Mei Nung Beef Noodle House (Markham)

Location: Markham, Ontario
Address: 3225 Highway 7 East (at First Markham Place)
Type of Meal: Dinner

It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Mei Nung, but one evening (with the onset of Canadian winter), I craved a bowl of hearty beef noodle soup. Unlike pho and ramen, where the soup often plays star to the dish, the beef and noodles is what counts most here. Sure, the beef broth mixed with spices still matters; but it’s the thick noodles and large chunks of beef that entices me.

Mei Nung is arguably one of the better beef noodle houses in the GTA. At one point, they were so dedicated to it that there was only a handful of items on their menu. Years later, they have branched out to other noodles but most tables still come for their homemade beef noodle soup ($7.99 for large).

The menu provides a choice of rice, glass or homemade noodles. Trust me, go with the homemade as these springy doughy thick noodles is what pairs best with the hearty meat. Their beef is well braised leaving it tender and flavourful. With plenty of pieces in every bowl, it will certainly last you until the end. To counteract the starch and meat it’s served with blanched Shanghai bok choy and tart pieces of preserved vegetables (shun choy).

We also tried the homemade noodle with minced meat sauce in soup ($7.99 for large), which reminded me of ramen but with a lighter beef broth. The noodles are the same thick variety but topped with corn, bean sprouts, bok choy and a star anise spiced ground beef. It’s a lighter dish and worth a try if you’re tired of their star offering.

Both broths were not spicy. So, if you want to add a kick there are two hot sauces on the table to help spice it up. The first, is the typical red chili variety while the second is a secret concoction of chilies mixed into a paste. Yes, the dark brown container that looks deceivingly like sweet hoisin sauce is a hot sauce. It’s rather thick but is meant to be placed into the soup so that it melts throughout.

As a warning, the restaurant doesn’t smell pleasant. That’s because Mei Nung also serves deep fried tofu ($7.50), which the menu fails to mention is the stinky variety.

Luckily, Canada doesn’t allow the traditional brining fermentation method that is used in Asian countries as it can be much worse. My first (and only other experience) with stinky tofu occurred in Hong Kong: I was determined to seek out the elusive street food my parents spoke so fondly about from their childhood. We had no problems locating it as the smell was so strong that it could be smelt from a block away! At that point, little did I know the putrid scent that slightly stung the nostrils was what I was searching for. Sadly, it tasted horrible and with one bite I passed it along to my parents. But, they noted that it wasn’t prepared properly as the piece was much too thick and dense.

Since that time I haven’t tried it again. Even when I learnt Mei Nung offered a version of it, I refrained from ordering it on account of the terrible Hong Kong experience. So, I don’t know what go into me - perhaps it was knowing that I would write this post and wanting to share an experience with you – but I ordered it.

It wasn’t that bad. You could certainly smell it but the offending smell didn’t leech into the taste. Since they were smaller pieces, the sweet hoisin sauce that accompanies it ended up being what I tasted most (try adding a hit of the red chili sauce as well). Even so, I wouldn’t want it again. Due to the soaking process, the tofu gets tough; so, there’s a dense dry texture to it. Personally, I’d much rather order the light fluffy, crispy, non-smelly varieties found at congee restaurants.

Also, the tofu’s portion size is much too big for a table of two (best eaten with a table of four). Since it’s fairly heavy, I only wanted a few pieces. And, in hindsight, we really didn’t need the large sized noodles as there was no way we could finish everything. I guess when you’re craving noodles the stomach sometimes gets the best of you.

In the end, if you can withstand the slightly offending smell of the restaurant, visit Mei Nung for their noodles. It’s hot, comforting and really sticks to the bones – perfect for battling the winter ahead of us.  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!