Noodle Tuesday: Beef noodle soup at Hunan Cuisine

If food is entertainment in Taiwan (and it's not much of a stretch to ditch the "if"), then beef noodle soup is its rockstar. It's the national dish in Taiwan, and, every year, Taipei throws a festival in its honor. Last year, the island even scheduled a California tour for the bowl, making stops at the state's capital and Google headquarters.

Taiwanese infuse the broth with five-spice, and it can be fiery hot—finishing a bowl in Taiwan's midsummer blanket of heat and humidity is the most invigorating form of masochism I know.

It's hard to find here, though Hunan Cuisine has a version of hong sau niu rou mian—red-braised beef noodle soup. Since Taiwan's bowl originated in Sichuan, where Hunan Cuisine seems to draw many of its recipes from, I thought I'd try it.

It lacks the warmth and depth of spices in a Taiwanese bowl, but it has its own merits: tender braised beef, pickled mustard greens (aka Chinese sauerkraut) and lettuce leaves (yes, lettuce) add interest. Thin, flat wheat noodles anchor the soup. It doesn't really compare to a bowl in Taiwan, but at least it gives me the memory of one.

Hunan Cuisine, 53 N. Beretania St., 599-8838

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