★★★ 程班長牛肉麺 (ChengBanZhang) - Taipei
ChengBanZhang (which literally means "class president Cheng") is a noodle food stand in the RaoHe night market in Taipei, Taiwan. Even though it is just an open air food stand ChengBanZhang has already appeared on TV and magazines being introduced as one of the must tries in this night market. I tried the first item on their menu 三合一牛肉麺 (The three in one beef noodles soup).
The Soup - is a thick and rich braised beef broth that despite its appearance is not too salty. There are the usual Chinese spices here but much less than the other local beef noodle soups. Also absent is the hot and spiciness that I've become so used to with Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Basically a soup that is heavy on the beef flavor and easy on the exotic Chinese spices.
The Noodles - are thick, hand made noodles, almost the size of udon noodles. They are cooked slightly on the soft side, but that's okay since the noodles are so thick that they are still very chewy.
The Toppings - finally we get to why its called "three in one beef noodle soup". The toppings are big slices of tender beef, big chunks of beef tendon, and 牛雑 (beef miscellaneous) or beef tripe. Three different textures, three slightly different flavors, all very delicious. I'm suprised that more places don't serve the three in one noodle soup. Oh, and there's bean sprouts and 酸菜 (Chinese pickled collard greens) as well.
Overall - a bold, less sophisticated beef noodle soup that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you can get over the locale and the environment and only focus on the food then I'd say give ChengBanZhang a try. If you can't deal with sitting in a crowded, busy night market, eating on tables with paint peeling off and dining out of cheap styrophone bowls then go eat at a real restaurant. For me it all feel just like home. Plus you can't beat the price, all this for TW$110, about $3.50 US dollars, and people here complain that's it's priced too high.
Just tell the taxi driver to take you to RaoHe night market, or write this down: 饒河街夜市