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Udon know how much you mean to me. No, really – when it comes to ramen’s thicker, wheat-flour noodle cousin, nothing beats a bowl of chewy, heartwarming udon. On our recent travels to Taiwan’s metropolis capital of Taipei, often named Asia’s most vegan-friendly city, we had the good fortune to eat at a noodle house that definitely set the bar for exquisite vegan eats. Described somewhat eccentrically as a diner and nestled in a side street in Taipei’s busy Da’an district, Hoshina serves up traditional vegan Japanese noodles (udon, soba, ramen) in a beautiful space outlined by a tranquil zen garden complete with bonsai trees and koi pond. Below, we take you through the best dishes this Taiwanese hotspot had to offer.
The most popular dish on the menu, Hoshina’s Curry Udon is definitely not one to be missed! The heart of Hoshina lies in their noodles and patrons have the opportunity to watch all the action through their glass-enclosed kitchen at the front of the entrance. An impressive pounding, rolling and cutting – skills that the owner acquired through studying the art of noodle making in Japan – where their hand-pulled noodles are the perfect consistency between chewy and al dente. The real magic though, is the creamy broth made from cashews that clings to the thick noodles
Udon with Kimchi
Exuding the simplicity of Japanese cooking at its finest, Hoshina hits all the top marks with this udon noodle in their special house broth. A clear soup base filled with a bevy of veggies, seaweed, bean curd skin, chewy tofu and a generous helping of sesame is the perfect canvas to enjoy the chewy noodles and the spicy pickled kimchi pairing makes for the perfect tangy, crunchy accompaniment.
Despite its Portuguese origins, tempura is synonymous with Japanese cuisine but we can all agree that there’s plenty of mediocre versions out there. Apart from the quality of the ingredients, the key difference between good and bad tempura is the batter. The goal is a light, crisp coating that doesn’t absorb the oil it’s fried in. Hoshina’s vegetable tempura (a classic selection of pumpkin, sweet potato, taro, eggplant & shishito pepper) and is the best and lightest we have ever had! Crispy, airy, delicious, encased in the lightest, crunchiest batter we’ve tasted, we are still dreaming about it…
Yao Choy Greens with Sesame Sauce
It was invigorating to see Yao Choy (AKA, young flowering rape plant) paired with ingredients other than oyster or soy sauce. Full of zest in the savory, nutty sesame sauce that Japanese umami dreams are made of, this was a simple, flavorsome way to enjoy fresh, lightly steamed greens amidst all the noodle deliciousness.
Silken Tofu with Soy Sauce
There’s unlimited versions of tofu out there and even more ways to prepare it but hiyayakko, the cold Japanese silken version may well be our favorite and Hoshina’s homemade one is pretty incredible: wonderfully creamy yet light, with pudding-like quality and served with a dash of soy sauce, it was hard not to ask for seconds. And thirds.
Vinegar Marinated Tomato
A ripe, whole tomato steeped in vinegar, this surprisingly impressive side dish boasts a fusion of flavors – sweet, sour, and so sassy! Red and vibrant like those traditional Chinese candied fruit snack, bing tanghulu, Hoshina’s vinegar marinated tomato was a refreshing palate cleanser and the ultimate way to end a fabulous meal.
A lunch set for two including a noodle bowl each, two sides, a tempura to share and a drink each will set you back
Number 3, Alley 27, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei City, +02 2778 3737. For more information here (in Chinese only) or on their Facebook (also in Chinese). Hoshina is open Friday to Sunday from 11.30AM to 9PM and Monday to Thursday from 11.30AM to 2PM and 5.30PM to 11PM. Expect to queue!
All images courtesy of Green Queen.