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Jan 18, 2011 10:38 AM

The World's Most Expensive Beef Noodles (Taiwanese style)

Niu Baba (Beef Daddy) in Taipei.

WSJ came about 2 to 3 years late to the media coverage, but at least it is there. I think the record in Tokyo is about US$100 (?) for a bowl of ramen that involves a slight Thai style Tom Yum spicy and sour soup base, but the 5 cuts of premium beef from 5 different countries takes the cake (Amy Ma neglected to inform that the premium Japanese beef cut used is Matsuzaka from what I've read)

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  1. If people feel like they have too much money, they are welcome to send it to me.

    1. this sounds pretty silly / gimmicky

      although my friend ate there and said their regular niu rou mian is good, said its very clean tasting with very tender beef

      1. Yeah charging $$$$$$$$ for comfort food is nothing new and happens all over the USA, although in most cases the price does not reflect the quality, let alone replicating the traditional flavors.

        However with Niu Baba it appears that those who have tried the NT$10K bowl, did enjoy it, just based on Taiwanese blog writeups. The high price tag also draws curiosity and thus bragging rights for those who are willing to blow money away to try it (ie those who live for food and eat to live/work hard play hard blog hard).

        In reality, a quite excellent typical and satisfying bowl can be had at most places in Taipei for US$3 to $9/$10 tops, without resorting to fancy cuts. Niu Baba's "endless flavor/the forever returning flavors" tomato beef noodle soup runs close to US$20 which is ridiculous in itself.

        But even with that said, Niu Baba is always recognized for being an overall quite solid beef noodles restaurant by local beef noodle critics and judges of the annual beef noodle soup festival (ever since Tony Wang won best beef noodle award, I think it was either 2007 or 2008).

        1. What's mildly interesting to me is that the Japanese 10,000 YEN ramen place ( hypes it's complex soup while this Taiwanese place hypes the exotic beef- or at least that is what is featured in the article.

          24 Replies
          1. re: Silverjay

            ...and it was just about a year ago that 3 of us were here..

              1. re: Silverjay

                this stuff is definitely a marketing deal although i mean in this case it worked right? you ended up in the WSJ

                i mean i dont mind paying up more for good quality ingredients when your competitors don't use them, but paying like $324 for a bowl of niu rou mian is nuts. Although if i was in taiwan, i'd probably stop to try a regular bowl

                1. re: Lau

                  I seem to recall Amy Ma doing a few pretty decent writeups for Chinese food and perhaps...dim sum? Decently researched, although she should just tap into Chinese blogs and get the scoop much much sooner!

                  1. re: K K

                    oh i've got nothing against her and actually nothing against niu rou ba ba either as it seems he actually turns out a good product and the fact that we're even discusses it means his marketing strategy seems to have worked; he's just trying to make a living, so more power to him.

                    i'm just saying that it is a marketing ploy most likely, i'd love to know how much it actually costs to make one bowl

                    i'd totally eat here, i just wouldn't order the $324 bowl

                    1. re: Lau

                      "he's just trying to make a living,"

                      That is an understatement.

                2. re: Silverjay

                  That was a great thread! Thanks for the bump on that, almost forgot about it!

                3. re: Silverjay

                  Good initial observation, although fujimakigekijou has a very nice decor based on its website.

                  The other point is that Fujimaki's owner/chef got labeled a "ramen nazi" by the western media. I haven't heard of a beef noodle nazi yet in Taipei (although there's a noodle nazi in SoCal, supposedly a retired military guy who runs a noodle shop and he tells people how to eat his noodles, mix seasoning a certain way, and does not tolerate cel phones, people reading in the restaurant)

                  Beef Daddy on the other hand is just a simple looking restaurant (although it looks clean compared to others)

                  Not much to their website.

                  However if you dive into the writeups of Taiwanese bloggers (ignoring the crap Mandarin pop embedded players), there's quite a bit more to the crazy priced bowls




                  - one blogger's university professor told him when he was a student, "do not come to me telling you've had the best beef noodles in the world until you've had Beef Daddy's NT$3000 bowl" (this was before the $333 bowl was created).

