合歡刀削麵: Taipei’s Best Beef Noodle Is Also One Of The Cheapest

Relatively unknown and not exactly easy-to-find, one little food stall has a queue that winds through the small food court that it calls home and down the corridor almost into the next building, for hours each day. Why? Beef Noodle. That’s why.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Firstly, this place isn’t overly easy to find if you don’t speak or read Chinese. It doesn’t appear to have an English name so just search Google Maps for Nanmen Market (南門市場). Once you’re there, head up to the second floor and you’ll find the food court at one end of the building. Bare in mind we’re talking about a food court above a local market, so don’t expect luxury! It’s also, pretty small, with only 5-10 stalls and space for a hundred or so people tops. 合歡刀削麵 is the most popular stall here and it’s over on the right side – it shouldn’t be difficult to find as it’ll be the one with the queue out the door. The stall looks like any other, but it’s clear that this is a matriarchal set up.

The women at the centre of it is calling the shots and doing basically everything, from stirring the massive put of simmering broth, pulling out chunks of meat, and even mixing eggs to throw into the mix (yep, this beef noodle has eggs inside). The menu has seven options(!) which was slightly terrifying as for a moment I wasn’t sure which dish was the main one – so to be safe ordered number one and two; Tomato Beef Noodle and Traditional Beef Noodle.

THE GRUB

Turns out the first one on the list is their signature dish, with tomato broth and eggs thrown in…

And the second is the more traditional Taiwanese recipe.

They both look pretty wonderful. First up, the Tomato Beef Noodle. The broth is super tomatoey! And their tomatoes are clearly very sweet – the broth tastes amazing. It’s sweet, but not in a sugary way.

There is a hint of citrus too, lots of spring onions and plenty of coriander too, so it’s really fragrant, almost like a Vietnamese broth. The tomatoes are really chunky and the cabbage is super fresh and still crunchy. Everything is cooked perfectly, although I found the beef in this dish a little underwhelming – more like catering beef – thin strips that were a little dry, quite different to the traditional beef which is more like brisket. This dish is all about the broth though, and after eating so little vegetables in Taiwan, it was SO good to have a bowl full of veg.

Oh – and the egg – this dish is full of egg. It tastes great. Adds another eggy sweetness that goes so well with the tomato. Just check out that spoonful of amazingness.

Without a doubt the most amazing thing about theses dishes though is the noodles. They are incredibly thick and chunky and clearly completely hand cut. Super rough around the edges, each one is massive, and incredibly tasty. I would honestly say this is my favourite noodle I’ve ever eaten. My girlfriend Huong didn’t feel the same though – she felt they were too chunky and the noodle flavour was too strong as a result, so it depends on your taste. For me, wow.

The traditional beef noodle dish is also fantastic. Man, this broth. So refined. Really so much better than anything else I had in Taipei, and I mean that. And it costs just 110 TWD ($3.50USD)! The beef is wonderfully cooked – super tender, melt in the mouth, and so flavourful. The dish itself feels quite sparse next to the jam-packed tomato broth version, but I almost prefer it for it’s simplicity – very pure flavours, and the thick cut noodles absorb it all so well. What a great flavour and texture combo.

Don’t forget to throw in a bit of the chilli/picked veg mix – it’s such a great flavour. Slightly sweet, super spicy, and with a lovely malty flavour from the marinated pickled soya beans. Such a great addition to an already excellent dish.

CONCLUSION

This place belies it’s location, it’s price, and it’s lack of coverage. These two bowls of noodles are genuinely two of the best bowls I’ve had anywhere, and are an absolute bargain too. My only complaint would be that in this food court atmosphere (one that I love), you can’t help but feel a little rushed by the constant throng of people waiting for their bowl. And this is a dish that should be savoured.

An absolute must-eat in Taipei.

Address: 2/F Nanmen Market, 100, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Roosevelt Rd – https://goo.gl/maps/4HeUEMpShJBvYq149

Nearest MRT: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (Green + Red Lines)

Price: $3.50 USD / bowl

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