A recent boom in Chinese restaurants in New York City seems to have added new spotlight on Taiwanese food. While it is easy to assume that the food from this island is more or less an extension of its neighbor (as a product of a bitter civil war in the mainland following World War II) across the sea, those who have experienced Taiwanese cuisine will tell you that it is so much more, influenced by a variety of historical events like Japanese occupation and the aforementioned civil war. Now, a growing number of ambitious Taiwanese restaurants have started to make their names in the city (see my review at one of those places herehttps://kenscale.com/2017/10/26/win-son/) showing a wide range of diversity and creativity that is strikingly distinct from mainland China’s cuisine that we understand. One of the Taiwanese staples that has yet to have become a staple of dining scene in NYC (the way ramen or pho has) is the beef noodle soup, and one ambitious joint that opened last year is trying to remedy that lack of recognition.
When my wife Jun and I stopped by at Ho Foods for a quick Friday dinner before a theatre date on Broadway, I didn’t realize how small the entire operation was, having three tables and a single counter. On the other hand, my expectations grew as my prior experience tells me some of these modest operations can actually have quite delicious food. The lone star at Ho Foods, the beef noodle soup, is based on bone and marrow broth (prepared, according to the menu, for 24 hours), with beef shanks, cilantro and scallions in it along with noodles. You have some options on this bowl, such as whether to have thin or wide noodles or whether to make the broth spicy, rich and spicy or “xxx” spicy. Knowing that Jun is always partial to spicy food, I was surprised that she didn’t go for the spicy option. I did add the spicy option and boy am I glad I did. When I tasted the normal broth from Jun’s bowl, it had depth but felt a little greasy. The addition of spicy flavor, on the other hand, neutralized the heavy feel to the broth to make it a lot more exciting. Toward the end, Jun started stealing my broth. For the noodles, Jun, who is not a huge carb person in general, opted for the thin one while I went for the wide one. On this, my decision turned out to be a smart move as well, as the wide noodles had more depth in texture than the thin one. Not surprisingly, our final verdict widely varied. Jun wasn’t sure if she wants to come back here again, while I thought this would be a great place to stop by for a bowl when I’m in the neighborhood for quick food, along with a side of pickled cucumbers that nicely complemented the noodle soup as well as soft tofu with century egg that was a pretty nice appetizer.
Ho Foods doesn’t accept reservations but the turnover of tables is fairly quick so you won’t need a long wait. There are small beer and sake options to complement the meal. There are also delivery and pickup options available. I had a lot to like about the beef noodle soup at Ho Foods that I think has a lot of potential to gain a nice following of noodle-hungry New Yorkers. It is certainly different from ramen or pho, but has its own distinct character that shows the uniqueness of Taiwanese cuisine.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.5/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 110 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (347) 788-0682