In Taiwan, beef noodle soup is practically the national dish. Beef bones, meat and tendon simmer for hours, combined with an array of spices and aromatics to create a deeply flavored broth that’s served with wheat noodles. Delicious versions proliferate Taiwan for as little as $6. But there’s a father-son duo in Taipei city making a version that will set you back 10,000 Taiwanese New Dollars (TWD) or roughly $320 for just one bowl.
Wang Sung Yuan opened Niu Ba Ba back in 1990 and had in his mind the idea of creating the world’s best beef noodle soup. What really differentiates one version from another is the quality of beef a restaurant starts with. Wang and his son Eric Wang Yiin Chyi, who now runs the restaurant with his dad, serve multiple versions of the soup, ranging from a $16 take all the way up to their Presidential Noodle Soup, that will set you back what a lot of Michelin three-star restaurants charge for an entire tasting menu.
Niu Ba Ba’s Presidential Noodle Soup uses beef—including luxurious wagyu—imported from Brazil, America, Australia and Japan in its recipe. They start by stir-frying the different cuts and then braising them low and slow, before freezing them overnight. The extremely tender beef is added to a series of different stocks that have each simmered for at least three days. Those stocks are layered in a gilded bowl that, itself, costs $600, then the noodles and beef are added. Depending on how far you dip your spoon down into the bowl, you’ll get a different flavor experience from the stock. In total, the process to make a bowl of soup will take about a week.
The soup wasn’t always so expensive. When Niu Ba Ba first started creating its its Presidential Noodle Soup, there was just a blank place on the menu where the price should be. Wang simply asked people just paid what they thought it was worth, with one person almost dropping $1,000 and another getting out only paying $16. Eventually, they decided they needed to actually set a price, and thus settled on TWD10,000 about a decade ago.