Mei Nung Beef Noodle House
Mei Nung Beef Noodle House is one of the many offerings in the incredibly busy First Markham Place plaza. Many people familiar with the establishment identify Mei Nung by its unmistakable stinky tofu smell despite the fact that beef noodles are its namesake.
Even before opening the door, the smell of stinky tofu occupied the air and only intensified upon entering and being seated. For some, this is a sign to keep walking and choose from one of the many other restaurants nearby, but for those looking for a tasty bowl of beef noodles or other traditional Taiwanese dishes, the stink is a guide to a good meal.
To start things off, we ordered a plate of century egg with soft tofu ($6.99). The combination of creamy century egg, silky tofu, fresh scallions, and oyster sauce was topped off with a very un-Taiwanese ingredient: bonito flakes. The ensemble proved to be quite tasty and was definitely one of the highlights of the menu.
Following that, a large bowl of homemade beef noodle in soup ($6.99) arrived with a side of fried choy sum ($2.99). The beef shank was braised perfectly, and was very tender with no signs of chewiness. The noodles were of the thicker variety, which I happen to prefer, and were also cooked to satisfaction.
Unfortunately, the one element that matters the most in a bowl of Taiwanese beef noodles is where Mei Nung fell short; the flavour of the broth lacked the complexity and intense beef flavour that's associated with the dish.
Next, we tried the homemade beef and tendon with fried bean sauce ($6.99 for large), which resembled a typical "Zha Jiang Mein" with some more interesting meat choices instead of the usual ground pork. The freshness of the cucumber, corn, and sprouts paired well with the black bean sauce noodles, and the beef tendon was soft and flavourful, and braised similarly to the beef.
Lastly, since (literally) every table had a plate and it would've been a great injustice not to order it, we dove into the famous deep fried stinky tofu ($6.99). The dish came with a side of pickled cabbage and was topped off with a bit of hoisin sauce.
Each table came outfitted with bottles of soy and chili sauces for individual adjustment of the stinky tofu's flavours. The fermented cubes were crispy on the outside and firm on the inside, and with the help of the chili sauce, we found ourselves clearing off the plate with no regard to the smell.
Mei Nung executes all their dishes correctly and at a fantastic price point. However, I'd personally go for Ding Tai Fung just a few steps away in the same plaza for a bowl of beef noodles instead. If you can handle the aroma of stinky tofu, there's a great meal to be had at Mei Nung and a return visit for the tofu dishes alone is not out of the question for me.
Writing and photos by Bryan Chang