Navigating Taipei without the ability to speak Mandarin (or read Chinese) can be a major challenge, but since I don’t like to limit myself to an itinerary, downtime explorations were inevitable. Promising leads melted away, even when X supposedly marked the spot on a map. For instance, a coffeehouse called Nido turned out to be near City Hall instead of Zhongxiao Fuxing, and a trendy cafe on a neighborhood park with an eyeglasses logo didn’t open as early as expected. Thankfully, I learned the lesson of misdirection early in my trip, and had a viable back-up plan: Shan Xi Dao Xiao Mien.
A Google search for the hours of a famous beef noodle soup place I never visited led to Hungry Girl in Taipei’s Review of Shan Xi Dao Xiao Mien, another promising noodle shop located down an alley near Taipei’s Technology Building. Cindy, her mother and brother have run the restaurant for 18 years. In a coincidence, we later learned Shan Xi Dao Xiao Mien is also the actual name of JTYH in Los Angeles, but we don’t believe there’s any relation.
The space features numbered tables, a tiled wall menu, and a sign for [cow] From Australia, a sad badge of consumer trust and distrust of U.S. beef, seen in restaurants throughout Taipei.
Shan Xi Dao Xiao Mien sells knife cut noodle soup with tomato and beef, or my pick, pork noodle soup with pickles (NT$ 70 ~ $3) They cook outside, starting with a gigantic ball of dough, which they drape with a wet towel, to keep it moist. They shave thick strips with a knife into boiling water, then add cabbage, pickled radish, scallions, fried shallots and craggy chunks of pork, all served in a clean broth with just a bit of salt. Spoon on chile oil for heat.
Side Dishes (NT$ 25) included soy “noodles,” eggplant and a slab of tofu with century egg.
My side dish consisted of seaweed with carrot and garlic.
Shan Xi Dao Xiao Mien provided bottomless sweet tea, just like in the South, but they used island-grown oolong instead of bagged Lipton, yielding good results.
Shan Xi Dao Xiao Mien wasn’t my first choice, but considering how easy it was to lose my way in Taipei, that bowl of firm, irregularly cut noodles felt like a reward for persistence.