[Nate sez]: Now, we've eaten a lot of noodles. I'm not saying that we definitively, absolutely, and without a doubt found the best noodles in the world. However, I can assure you all that at the very least, these are some of the finest bowls of noodles in current existence. Last week we spoke of Bangkok Pad Thai slingers and laid-back Lao noodle dives serving some really killer broth. I'm dying as I write this because right now I'd kill for a bowl of each of this week's noodles.
Noodle #3 - Pork Dry Noodle in Taipei, Taiwan -located on Heping Ave. Next to some Chinese medicinal herb shop. Taipei was deserted when we arrived - the streets devoid of pedestrians, the storefronts gated and boarded up, it was Chinese New Year and the city had shut down. As we prowled the streets for long hours, we noticed a few noodle shops kept their doors open.
After hours of stumbling deliriously down the deserted streets, a waft of gingery/porky/shrimpy wontons entices me towards a completely nondescript off-white hole in the wall. We approach the service area in the front and do some pointing at other people's dishes, soon the noodle lady is gesturing for us to sit down and wait. 5 painfully long minutes later, she brings us a small bowl of noodles with saucy ground pork, green onions, and crushed peanuts. As if a killer bowl of noods isn't enough, it comes with a bowl of pork soup with shrimp/pork & ginger wontons. There are scores of noodle & wonton joints in Taipei, but none could so well articulate the depth of pork flavor, or so perfectly complement meat with ginger, or salt and MSG soups and sauces so perfectly to induce the "Oh fuck, that's just wrong - where's seconds?" reaction as this place. We of course were back there again, and she's got follow through. We ordered seconds this time because we were leaving for Bangkok the next day, and I have no idea when I'll next be in Taipei, but I will return one day to eat these noodles again.
Noodle #2 - Blue Awning Pho in Saigon, Vietnam - Located on De Tham between Co Bac and Co Giang.
[Ben sez]: We already wrote a whole entry about the wonders of pho and the other phenomenal soup offerings in Vietnam, so it stands to reason that our dedication to pho would lead us to find a bowl worthy of our top five. Having a vibrant Vietnamese community in the Twin Cities we'd already had a few bowls of pho before we even got to Southeast Asia, a couple of them really really good, so we hoped that somewhere we'd find a better bowl, just so that we'd know our trip was worth it.
This bowl of soup edged out any bowl of soup we've had in Minnesota for the official Ben et Nate stamp of Best Bowl of Pho. An amazing feat no doubt, next time we're back in Saigon we'll be sure to take the proprietor her commemorative plaque.
This bowl was built on an artfully crafted beef stock, with subtle spices mixed in (chinese five spice? anise? lsd? clove? I'm not quite sure) to take it to that next level of deliciousness. Throw in some sliced beef and bean sprouts cooked in the broth plus the plethora of Choose-Your-Own-Soup-Adventure fixings on the table (fish sauce, chili oil, sugar, various local greens) and it's a damn fine bowl of noodles. This shop was only open for breakfast, but it was good enough that we actually woke up on more than one occasion to get there before they closed at 11:30am. That should speak more for the quality of soup than any words I can say: I was willing to get out of bed before noon for this bowl of soup.
Next week we'll be back with our final installment of Ben et Nate's Best Bowl of Brothy Noodley Goodness. Which country will reign soupreme in the battle of the bowls?