Wednesday, 28 September 2011

More Noodles from Vancouver!

The entrance to Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle in Aberdeen Centre.  The kitchen is visible to all who enter the restaurant.
With virtually another full day spent with the grandparents, my parents and I were admittedly beginning to get tired with the usual haunts my grandparents went for lunch, so my father successfully suggested them to join us and try a different and fairly new place.  It was a bit of a gamble, as the restaurant he had in mind was more casual and budget-friendly than the places my grandparents usually frequented.  Fortunately, partly because it was a newer establishment and partly because it was well managed, my grandparents seemed comfortable to give Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle a try.

Beef noodle soups differ amongst different cultures.  For example, the Vietnamese "Phở bò" uses fairly thin and chewy rice noodles, the broth is on the lighter side, and there are fresh vegetables and herbs for garnishes.  In Chinese cuisine, by far the most well known is what's transliterated as "Red Roasted Beef Noodles".  "Red roasted" refers to the soy sauce being added to beef, usually beef shank, that is being stewed.  Though a very popular dish in Chinese cuisine, partly because it can be served as a fast food, what I didn't know for all the years I've had beef noodles (shame on me!) was that this dish originated in Taiwan.  In fact, beef noodles are classified as a national dish in Taiwan, and they take pride in it so much there is an annual Beef Noodle Festival in Taipei.  (I may have to plan a trip to coincide with that festival, but I digress.)
L to R: Cold Mixed Dry Bean Curd; Cold Mixed Baby Cucumber.
A close-up of the cucumber and the mixed dry bean curd.
After ordering our dishes on a menu-cum-order sheet, the first items to arrive were some side dishes, and they were quite delightful and appetizing.  The Cold Mixed Baby Cucumber was, if I recall correctly now, a request from my mother, but I certainly didn't mind as these pickled cucumbers were made in a manner I enjoyed: lightly sweet and mildly sour.  These don't taste as strong as dill pickles, and I highly suspect the Chinese version of pickled cucumbers have lower levels of sodium than the Western version.

We also ordered Cold Mixed Dry Bean Curd, a dish I first experienced at a Shanghai-cuisine restaurant in Markham, ON called Ala Kitchen.  This dish is quite fascinating, with minced dried bean curd mixed with some form of Chinese vegetable for which I unfortunately am still unable to find the English translation.  The pieces are delightfully chewy, and though there is no binding ingredient you can hold clumps of them delicately between the chopsticks.  I can find no words to describe this dish further, but I can certainly say I really enjoyed it.
Braised Beef Shank and Tendon Tomato Soup Noodle
My personal serving of Braised Beef Shank and Tendon Tomato Soup Noodle.
Shortly thereafter our noodle dishes began to arrive, the first of them being Braised Beef Shank and Tendon Tomato Soup Noodle.  Though popular in Taiwan, this version of beef noodles is not as commonly found in Chinese restaurants around the world, and unfortunately it is a treat most of the world is missing.  The broth was light with a tinge of sweetness of the tomato mingling with the flavour of the beef.  The noodles were freshly made, and they were cooked al dente.  I personally was no fan of beef tendon, so I stuck to the shank, but apparently the tendons were cooked to a degree of softness that my parents found at least acceptable.  The shank was also cooked nicely, with the fibres of the beef falling off each other with every bite.
Red Roasted Beef Noodle with Beef Brisket
My personal serving of Red Roasted Beef Noodle with Beef Brisket.
Next to arrive was the classic Red Roasted Beef Noodle with Beef Brisket.  This broth was richer and slightly spicy, and again the pieces of beef shank were tender.  The slices of beef brisket reminded me a bit of the "Phở bò" I've had in the past as the brisket was still quite pink.  Chef Hung allows customers to order different soup bases as well as noodle types with the combination of meats and/or vegetables providing a basis for each order.  As one can see in these pictures, wide noodles were chosen for this dish.  I certainly couldn't get enough of this dish, but there were others for which I had to save room in my stomach, not to mention for which I had to let my taste buds savour.
Steamed Pork and Vegetable Dumplings
By this time a few more snacks and side dishes arrived, including a bowl of Steamed Pork and Vegetable Dumplings. Served in some clear broth, the dumpling wrappers were also al dente, and the filling did not taste greasy or oily, a trait that unfortunately can be found in some restaurants that serve dumplings.  Like the other dishes served, I had no complaints about this one.
Pan-Fried Ground Pork Cake, with one quarter of the one on the right peeled open to reveal the filling.
Another dish we ordered was the Pan-Fried Ground Pork Cake.  These weren't as greasy as I expected, and we had to wait a few minutes for them to cool down enough for us to eat them.  The filling was thick and juicy, while the outer layer managed to retain a slight crispiness.
Shanghai Bok Choy with Roast Garlic Chips
We also ordered a vegetable dish, Shanghai Bok Choy with Roast Garlic Chips.  Garlic chips are tend to be found in Taiwanese cuisine compared to other forms of Chinese cuisine, and they were a delightful companion to the Shanghai bok choy: the contrasting tenderness and crispiness; the "green" flavour of the vegetable compared to the savoury flavour of the garlic; and of course, the pleasant aroma of the garlic chips.  I can understand why my sister asked my mother to help her buy a package of garlic chips from the Taiwanese grocery store Kuo Hwa, also in Richmond.
Pan-Fried Stuffed Bean Curd
Next to arrive was Pan-Fried Stuffed Bean Curd.  These looked paler than ones I often found at dim sum restaurants, but they still tasted good nonetheless.  The shrimp filling was alright (it didn't taste or feel like there were more fillers than actual shrimp), and I once again fell for the black bean sauce.  Despite it being a fried item, this dish didn't taste greasy either.
House Special Chilled Milk Tea
If there was one thing that disappointed me slightly with my experience here, it was perhaps with my drink.  First, I originally wanted to order another drink, but after a couple of dishes arrived I inquired about my drink and was only then informed that they were sold out of that drink.  I decided to then order the House Special Chilled Milk Tea instead.  I should've known better; this was a Taiwanese-cuisine restaurant, not a Hong Kong-cuisine restaurant.  Suffice it to say that the flavouring of Chef Hung's milk tea was quite weak compared to the better prepared versions of Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Red Bean Pastry

I opted out of dessert as it was Red Bean Pastry, and I'm sure I mentioned in a recent post that I was no fan of red beans.  However, my parents and grandparents enjoyed them, noting that they had the right amount of sweetness for them, as well as how crispy it was on the outside while soft and almost piping hot on the inside.

Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle has become a global franchise, and I can appreciate its growing popularity.  Apparently it has plans to open at least another franchise in the Vancouver area.  I'm betting I won't be seeing a franchise in Winnipeg, let alone Brandon, MB, anytime soon, though the Toronto area might be possible.  Until then, I can only wait and salivate at the thought of another trip back to Vancouver with a stop back at Chef Hung.

Name: Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle
Address: Unit 2800 Aberdeen Centre, 4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond, BC
Cuisine: Chinese (Taiwanese)
Price Range: $10-$20
Accessible: Yes

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