Out of all the beef noodle shops in Taipei, none are more well known than Lin Dong Fang (林東芳牛肉麵). At any hour of the day, you can expect to find a line of both locals and tourists patiently waiting outside of this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant waiting to try a bowl of their famous niu rou mian (牛肉麵), or beef noodle soup.
Beef noodle soup is an iconic dish of Taiwan. It’s the national dish. If you have never had it before, a typical bowl consists of braised beef, noodles, and vegetables in a beef broth. Simple, delicious, and nowhere does it better than Lin Dong Fang.
If you have the chance, peek into the small kitchen out front. Inside were a few large metal pots boiling and bubbling away. The most frightening pot, seen in the photo above, was full to the brim with beef bones, tendon, meat, skin, and whatever else they could find on the cow. The dark brown liquid from this pot was then strained to create the flavorful and oily beef broth.
Lin Dong Fang was separated into multiple dining rooms. There was a small room to the right of the kitchen and a larger dining room just down the sidewalk to the left. When I first arrived, I walked to the kitchen and tried to get a seat in the smaller dining room. One of the ladies in the kitchen politely yelled at me in Chinese to head down the street to the other dining room.
Once at the main dining room, I was promptly seated. The room, bright and basic, was packed with customers sitting on small stools at plain tables, quietly eating out of metals bowls.
Lin Dong Fang Menu
Hanging on the wall in the dining room was the Lin Dong Fang menu, which was entirely in Chinese. There was no English menu but my server knew enough basic English to take my order.
Most people who visit Lin Dong Fang come here for the beef noodle soup, also known as niu rou mian (牛肉麵).
With each bowl of beef noodle soup, you have the option of ordering meat and tendon, or one or the other. I recommend ordering meat and tendon.
The only other choice you need to make is the size of your beef noodles, small or large. I found the small bowl to be quite filling but if you are hungry, go for the larger size.
Beef Noodle Soup
Since I wasn’t too hungry, but couldn’t dare leave Taipei without trying Lin Dong Fang, I went with a small bowl of the half beef, half tendon Niu Rou Mian (牛肉麵), or Beef Noodle Soup (200 TWD or about $6.62).
The niu rou mian at Lin Dong Fang was prepared by placing soft and chewy noodles, large chunks of melt-in-your-mouth beef flank and tendon, and crunchy sliced green onions into a round metal bowl. The bowl was then filled to the top with a brown beefy broth that had been simmering for hours in large metal pots in the kitchen.
With my first bite, I knew exactly why Lin Dong Fang was so popular with foodies. The scorching hot broth, deep brown in color, was well balanced in flavor without being too rich, salty, or sweet. Complex and beefy but remarkably simple and light. The broth was distinctly different than other beef noodles shops in Taipei which tend to have a thicker soup.
The broth was also oily without being overly greasy. The oily broth was a direct result of being simmered for hours in beef bones, fat, and tendons. The longer the simmer, the more fat and oil accumulated in the pot. As I made my way towards the bottom of the bowl, a spoonful at a time, the soup became thicker and intensified in oily flavors.
Hidden in the deep, rich broth was a generous amount of thick, round noodles. The flash blanched noodles were cooked to perfection. You never want to have overcooked noodles. They were tender and chewy but still had the perfect bite. Each noodle soaked up just the right amount of beefy flavor from the broth.
Floating on top of the noodles were large slices of beef flank. At first glance, I didn’t realize how thick the slices were. They were like meat icebergs. I only saw how thick they were until I picked up the pieces with my chopsticks.
I was surprised how tender and flavorful the beef was. The hearty meat was cooked to perfection having been simmered in the pot for a long period. The texture and flavor, which reminded me of a pot roast, was soft and succulent with just the right bite.
Thin strips of tendon running through the beef added a punch of richness and tenderness to each bite, complimenting the mild sweetness of the beef flank seasoned with star anise.
Complementing the thick pieces of beef flank were large chunks of slippery and jiggly tendon.
If you have never had beef tendon before, I highly recommend it. The texture and rich flavor of the tendon reminded me of bacon fat. It was tender, soft, and gelatinous but somehow kept its texture without falling completely apart. It had just the perfect melt-in-your-mouth bite without being chewy.
It might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed the mild flavor and texture of the tendon.
You probably have already noticed the interesting looking tub of brown chili paste sitting on the table. I was told this paste was the famous Spicy Beef Fat (辣牛油).
Using the big metal spoon sticking straight up, I carefully placed a few dollops of the thick paste into my bowl. Mixing in the paste immediately gave the broth a reddish brown color. The paste was so thick and sticky, almost like peanut butter, that I had trouble getting it from the spoon into my bowl.
The spicy beef fat paste added a delightfully smoky dried chili flavor to the otherwise simple and light broth. After each bite, a constant slow burn was felt in my mouth. While the paste wasn’t too spicy for me, use caution if you don’t handle spicy foods well. You can always add more if needed.
In the other jar was a simple red chili sauce commonly found all over Taiwan. I highly recommend going easy on this chili sauce. It was a kick to the senses, extremely salty, and only slightly spicy. Way too salty for me. I much preferred the brown spicy beef fat paste.
While 200 TWD might have been overpriced for a bowl of noodles in Taipei, I felt that the beef noodle soup at Lin Dong Fang was both delicious and filling.
The large round chewy noodles were cooked to perfection with just the perfect bite. The beef flank and tendon both hearty and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The broth was simple, beefy, and light. Simple ingredients but executed to perfection. And I can’t forget about that spicy beef fat paste. Rich, flavorful, and spicy.
Without a doubt, I feel confident in saying that Lin Dong Fang serves up one of the best niu rou mian (beef noodle soup) in Taipei.
- Tender beef flank and tendon
- Thick round noodles perfectly cooked
- Rich, light broth flavorful after being cooked for hours
- No English menu