                  -the shop offers 12 kinds of sauce (for your own custom seasoning


                  - there are 11 kinds of beef stock, ranging from stock made with brisket, ribs, shank, and combo mix / for hybrid stock. Those who spent the NT$10K for bragging and photo/blog rights got a tour of the kitchen too, it is super clean compared to many other beef noodle shops.

                  The bowl does not look terribly appetizing (just my opinion from the photos)

                  - The NT$10K bowl comes with a side of pure beef essence (clear broth form). It is said this essence is made with 40 kilos of bones, 20 kilos of shank, 10 kilos of brisket, and 10 kilos of short ribs and simmered for 2 days.

                  The interesting thing is that nobody raves about the noodles. :-)

                  1. re: K K

                    haha well it does say he doesn't make his own noodles although it sounds like he has a fair amount of say in them

                    i actually think the broth and the beef are the harder part to get right especially the broth...alot of people get the noodles right, but the quality of the broth can definitely vary heavily

                    1. re: Lau

                      Just to add to the discussion, there are beef noodle specialist shops that go all out (or all in) on their noodles, even going as far as marketing them as Lanzhou style hand pulled noodles. However, based on the consensus of the beef noodle critics of the beef noodle festival, while there is one entry (or two) like "kung fu lanzhou hand pulled noodles" (the shop upstairs from Taipei Main Station Breeze Center), it is also deemed a bit gimmicky and the overall bowl is while above average, but nothing seriously mindblowing, although that location is convenient for something to have quickly with a lot of choices, but a few notches above food court type fare.

                      You're on to something here... the primary focuses of good beef noodles in Taipei are centered mostly around the beef/cuts/textures and the quality of the broth. Good noodles is a plus, but not the center of attention, so long as the broth and beef cuts are stellar, people will come. Having choices of noodles (width, texture etc) does help.

                      Superior stock/broth simmered for 2 days....well that's really nothing. 72 Beef Noodles in Taipei spends 3 days on their ox bone broth, simmering them down to a milk white, almost Kyushu style tonkotsu ramen consistency...


                      and this affordable bowl is probably one of the best I've had around, although it is a clear broth rendition (well not "clear" per se, but not red stewed/spicy etc). Also part of the marketing, but at least they do nail it.

                      1. re: K K

                        i mean if u were to just eat some noodles boiled in water no matter how artfuly they were made and how perfectly cooked they were, they would taste very plain on their own. So i think its much less about the flavor and more about the texture, did you pull them to the correct thickness? did you cook them so they retain the correct al dente texture and bounce?

                        with the broth its going to be 100% about the flavor and with the beef it will be a combo of both. The flavor is the hard part to get right.

                        the perfect niu rou mian in taiwan is similar to the perfect ramen in japan or the perfect wonton noodle soup in HK, you've got all these guys honing their skills on these bowls of noodle soup and its this never ending debate about who has the best one

                        1. re: Lau

                          These days in Japan, it's all about the soup. Many of the really good shops outsource noodles from (very well-respected and skilled) noodles specialists.

                        2. re: K K

                          "based on the consensus of the beef noodle critics of the beef noodle festival, while there is one entry (or two) like "kung fu lanzhou hand pulled noodles" (the shop upstairs from Taipei Main Station Breeze Center), it is also deemed a bit gimmicky and the overall bowl is while above average"

                          I think most Chinese critics from China will take issues with this statement, especially considered the fact that Chinese beef noodle was invented/introduced in Lanzhou, China. Beef noodle is relatively new to Tawian compared to other places. This is like saying having a BBQ competition in Taipei and then deems the South Caroline style as gimmicky.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yeah I'm well aware of the origin and mastery of hand pulled noodles in Lanzhou. But you need to look at the bigger picture and understand the target demographics as to the statement0.

                            The problem is that in a beef noodle soup market where broth and beef are king for the most part amongst critics and restaurant owners, if these two components are somewhat weak in relation to the noodles, having a master of Lanzhou handpulled noodles is not going to matter overall if the resultant bowl is still average, which appears to be the case for places in addition to "kung fu lanzhou noodles". I'm not discounting the work done at all.

