This a noodle love story.
Since I’m in Taiwan, I’m already living a quite intense love story with the local food. Everything is so tasty, exotic, new. Even after almost a year living here, when the new shouldn’t be that new anymore, my French stomach (the one which can keep eating when I’m not hungry anymore) is still over the moon.
I haven’t written anything about the Taiwanese food yet, so I’m going to tell you about my noodle love story instead: the No Name Noodles.
That’s my host Una who first brought me to this restaurant a short distance away from World Inn, in Hualien. I came out of the place with my taste buds in ecstasy. This was our thing afterwards, going to eat no name noodles at least once a week. Besides, when I went out of Hualien to travel and came back, this is where we would go. It was a gift, a way to tell me “welcome back home” (我回家了! – Wǒ huí jiāle! – I am back home!), a delicacy that only echoes with Hualien.
For a long time, I was only ordering one thing on the menu: the No Name Noodles. That’s the only line I would memorize from the menu (obviously only written in Chinese): 無名麵 (Wúmíng miàn) – 60$. As a consequence, we would also call the restaurant this way: the No Name Noodles Restaurant. For that’s actually literally how those noodles are called, “nameless noodles” says Google Translate, as if it was a family recipe, a delicacy only cooked within the household, a dish cooked in no time, invented on last minute, that has no name. Instead of pompously calling it as a “chef’s special”, they just called it “No Name Noodles”. It’s as funny as it is delicious.
The noodles are always served in a large blue bowl, decorated with flowers on the edge. You need to stir it up well enough, to let the sauce soaking the noodles. That’s what all this dish is about: the sauce. A curious blend of garlic, spring onions and peanut butter. There must be a bit of ginger inside as well. And some of those boiled leaves on the top – taro leaves perhaps? The sauce is never exactly the same, sometimes the taste of garlic is stronger, sometimes it’s the peanut butter. I like to think that it’s the beauty of homemade, like the grandma’s cuisine.
The owner (or is she an employee?) is an old woman speaking only Chinese. We congratulate each other with my basic Chinese: when I tell her how good it is (很好吃 – Hěn hào chī), she tells me that she finds my flower skirt beautiful. She often makes grand gestures, so I won’t forget to stir my noodles.
I go eating at the no name noodles restaurant almost every week. More often than not at table n°2, close to the entrance. Sometimes alone with my book, most of the times with people. Tea is free, like in most restaurants in Taiwan, it’s an iced sweetened black tea. I could drink it by litres. I often bring in people visiting me in Hualien by telling them “Let’s go to eat the best noodles in the world!” They usually get out satisfied. With a jackal garlicky breath, but satisfied all the same.
I often come to compare Taiwan to Italy. I love Japanese food, which is exquisite, refined and tasty. Like the French cuisine, it’s a matter of gastronomy. Taiwan would be more like the Italy of Japan. A kind of cuisine that exudes love. It’s a cuisine of families, a traditional kind of cuisine, the one you eat on daily basis. It’s a street cuisine, as it is literally in Taiwan. A simple but yet delicious cuisine. For me, the No Name Noodles are the perfect illustration of this comparison. The perfect illustration of Taiwan food.
I’ve discovered not so long ago that they actually have an English menu at the No Name Noodles Restaurant.
I now have the chance to taste some other food gems as tea eggs, the cucumber and onions salad, the noodle tofu soup.
But my favourite one will always be the No Name Noodles.
LET’S GO THERE :
一鼎紅麻辣館 (which actually means: Yi Ding Hong Spicy Restaurant) – No. 158-1, Zhuangjing Road, Hualien City