Let me tell you a story. A story of discovery. A story of love. A story of heartbreak, redemption, and a story of Dave spending £5 a day eating the same goddamn delicious noodles for the rest of my life.
There’s a brilliant open-air market in Oxford on Wednesdays and Thursdays. A bunch of food stands serve up a whole variety of international food, most hit, some miss. Vendors change from time to time, but typically it’s pretty stable. Some months ago, I was doing my usual aimless stumble around , trying to decide what to go for. A place that I’d gone to on an alarmingly-regular basis was no longer there. That was OK, sometimes vendors don’t show up for whatever reason. The next week, they still weren’t there. I was a little more concerned that they’d gone forever, but hoped they were just taking a long holiday. A few weeks go by, and still no sign of them. It got to the stage of being like the classic Futurama dog episode, where after Fry is cryogenically frozen, his dog keeps showing up at the pizza parlour where he worked, hoping to see him return. Time goes by, and eventually the dog dies without re-uniting with Fry.
Well, lucky for me, this story has a happier ending. One day they magically appeared, in a permanent location inside Oxford’s Covered Market. Trading under the name Taste of China, they are serving up some of Oxford’s most authentic and tasty Chinese food.
The dish that first got me hooked were their hot and dry noodles. The internet tells me this is a regional dish originally from Wuhan. It’s certainly a dish I’d never seen before, let alone tried (even while in China), but it’s ridiculously delicious. It’s a noodle dish made with sesame paste, various pickled vegetables, as much chili as you can handle, and plenty of coriander. It sounds simple enough, but it’s so addictive. The sesame paste is the magic ingredient here – it gives the dish that Unami flavour that makes it a winner.
The challenge I often face is trying to convince myself to have something else from the menu, and sometimes I manage to convince myself….but only sometimes.
Of course, they do have a lot of other great things to try. Another favourite of mine is the biangbiang noodles, a thick and long homemade noodle served cold with greens and a simple sauce. Another good choice shown below is the hot and sour noodles with spare rib. It’s a warming, fresh and authentic tasting pot of deliciousness.
There are lots of other great dishes on their menu that I’m trying to work my way around to having, but that’s largely dependent on me not just lumping for the hot and dry noodles EVERY TIME I GO. I can’t promise, but I’ll do my best to mix it up a little in the future.