Fri, May 24, 2002 - Page 10 News List

Restaurant of the week: Lao Shan Dong (老山東)

Address: Kunming St., Lane 136, Alley 1, No. 2 (昆明街136巷1弄2號)
Telephone: (02) 2381-1956
Open: 11am to 9:30pm
Average meal: NT$120
Details: No English menu. Credit cards not accepted

By David Frazier  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lao Shan Dong's beef noodles are worth driving across town.

PHOTO: DAVID FRAZIER, TAIPEI TIMES

There are perhaps only a handful of beef noodle restaurants in Taipei that are worth driving across town for, and Lao Shan Dong is one of them. The restaurant is buried in an alley behind Hsimenting's Ambassador (國賓) movie theater in what is now a mini-district of 50-year-old noodle shops (the others are further south along Kunming St). Only a sign that advertises with "Since 1949" is visible from the main road. But if you follow it back, you'll be rewarded by a cheap and rarefied meal.

Unlike many watered down variations of Shandong cooking across Taipei, Lao Shan Dong has maintained its pedigree. The restaurant was founded 53 years ago by a Mr Kan, who arrived from China with a pregnant wife, spent his last bit of money to buy a few pots and pans, a sack of flour and a street stall. The restaurant is now in the second generation, but the recipes haven't changed.

The Shandong style of noodle making, when done correctly, produces wide flour noodles with a marvelous texture. The first step is kneading the dough and rolling it out flat and relatively thin. This giant flat square is then rolled into a giant roll, but a thin coat of flour keeps the spiraling doughy rings from sticking together. Then cross-sections about 2cm wide are cut off and unraveled, forming the individual noodles.

Lao Shan Dong's beef and broth are prepared with equal care. The restaurant prefers to use Taiwan beef as it is slaughtered fresh daily, unlike imported beef, and provides a better, fresher flavor. Through more than half a century, the kitchen has also refrained from incorporating any unnatural additives or preservatives into any of the dishes.

Perhaps the most singular bowl of noodles Lao Shan Dong offers is its dry noodles in sauce (乾拌麵) , a dish that's extremely hard to find anywhere else in Taipei. It consists of the wide, rolled and knife cut noodles, toppings of pickled vegetables and fresh cut spring onions, and a rinse of the delicious beef broth. A cook explained that the restaurant's pickling process has been fine-tuned to create the perfect sweet-sour balance to accompany beef, and one taste will tell you convince you he's right. The pickling process is also used for Lao Shan Dong's selection of vegetable side plates (小菜) , including pickled cabbage and small cucumbers -- which, admittedly, are standards everywhere, but are somehow especially good here. Moreover, to ensure freshness in these small dishes, they are prepared continuously throughout the day, not pulled out of a prefab batch in some refrigerator.

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