission to find out what the hype was about and try out as many beef noodles as possible in that week. Sadly, I didn’t break any crazy record and had my plans thwarted when I fell sick in the middle of the trip. Till this day though, the husband still blames my sickness on the stubborn insistence of devouring heaty beef noodles despite having a throat infection.
To ensure that this sickness was not all for nothing, we present to you…
The Best Beef Noodles in Taipei.
Lin Dong Fang 林東芳牛肉麵
Every single “best beef noodle list” that I encountered as I was doing my research on which beef noodle establishments to visit had Lin Dong Fang on it. Normally, I’m skeptical of absolute #1s (expectations usually raised too high/too mainstream) but there was one word that sealed the deal for me: HERBAL. I’m a sucker for all things herbal so I figured I couldn’t give this a miss.
We headed for LDF right after dumping our bags at the hotel, and fortunately only had to endure a 10 minute wait because it was already 8:45pm. I must say that this wait was rather torturous because your senses are constantly assailed by the smell of the rich herbal soup. Business is evidently good with the new air-conditioned wing, although the original spaceis still very much a charming hole in the wall. Signs are plastered on the wall reminding you that you only have ONE golden opportunity to refill your soup. Judging from the number of locals around us, LDF is definitely a favourite among the Taiwanese.
It tastes damn home. – The Husband
The beef noodles here are reminiscent to udon – thick, chewy and springy. The soup scored many points with its rich herbal undertone that only hints at the number of hours it has been broiling for. We both looked at each other wide-eyed when we bit into the Australian beef slices and they just melted in our mouths. For an instant kick, add a dollop of the bean paste on the side.
Price: Large bowl is TWD 170, small is TWD 140. (Don’t share. It will ruin relationships.)
Opening Hours: Opens from 1100 to 0300 everyday, except Sundays
Address: No. 274, Section 2, Bade Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104
72 Beef Noodles (七十二牛肉麵)
Why would anyone name their beef noodles after a random number? Only when that is the number of hours they stew the broth for. Based on recommendations, I ordered their specialty – the Qing Zheng Beef Noodles (清燉牛肉麵) which have endured the aforementioned royal treatment where apparently 1.5 kilograms of ox bone is boiled down just to make one portion of soup. This soup did not disappoint – it was light, natural and slightly milky – the kind of effect you get when all the goodness has been concentrated in a bowl. Owing to how no MSG is used, you might not find this as flavourful as the other beef bowls, but the taste can be enhanced with some Himalayan Pink Salt or pickled vegetables. The noodles are consistently QQ (the Taiwanese adjective used to describe noodles that are firm and springy) and the beef slices very tender and tasty. By the way, there is also the option to refill your soup. TAKE IT. I rejected their initial offer because I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish it, and then had to sheepishly ask for more.
Opening hours: Everyday from 1100 to 2100, except Monday. However, do note they close for lunch from 1430 to 1700.
Address: Jin Guo S. Rd, Section 1, No. 188, Da-An District, Taipei City
Niu Dian (牛店)
This was recommended to us by our AirBnb host. Located near the touristy Ximending area, you’ll instantly know you’ve found the restaurant when you turn down the street and see people queuing in front of the shop. Expect to wait for about 15 minutes during lunch! The broth here is painstakingly prepared for 16 hours (do these restaurants stay open all the time?!) to form a consommé that is slightly saltier and oiler than the rest, but also very savoury when its complemented with a good dose of spring onions. Alternatively, you can also try the dry noodles which are also very popular! The winning factor here is the slightly marbled Australian beef slices that were the tastiest out of all the beef bowls we tried. They also have a great selection of small dishes like tofu, cow stomach, and bamboo shoots that have gotten rave reviews from netizens (we were just too full to try them).
Price: Small bowls start from NT 160 and large bowls from NT 190
Opening hours: Daily from 1100 to 2200, except on Mondays
Address: No. 91, Kunming Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City
Run by the same people who own the famous Room 18 club in Taiwan, the ambience at 18 Cafe is markedly different from the other establishments. The decor here is chic and modern, which complements its fusion cuisine. I must admit that I wondered if I was at the wrong place when I stepped in, but these doubts were quickly dispelled when my Championship Beef Noodles arrived.
At TWD 260, it’s the most expensive of the lot but also the bowl with the most generous portions. Atop the broad, springy noodles sit juicy chunks of daikon and sweet, diced tomatoes which complement the herbal undertones of the soup really well. Biting into the daikon is heavenly because all the richness of the broth that is absorbed within just floods your mouth. The beef slices, though significantly fleshier than their counterparts, managed to retain its tenderness. As of now, 18 Cafe seems like a hidden gem because there was only one other table occupied while we were there. I don’t know whether it was my illness, but in the midst of all the coughing and having my throat feeling all scratched out, it tasted exactly like what I needed.
Price: NT $260
Opening hours: Daily from 1130 to midnight
Address: No.55, Sec.1, Anhe Road, Da-an District, Taipei City.
I suspect it would actually take some effort to find a bowl of bad beef noodles in Taipei, but it was fascinating to me how one seemingly simple dish could have so many different renditions and interpretations. Given the time, I would definitely have wanted to check out the Yong Kang Street Beef Noodles (another consistent chart-topper in the Beef Noodle Hall of Fame) and the Lao Wang Ji on Tao Yuan Street. Take note that the latter is seriously one of those hole-in-the-wall eateries with no signboard, although ironically, there are a bunch of other beef noodle stalls around it that all claim to be THE famous Taoyuan Street beef noodles. Don’t be fooled!
Wanna know where exactly these eateries are located in Taipei? Here’s a visual guide that you can easily customise to include your own itinerary!
Do you have other die die must try recommendations for the best beef noodles in Taipei? Do share them with us in the comments section! (: