Remnants of the old-school Italian restaurant that formerly occupied the space where O’ Taipei Café now resides are still evident. Cozy booths are framed by shrubbery and brick, along with tables covered by red gingham tablecloths. Just don’t expect any spaghetti and meatballs to be found at this Rowland Heights café. Now, the only noodles here are the Asian variety, specifically Taiwanese comfort foods.
O’ Taipei Café is pretty standard when it comes to Taiwanese fare—if it’s the famed stinky tofu you bravely crave, the restaurant politely serves a friendly, entry-level version where sweet and savory flavors balance out the funk. The scene stealer here, however, is certainly the ramen section. Forget everything you know about traditional Japanese ramen and thick tonkotsu broth. The ramen here flows Taiwanese-style. What is that exactly? Well, it ain’t Japanese, that’s for sure.
First off, the base for O’ Taipei Café’s regular ramen is a very thin, light, clear pork bone broth—nothing resembling classic fat-speckled tonkotsu. From there you can pick variations, which essentially are different proteins that come with the meal, like a pork chop, minced pork, chicken or fish fillet, shrimp wontons and others.
I opted for pork dumplings in my ramen. The six long, meaty dumplings mixed in the noodle soup with chopped bok choy, bits of pickled mustard greens, and tiny dried shrimp. A swirl of springy ramen noodles composed the rest of the bowl.
For something really different, how about Taiwanese ramen chock full of dried herbs and roots in traditional Chinese medicine fashion? In this soup, your choice of herbal duck, lamb, or pork is combined with a broth steeped with ginseng, astragalus, wolfberries, dried Chinese yam, fox nuts, and any number of dried ingredients with specific health benefits. Of course, this mix varies depending on the type of meat in your ramen.
Taiwanese chef and owner Gina Tsai explains, “When the Japanese came to Taiwan, the food, like ramen, became adjusted to Taiwan tastes.” She says that there are other restaurants in Rowland Heights serving Taiwanese ramen but none are as authentic as hers.
So, if you see wolfberries and fox nuts floating in your ramen, you must be at O’ Taipei Café, home of Taiwanese ramen noodles.
O’ Taipei Café, 2430 Fullerton Rd., Rowland Heights, 626-810-5558