Taiwanese food acolytes will rejoice upon learning that Mimi Cheng’s, the good-for-you dumpling emporium with two outposts downtown, has added to their Nolita menu the classic dishes Beef Noodle Soup and braised pork over rice (lu rou fan), which they’ve dubbed Formosa’s Pride. Credit goes to the sisters Cheng, Hannah and Marian, for upping the game and bringing to Gotham salubrious versions of this nourishing Taiwanese fare.
“These are two dishes we loved growing up,” says Hannah, the older of the two, noting that their versions are made with pasture-raised meat, so you can feel good about what you eat. “It’s hard to find the Formosa’s Pride [made] with really good ingredients and that stopped us from eating it when we went out. And it’s hard to find Taiwanese beef noodle soup that’s good because a lot of times people make a cheap version so the soup is watery.”
The rather earnest-sounding name Formosa’s Pride stems from an uproarious debate a few year’s back when a food magazine published that the dish lu rou fan originated in China, and not Taiwan, the tiny island Republic east of China over which it claims to retain control. “The Taiwanese government handed out a thousand bowls of [pork over rice] for free to establish that it actually belonged to Taiwan,” says Cheng, laughing. “Don’t mess with Taiwan and their food!” Their riff on the classic has the ground pork braised with shiitake mushrooms in a soy-based sauce, resulting in a pleasantly chewy, sweet umami-laden rush of flavors, served over a clean bed of baby bok choy and steamed white rice.
For a dish that has a festival named after it in the homeland, the sisters were determined to come up with a version that deserved “to be called Taiwanese beef noodle soup,” says Cheng.
Their rendition simmers bone marrow to make the rich broth that envelopes the fresh wheat noodles and leafy Taiwanese greens that turn pulpy as they sit; pickled cabbage and thinly sliced scallions top the dish, providing a fresh, reinvigorating hit of flavor.
Taipei, the capital city in the north, is known for it’s snacking culture, or xiao chi (small bites), which is more about the constant, perpetual state of eating in Taiwan, rather than the portion-size. “The last time we went [to Taipei], my fiance, who’s a big guy, said, ‘I can not keep up with you guys in terms of eating,’” says Cheng. “Every two hours there was a new spot we had to hit. Time is so limited [when we’re visiting], and there are so many good food options that you don’t want to miss out.”
The sisters hope to roll out additional menu items inspired by their own childhood or the dishes that leave them yearning upon visits to Taiwan. “Everything’s kind of trial and error [with our menu] because some dishes we’ve worried that people will find them too weird, but what we’ve come to realize is that New Yorkers, they love authentic food. And they’re tired of the same options that every restaurant has—no one needs another kung pao chicken or orange beef, they want something authentic. That’s what we love about opening restaurants in New York, it gives us the ability to roll out dishes we love.”
Along with the new menu additions, the girls have rolled out their March specials, a Macro Bowl of brown rice topped with colorful vegetables and a lemon tahini sauce, and the Super V, a vegan dumpling of carrots, chives, cabbage and shiitake mushrooms.
“You’re supposed to feel good after you eat food,” opines Cheng, whose Instagram is littered with photos at boutique fitness classes all over town. “The food in Taiwan is healthy and made well. The copies here are not good copies. So we’re trying to take that reputation back and bring it back home.”
Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings
380 Broome Street
Between Mott and Mulberry