Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle: Bland Broth but Chewy and Delicious Noodles
2800-4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond, Canada
I have heard a mix of reviews for Chef Hung’s famous and award-winning beef noodles so I had to make the hike out to Richmond to try them for myself. No, it’s not just because I’ve always been amused by the giant mechanical moving bowl of noodles at Chef Hung’s storefront. Taking a cue from Japanese plastic food displays, Chef Hung takes it to the next level, installing a big bowl of noodles at the front of the restaurant, shiny plastic noodles are being yanked up and down by huge chopsticks held by an invisible hand. Sometimes I love gimmicks.
I was famished when we sat down so when a checklist menu was placed in front of me, I almost checked off every box. I was disappointed to find out though that their taro bubble tea was made from fresh taro and not my favourite powder mix. We were quickly informed too that the noodles at Chef Hung’s were not hand-cut, they were cut by a machine in the back. So much for the authentic, rustic Taiwanese hand-sliced noodle experience. The reverse would have been nice: powder taro bubble tea and thick, chewy noodles hand sliced to order. Anyhow, we quickly ticked off two noodle dishes and some appetizers and handed in our menu checklist. I went with the honey milk tea with pearls.
I do love that the bubble tea is served in brandy glasses. The tapioca pearls were soft and chewy: the perfect texture. And the tea was delicious, not too sweet and smooth and creamy from the milk.
Now, for the main dish: Chef Hung’s Champion beef shank with noodles in soup with thick-cut noodles. I noticed the large chunks of beef right away and I have no idea why the server told us that the noodles were not hand-cut. I honestly wouldn’t have known the difference. The thick noodles were uneven in shape and varying in length, which is what Taiwanese hand-cut noodles usually look like. What happens is the chef will take the ball of noodle dough in one hand and with a sharp knife, he will quickly and expertly slice strips of noodles from the ball of dough right into the boiling water. I guess a machine does this task at Chef Hung’s. Even though the front of the restaurant features that cool picture window leading into the kitchen. The perfect showcase. It’s actually one of my favourite things about Taiwanese restaurants: the glass windows into the kitchen and cooking area. At Chef Hung’s, chefs can be seen behind the windows shaping dumplings and kneading dough. I wonder if diners are too distracted by the big mechanical noodle bowl to notice though.
I was happy to find that the large hunks of beef shank in the noodles were tender and flavourful. I barely had to chew each piece. The meat was moist from the broth and still piping hot when I ate it (yes, after taking a million pictures). The broth however, definitely could have been better. It fell a little bit flat in flavour and really didn’t add much to the dish. I guess I had very high hopes for it, after all, this dish is labeled as a “champion” on the menu.
I did love the chewy and bouncy texture of the noodles though. Their thick and substantial heft almost made up for the lack of taste in the broth, and definitely added a heartiness to the meal. I liked the good contrast of textures between the firmer noodles and the soft and tender beef. If only the broth had a little bit more dimension.
Our other noodle dish was another “champion dish,”: the Champion braised beef shank, tendon & tripe with noodles in soup. I love beef tripe, so I was pleased to discover that the large flat, honey comb textured slices of tripe in this dish were chewy and delicious. Again the broth could have used a little bit more flavour but all in all the noodles were the perfect texture and the beef tendon and shank were tender.
We also ordered the beef wrapped in crispy pancake. The pancake was fried perfectly, salty, flaky and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The beef filling was also pretty substantial. The slices of beef inside were tender and delicious and the cucumber and green onion added an extra crunch.
Our shrimp and pork dumplings were served in a clear soup with green onions. I love dumplings that are served this way, it’s the perfect Vancouver rainy day food. I liked that the dumpling shells at Chef Hung’s are thick and sturdy enough to soak up a lot of broth without tearing.
The shrimp and pork filling was pretty scrumptious. There were actually whole pieces of shrimp inside along with some egg. The filling was a little heavy handed on the green onion though.
I’m not sure if it’s a Chef Hung trademark or if it’s a Taiwanese tradition but bits of fried egg also appeared in the filling for our Fried chives pancake. I’ve never eaten chives pancake prepared in this way. In Cantonese cuisine, we usually eat chives pancakes that are flattened and fried with the chives squished right into the dough. At Chef Hung’s, the “pancakes” were more like chives pockets, stuffed full of chopped chives, bits of egg and vermicelli.
For dessert we ordered one of my favourite dishes: mashed red bean cake. Pan fried, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and stuffed with red bean paste, this dessert did not disappoint. The filling was sticky and sweet, sticking to the roof of my mouth and slowly melting on my tongue.
I’m unsure if I will return to Chef Hung’s though. The service was quite slow and the prices are not that reasonable, considering that the Aberdeen Centre food court is only a few steps away.