Frequently appearing in “best Beef Noodle in Taipei” lists and usually with a lengthy queue, Lao Wang Ji is a little place up an otherwise unnoticeable alley near Ximending serving one thing and one thing only: Beef Noodles. I went to find out if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
Just around the corner from Ximending and walking distance from Peace Park, Lao Wang Ji (also referred to as Taoyuan Street Noodle or Lao Wang Kee Noodle) is what looks like a fairly standard Taiwanese restaurant down an equally ordinary alley. Aside from the frequent queue lined up outside, you wouldn’t be blamed for not thinking much of it. But this is one of the most popular Beef Noodle shops in the city according to locals and foreigners alike. I popped in at around 2pm and was lucky to get a table after just a few minutes. At first I had to check if this was the right place – it really didn’t look like much, and there isn’t an English sign or menu to be seen, but yep – this was it. We jabbed at someone else’s bowl of noodles and ordered. The service was typically brisk and straightforward. No flowery “how are you sir” here – just the way I like it. This is not a place you come to for the service or the ambiance, it’s all about the food.
Within minutes I was served a steaming bowl of beef noodles and it looked quite incredible. Having had this dish in a few places in Taipei, the thing that stood out right away was how much beef you get – several big chunks of humungous, juicy-looking beef.
I initially thought that, by Asian standards, 220 TWD ($7USD) was a bit much for a single bowl of noodles, but when I saw the amount of beef in my bowl, I was immediately appeased. There really is a pile of it, and it’s rich, tender and chunky, with a sweet tomato kick. The soup is very tomatoey, with a hint of sharpness, presumably from citrus, but overall quite sweet. It tastes very refined; this is a broth with history. I did feel that some of the beef was a little over-cooked and had just a touch of dryness, and maybe felt the soup was just a tad too sweet.
Don’t forget to throw in a few spoonfuls of the delicious pickled veg. It adds a lovely vinegary flavour which goes really well with the tomato in the soup too, and the crunch adds to the texture of the softness of the beef and the chewiness of the noodles.
The noodles are fairly thin by beef noodle standards, but still a lovely consistency – quite bouncy and just thick enough to be chewy, but still very slurpable.
The world of Beef Noodle in Taipei is a very competitive space, and for this dish at least, standards are arguably higher in this city than anywhere in the world. For me, Lao Wang Ji was a solid four stars. Nothing to complain about at all. Good service, great flavour, well cooked noodles. What kept it from that 10/10 rating was just a touch of dryness in the beef, and in honesty, still the feeling that $7USD for a bowl of noodles is a bit on the steep side of things. All-in-all though, this is a great dish and if you’re on a culinary tour of Taipei, or even if you’re not, it’s certainly worth stopping by.
Address: 15 Taoyuan Street, Zhongzheng – https://goo.gl/maps/tL7Rv32Yr8evjkxFA
Nearest MRT: Ximen Station (Green + Blue Lines)
Price: $7 USD per bowl
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