                            Having visited Taipei about 8 times and eaten at the non touristy places with a local in the know, the fact of the matter is that the way people do business there is to try and single themselves out as doing something unique or different (variation on a theme). Of course everyone puts in hard work, effort, research, but not everyone is going to come up with a 4 or 5 star bowl.

                            NT$10K bowl is in a way gimmicky, but it works, it turns heads, and those who have tried it praised it. Those who can't afford it will just read from afar or call sour grapes.

                            Lanzhou noodles, with a master pulling and thwacking them in plain site, generates buzz and attracts passerby's and the ilk, but unfortunately does little compared to those who have won beef noodle competitions in the past (maybe "kung fu lanzhou noodles" has won one of the categories of the beef noodle festival in the past, but the other past and current winners for the most part, did not win because of the noodles). Bear in mind that gimmicky does not necessarily mean "shallow" or "empty".

                            One under the radar beef noodle soup is Lao Ai Yiping beef noodles, run by a Persian/Iraninan who married a Taiwanese woman. His signature bowl of red stewed beef noodles includes the use of a secret blend of Middle Eastern/Iraninan herbs that gives it a very interesting kick. Those who have eaten there (and likely were exchange or foreign students going to school in say, New York) found very familiar flavors. His draw based on media reports? The fact that he's a foreigner, nailed down beef noodles, and has a unique take on it that people love and enjoy. Perhaps akin to Ivan Orkin in Tokyo (Ivan Ramen...New Yorker who is not Japanese but is making a bowl of ramen that locals and foodies love to bits)..

                            1. re: K K

                              I think what you may not considered is the fact that this is a competition in Taipei, not in Lanzhou. When you said "among critics" you are only talking about critics in Taiwan. As I said, most Chinese (in China) critics would have considerable different opinions on this topic.

                              "But you need to look at the bigger picture and understand the target demographics as to the statement"

                              What do you mean by I need to look at a bigger picture? I am trying to point out this is a competition in the city Taipei, which 60 years ago didn't even beef noodle to speak of. It is a very much imported concept when the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) came to Taiwan. In fact, it was imported to Taiwan significantly later than Japanese sushi.

                              This is different than Ivan Orkin, isn't it? Ivan Orkin as you put it is in Tokyo. He proved his skill among in the land of ramen. I remember reading a story about an Iranian moved yo South Carolina and made a small name for doing great Southern barbecue. Again, he proved himself that he has what it takes in the land of Southern barbecue.

                              What you speak of is not like these at all. It is not about a Taiwanese person winning a beef noodle competition in Lanzhou. It is about stories of Taiwanese style beef noodle winning a Taipei competition among Taiwanese judges, and then the Taiwanese critics proceed to call the Lanzhou style as gimmicky. Like I said, it is like having a American Southern barbecue competition in Taipei and then have the Taiwanese critics proclaim the South Carolinian style as gimmicky, or having a Sushi competition in Taipei and then proclaim the Kyoto style as gimmicky. Based on history timeline, Taiwanese have a much stronger claim to sushi than beef noodle.

                              Look, I understand people in Taiwan love their beef noodle, just like the fact that Taiwanese also love sushi. I am partly grew up there. I spent 1/4th of my childhood there. However, it does not make Taiwan the authority of the Chinese beef noodle.

                          2. re: K K

                            Hmm, was just thinking to myself what was the most I've ever paid for a bowl of noodles? I can't remember. But a couple of weeks ago in Tokyo, I ordered the 2,000 Yen most expensive item on the menu at a ramen shop in Shinjuku. See attached photo. My friends were making fun of me for dropping that kind of cash...No, I didn't think it was worth it. Soup was very average.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              What a venti Starbucks-esque like bowl! Lots of toppings, but yeah 2000 yen is ouchy.

                              Silverjay, perhaps you can enlighten us.... is there a annual national or regional ramen festival equivalent in Japan? If so where is it held.
                              Or if there is a regional one, do say one class or sect of ramen (the purists or chefs that make them) proclaim it is superior over another region's/prefecture's even if they are apples vs oranges? Do the tonkotsu broth fans rage over shio shillers or miso meistros?

