2016 didn’t let go of me so easily. I ended up catching a nasty cold during its last week. An icky cold, one that impairs the mind to think clearly, and weakens the body enough that performing mundane daily tasks can feel so physically excruciating .
It all the more put a damp on my morale as I’m never keen on letting family which are miles away, be worried about my miserable state, and knowing them feel powerless of not being closer to help with the healing process by cooking me comforting food like only they know how to do.
So goes the woes of choosing to live away from closed ones, it’s not always easy, and falling ill is particularly a time when I feel achingly lonely in Taiwan.
Though there is no substitute for their presence, I have at least been able to find decent alternatives to their cooking wonders.
And so, I spent the last week of 2016, running on backup batteries, slowly recharging by imposing myself more rest than usual, trying to function to the best of my sanity, and always dressed to the warmest when venturing outside seeking food to replenish my energy level.
Gleefully, on new year’s eve, I sensed my body and spirits defeating the virus, and feeling ready to start the new year in good health, a pre-requisite to enjoy good wealth. The latter is wishful thinking, but I never despair to strike it at the lottery receipt. 😜
Below are some places I visited, and re-visited, to savor my path to recovery.
Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles 蘭州拉麵
I had not eaten there in a while, but I’m happy to report that the place is still as good as before. I sat down a little before noon, and was able to witness all the take-out orders getting expedited. Two students were picking up a group order for six of noodle soups, all dexteriacally packed in invidual plastic bags, which always amazes me.
Tonchin Ramen 屯京拉麵
More information: instagram
I’m no ramen expert, and until I get the chance to really expand my ramen horizon (like with a trip to Japan? 2017, make that happen, please!), this shall be my reference, and go-to ramen place in Kaohsiung. Tonchin 屯京 is located in the food court basement of Hanshin 漢神, not to be confused with Hanshin Arena 漢神巨蛋 which is home to the competitor chain Ippudo, a convenient spot with Uniqlo just a floor above.
It wasn’t love at first slurp with the katsuoboshi (??) tonkotsu ramen魚豚海帶芽拉麵, but I’ve learned to like it, and it’s now what I usually always order. The broth is rich, it doesn’t taste too porky thanks to the fish element that counter-balances it, they strain the pork fat bits before serving which I really really appreciate, and I love me a garnish of kelp buds 海帶芽 to top it all off. Complimentary extra noodles is offered, but I generally kindly refuse as the regular size is enough, if not a tad too much for me.
La One Café
Ooh la la! For the longest time, I felt strange about this beef noodle soup on the menu, it didn’t quite fit in with the French and Italian theme of the restaurant, but I eventually finally gave it a try, and was pleasantly surprised.
This 420 NT beef noodle soup is made with a French-style chicken broth, an onsen egg, some mushrooms, strips of bamboo shoots for a little crunch, lettuce, and some very tender slices of beef tenderloin. It’s elegantly garnished with with some chopped green onions, and duck-fat fried shallots.
This refined take on the iconic Taiwanese beef noodle soup won’t disappoint, especially the meat, no description of mine would do it justice, but you’ll know it when you eat it.
Tip: the beef is best enjoyed pinkish, so don’t let the slices bathing in at the bottom of the bowl, instead, have them rest towards the surface of the soup.
More information: instagram
The menu rotates on a regular basis here, so depending on how popular this dish is, it may or may not be offered again in the future.
The aged daikon radish 老菜脯 is the hidden star of the soup. The aging process taking place over 15+ years helps it develop an intense taste, and dark brown to black appearance, granted it’s not the most appetizing looking food ingredient on its own.
Each serving comes with a few pieces of aged daikon radish (the stuff is expensive!), but that’s all that is really needed to unleash some umami goodness, which deliciously enhances the chicken broth. Some fresh daikon radish is thrown in for additional sweetness, and also makes for a nice contrast with its older counterpart.
If the aged daikon radish soup isn’t on the menu, fear not, there’s a vegetarian noodle soup on the regular static menu, which also makes a fine alternative to mend a cold.
Other unvetted options
Finally, here are some other places, which look promising, though not yet approved by yours truly 😉:
- 老二迷你土雞鍋 Mini-pot chicken soup (fb, instagram), this place offers different kinds of chicken soup in individual mini-pots. Here are some reviews about the place. It looks good.
- 老神在在瓦罐煨湯 Laoshen Zaizai (fb, instagram 辛亥店, 自由店, 灣中街店), 煨湯 is often translated as simmering soup, it’s a Chinese dish served in a small earthenware jar, which has slowly simmered in a giant clay cylinder. The soup comes in different flavors, and uses ingredients known to have beneficial health effects according to traditional Chinese medicine. This was the culinary revelation during a trip to Puli 埔里, at a place called 本味.瓦罐煨湯, but until I get the chance to go back there, I’ll do with what I can find in Kaohsiung. This review looks promising!