From The Cheesecake Factory to Tsuta‘s Michelin-starred ramen, we’ve seen some well-known restaurant brands setting up shop in our city this year. The latest is Du Hsiao Yueh, a household name in Taiwan, makers of the authentic dan tzai noodles that launched the humble shop to fame. Originating in Tainan more than 100 years ago, the brand now has five branches in Taipei, four in China and one in Macau, with Harbour City being its first Hong Kong outpost.
Those who frequent Taipei will have probably visited Du Hsiao Yueh before, a mainstay on the crowded Yongkang Street shopping and dining district, just a short walk away from the original Din Tai Fung. If you’re like us, you’ll have even hit both in one go (along with these utterly fantastic green onion pancakes, perhaps followed by a refreshing bowl of mango shaved ice).
The noodles are a definite draw but it’s the whole experience that stands out at Du Hsiao Yueh — from the humble decor transporting you to a small inn in the Taiwan countryside, to the traditional brick stall and noodle-making station out front. The noodle chef (trained and sent by Taiwan headquarters, we hear) assembles the bowls here in a rhythmic fashion, from the careful layering of ingredients to the pouring over of the hot broth. Just like visitors to Din Tai Fung can witness the speedy pleating of dumplings as they wait for their table, guests to Du Hsiao Yueh get a front-row seat of the centuries-old noodle-making process.
In Hong Kong, Harbour City may seem like an odd fit for this old-fashioned shop, but we’re guessing that the restaurant will start seeing queues from day 1, from the hordes of tourists and locals who pack into the shopping centre daily. To accommodate, the Hong Kong outlet has grown to encompass approximately 2,000 square feet, fitting up to 100 customers at a time. You’ll find the traditional noodle stall, vintage furniture and Chinese calligraphy paintings, along with a few modern touches from the artistic details to lighting fixtures.
Of course, it all boils down to the famous dan tzai noodles, Du Hsiao Yueh’s claim to fame. Nicknamed “peddler’s noodles” for their humble origins, it’s nothing more than a bowl of noodles, minced meat and broth, but it’s all about striking the right balance, from the springiness of the noodles to the seasoning of the stock — something that Du Hsiao Yueh has over 100 years of experience in mastering.
All the recipes and ingredients have been imported over from Tainan, and the methodical process remains the same: First the bowl is warmed with hot water, then filled with the quickly poached noodles, bean sprouts and coriander. Next comes the braised minced meat, garlic paste, the special “Wu Yin Sauce”, and fresh shrimp. The final touch is the shrimp head soup, a stock fortified by the delicious juices of the shrimp heads, balanced by the sharp tang and acidity from the dark vinegar-based sauce. All of the noodles are served in exquisite blue-and-white porcelain bowls, each featuring a panorama of the Tainan Castle Town painted inside as another nod to the brand’s roots.
You can accompany the dan tzai noodles with a selection of small plates, or xiao shi, including lu rou fan, pork trotters with peanuts, and fried oyster cakes. Larger plates are worth digging into as well, from drunken chicken in shaoxing wine to steamed milk fish — a southern Taiwan specialty that we love for its extremely soft texture and sweet, delicate flavour.
If you find yourself in or around Harbour City, you’ll want to stop in for this treat — Du Hsiao Yueh’s noodles bowls are not more than a few bites each, but it’s enough to experience the heritage of this centuries-old shop. And if you’re as much a fan of Taiwanese food as we are, Du Hsiao Yueh is a welcome new addition to our city’s culinary offerings — and hopefully an indication of more to come.
Du Hsiao Yueh opens on 28 July 2017. Opening hours are daily from 12–10pm for walk-ins only.
Du Hsiao Yueh, Shop 31, LCX, 3/F, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, 3-27 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 8300 2001, website coming soon