                              1. re: K K

                                Well Japan is a huge country population-wise compared to a place like Taiwan. So there's no real type of single recognized thing like that. There are a LOT of ramen shops in Japan as well. Usually, media outlets like TV networks or magazines will come up with a best list. Recently, the Walker magazine publishing company seems to have made some inroads toward a more established voter driven national contest. I ate a few highly acclaimed shops over the last few weeks and at some of them there was a little tent card advertising the Walker contest and encouraging you to vote. You could scan a bar code and bookmark the page or vote from your phone. I just checked out the Tokyo award winners from 2010 and I've actually been to two of them- although I found them on the ramen database webpage ( which uses reader reviews and rankings to constantly update the top lists. It's all pretty cheesy really.

                                Anyway, tonkotsu and those sort of concentrated single source soups are not as big as the blended broths made from both animal fat and dried seafood (called 魚介). I tried explaining this to a Chinese guy I know (regular Chinese, not ABC) and it blew his mind. Then again, he can't get his head around katsuo bushi and konbu and dashi in general. Gotta start at washoku ground zero with him. LOL...

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  This is fascinating, 魚介 is in a way very similar to Cantonese 海味 (meaning flavors of the sea, but pretty much dried stuff) which is basically dried seafood (of which the four kings thereof are shark fin, abalone, fish maw and sea cucumber). Dried scallops (also referred to as conpoy, or "gahn bei" in Mandarin) is also a key ingredient in quite a few soup stocks, of which sourcing to Hokkaido scallops is more popular these days.

                                  The Taiwanese also love the salted and dried overnight fish that they call 一夜干 which probably got influenced by the likes of aji hiraki (where over there they do with many other kinds of fish, including local mackeral, a little bit more here



                                  So while we are on the subject of "oh those Taiwanese people think they own beef noodles" and how to win Taiwanese tastebuds over (and not just beef noodle judges), check this wack out.

                                  A shop that specializes in Sanuki style hand made udon, called Q老大 (big boss Q)


                                  The chef supposedly trained in Japan on the art of udon (and some washoku, what I'm not clear). Apparently he won in 2007/2008 most creative bowl of beef noodles and was a runner up in most creative in 2006. Yes...using udon. Both bowls were cold udon (one with kimchi and the other looks like a cold noodle salad). Debatable whether this is gimmicky. But again, innovation/creativity/going all out crazy especially in a specialty food shop, is how you survive in a cut throat big city (even if on a small island), regardless if you're Ivan Ramen or Davod Beef Noodles.

                                  1. re: K K

                                    Actually, 魚介 means like seafood products, not flavor. It's meant to describe the ingredients of the soup not the taste. There are similar kanji in Japanese to 海味 to describe flavor, although those two make sense in Japanese as well. Usually, 魚介 implies dried seafood as well- such as katsuo bushi, niboshi, various ebi, hotate, maybe ika as well. I went to a really good ramen shop in Shinjuku a couple weeks ago and if you head to the back of the shop, it smells like fish because they simmer niboshi for a long time. You really can barely tell though when you taste the finished product- which is mixed heavily with various chicken broths.

                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                      There's a wicked slow fire/simmered Cantonese soup of dried squid with pork bones and maybe renkon/lotus root, so yes the ideas are all there of using dried seafood to enhance essentially broths and stock (ditto for non sea creature like dried mushrooms). I probably had my first real taste of hybrid broth with dried fish in Taipei via Kagetsu Arashi Ramen (probably deemed mediocre by your standards, since it is just a chain, but a fairly successful one over there).

                                      I vaguely recall watching a Japanese TV documentary where two dudes eat ramen all over Japan, and stopped by one place further up north where instead of chashu it was slices of beef.

                                      Hong Kong style shrimp wonton noodle broth (at the old school places in HK like the famous Mak's in Central) is made with shrimp shells, dried shrimp (small scrawny dinky kind), dried tilefish (although I'm not clear if that's the right translation and even if it is right, whether it is a distant cousin of say, amadai), and shrimp roe.

                                      I'm guessing your Chinese friend came from a region probably further inland, perhaps where stock is mostly made with meat and bones (or cured Chinese ham for instance).

                                    2. re: K K

                                      I am not trying to be argumentative here, but you are not getting my point. It isn't about if Ivan get approval for his Ramen in Japan or Q老大 did well a Taipei competition. I am glad that Q老大 did well, but frankly I am not sure what that example is supposed to show -- beside the fact he did well in the Taipei competition. The fact is that this is a competition in Taipei. It does not mean anything more and anything less. Mainland China has recently awarded 連戰 (Lien Chan) the 孔子和平獎 (Confucius Peace Prize). 連戰 lives in Taiwan and not China and won the prize, just like Q老大 was trained in Japan and did well a Taipei competition. What does 連戰 story mean? It means just that. It means 連戰 won the Chinese 孔子和平獎.

                                      Look, I partly grew up in Taiwan. My family, my grandparents and most of my relative are there. I go there every year, so I like to think I know a little bit about Taiwan.

                                      To read into the fact that Lanzhou style beef noodle soup did not win the Taipei competition for the last several years and then therefore to conclude the Lanzhou style is gimmicky is a far stretch. This is like saying the Bejing women did not win the Taiwan beauty queen, so Bejing women are less attractive. Really? Like my original response: "I think most Chinese critics from China will take issues with this statement" I think this is a very modest, reserved and correct statement. Most Chinese from China won't agree that the Lanzhou style is gimmicky just because it didn't win the Taipei competition. Do you disagree? Do you think most Chinese beef noodle experts from China will actual think the Lanzhou stylet is gimmicky because it did not win the Taipei competition?

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        "I am trying to point out this is a competition in the city Taipei, which 60 years ago didn't even beef noodle to speak of"

                                        Ever heard of 金春發牛肉麵 in Taipei? They've been around over 100 years.


                                        Despite mentioning your Taiwanese family history and their residency, you are obviously pro-China even to your food choices, that I can respect, defending Lanzhou beef noodles and their critics on their behalf, the fact that you mention Lien Chan out of the blue, him being awarded in China, in addition to the fact that he was a former Kuomintang party chairman whose stance is mostly pro-China to begin with. So I can see how I touched a few nerves with you.

                                        I think what ticked you off was my sentence about "based on the consensus". Let me elaborate that the consensus is also the data, the judging, the response of the general public (not just beef noodle judges), popularity, and the fact that there are way more beef noodle shops that are not doing hand pulled noodles. Those that are, do not seem successful in comparison or at least are off the radar for whatever reason, but again it boils down to broth and beef.

                                        As far as Chinese beef noodle critics in China....let's hear from them. I myself have had a few great fantastic bowls of beef noodles of Chinese origin, while not having had them in China (but have in Hong Kong). I love San Tung's 5 spice beef noodle soup in SF, and remains my favorite bowl to this day in town. However it strikes me that beef noodles is still regarded as a snack, quick fix, street food kind of item in China (despite having upscale places like the Din Tai Fung chain), and is not a representative national dish like it is in Taiwan or Hainan Chicken Rice for Singapore (I bet critics are crying over the fact that their Wen Chang chicken got stolen and bastardized


                                        In fact I invite Chinese critics over to Taiwan and try Lanzhou Kung Fu Noodles, then go to Niu Baba, 72 beef noodles, Master Hung etc etc and judge for themselves. Again this thread is about beef noodles in Taiwan, not China...but you insist on bring this over to China. Now if it were the other way around, I'm sure beef noodles in Lanzhou taste great and much better. But their broth and stock preps are different. And that's another discussion.

                                        Let me elaborate and repeat upon what I have said in case it was not clear:

                                        I never said Lanzhou noodles in themselves are gimmicky. And I do not look down upon them. I do however have an issue with businesses that tout "hand pulled noodles" yet do not deliver on the overall bowl. Do you still live in SF Bay Area? Remember a place called "Tokyo Ramen" in Milpitas? Chinese or Taiwanese run business....they did pretty good in hand pulled noodles, fusing that with their interpretation of ramen. The problem was that the noodles were good, but the rest stank. Look at Ark in Alameda, also advertising Lanzhou noodles...check Chowhound SF board thread and you will see that the beef and broth were nothing to write home about. Trusted friends who have been to San Dong House in San Francisco pretty much came to similar conclusions, and the chef does Lanzhou hand pulled noodles himself in plain site. Great noodles, but failed on the overall bowl.

                                        There are tons of hand pulled noodle fans. But seems like people in SF who have eaten at Ark and San Dong, as well as most beef noodle fans in Taipei, value broth + beef over just noodles. To survive and thrive as a beef noodle business in Taipei, those two components need to come first. And I agree 100%. I don't know about you, but I will take an average bowl in Taipei over a bowl of Lanzhou beef noodles (from Lanzhou). Look up the Chinese wikipedia definition of Lanzhou beef noodles (Mainland Chinese page), and you will see that the broth description or receipe, is not as complex in comparison. I could be swayed if you point me somewhere to eat, or at least info refuting that claim.

                                        Q老大 won the "most creative" beef noodles award/category. The idea of using udon instead of regular noodles, and a Japanese take, on top of some cold udon dishes, somehow won critics and fans over. This also places emphasis on needing to be creative and different to thrive in a cut throat environment. Then why didn't Lanzhou hand pulled kungfu noodles shop win? Is pairing hand pulled Chinese noodles a creative combo? Yes using udon in my eyes is also gimmicky, but it works. The example of the Iranian guy making beef noodles was used to show that you need to be different in the approach to survive. Even he is not using Lanzhou or hand pulled noodles. The comparison of him to Ivan is simply from the outsider breaking in perspective.

                                        OK Lanzhou Kung Fu Noodles. This is located upstairs in Taipei Main Station. Lots of tourists and visitors and people on the go pass by. Higher rent, lots of decent eats but not necessarily the best in town. Equivalent of food court fare but in nicer digs and higher price. LKFN is not a destination stop, just ask locals or check the blogs (while they do not state the hand pulled noodles is a gimmick). It may be a satisfactory bowl, but certainly not ethereal.

                                        The point is, every business to survive needs a gimmick or two. Sometimes they work fantastic, sometimes the don't. It is a known fact that Cantonese food generally sucks in Taipei. Most food stalls and restaurants that try HK style western either closed up shop or those remaining are getting by. I'm sure Hong Kong's Taiwanese fare along Mongkok is nothing to write home about either, and many surely are using gimmicks to get people to come. It is in no way representative of the country of origin. Or look at how many dim sum restaurants in San Francisco Bay Area are capitalizing on collective memories or old school, and are trying to push out variety to get people to come in, whether it be Shunde siu mai, big chicken bun, mountain yam chicken wrap etc. Again, some work, some don't. That's where I stand on the use and definition of gimmicks or marketing ploys as Lau put it.

                                        1. re: K K

                                          Even if there is a store which sells beef noodle for 100 years, it does not imply the beef noodle was a common dish in Tawian until 60 years. That was the point. It is difficult to lay claim to a dish if no population or a very small population consumes the dish.

                                          Let's not make wide speculation and empty judgement. I am pretty certain that I am not pro-mainland Chinese in my food or politics. Let me check again.....

                                          Still not.

                                          In fact, I like Taiwanese beef noodle a lot. Personally, I like both Lanzhou and Taiwanese and may be just a touch more toward Taiwanese, but that is competely beside the point. I don't know how you extrapolate your theories, but they are pretty much wrong. The reason I used Lien Chan's Confucius award as an example is because most people know how silly that award was. If you read it again, you will realize that it was a salty comment about the award. I wrote "What does 連戰 story mean? It means just that. It means 連戰 won the Chinese 孔子和平獎." In other words, his award does not mean anything more. Don't extraplote his award to be anything more than an award from the Chinese government. That was what I was getting at.

                                          Things should not be extrapolated more than they should be. Lanzhou hand pulled noodle lost in the Taipei competitions. That is that. I won't extrapolate anything beyond that, like you didn't need to extrapolate my personal food choice and my politics, and implied my political stance influences my food taste. I hope the fact that you have incorrectly extraploated my food choice and politics illusrate the problem with speculations.