Budai Gourmet Chinese
6300 San Mateo NE H-1
Albuquerque, NM 87109
Taiwanese food is my favorite Chinese regional cuisine after Cantonese. Granted, what many North Americans view as Taiwanese food is a slight misnomer given that what we mostly think of as Taiwanese food today is heavily influenced by Shanghainese and Fujianese cuisine, especially after the KMT’s move to the island in and after 1949. Oftentimes what is considered Taiwanese now overlaps with many other historic Chinese regional cuisines given the nature of war and settlement over several centuries.
Regardless of the historic influences of Taiwanese cuisine, Albuquerque is blessed with a restaurant that actually serves it and does so pretty authentically. Located in the Northeast Heights, it’s a bit of a drive from my house near Old Town, but it’s a godsend when I have cravings for non-Cantonese style Chinese food.
When I entered the restaurant earlier today I was promptly greeted by one of the owners and politely seated. The waiter was quick to get my drink order as I perused the menu, which is just big enough to offer a number of selections without being overwhelming (something many other Asian restaurants could be better at). Unfortunately, as usual it was slightly distressing to see that my settings only consisted of a fork and spoon, no chopsticks. However, given the clientele is overwhelmingly non-East Asian I can understand and at least appreciated that Budai is serving authentic Taiwanese food to them.
I ordered a bowl of Taiwanese beef noodle soup, xiao long bao (Soup Dumplings, which you can learn about here), and scallion pancakes. This was more than enough for one person to eat, but three good staples to test out the quality and authenticity of a Taiwanese (by way of Shanghai) restaurant.
The scallion pancake came first, and they were a bit thicker than I am used to. However, even with the thickness, the scallion pancake had that dough flakiness that is just right and enough scallions to make it flavorful without overpowering. Next came the beef noodle soup in a gigantic bowl, served with a side garnish of pickled Chinese mustard greens. The broth was delicious, the noodles were cooked well, and the beef was braised just right with great tenderness and just enough spice. Honestly, the beef noodle soup could compete with any Taiwanese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley.
For the finale came the prized xiao long bao, which came atop some thin sponge like material to prevent the dumplings from sticking to the steamer (smart move). I picked one up and carefully placed one on my spoon, ate a little bit of the top to let the steam out and slurp the soup, and then devoured the filling and dumpling wrapper. It was delicious, though the broth perhaps slightly blander than what I’m used to. As the dumplings cooled down, the experience wasn’t as great as trying to bite the top part of the wrapper tore apart the dumpling.
After I ate a copious amount of food, with plenty left over to take in boxes, I payed the bill which came out to be around $28 (noodle soup – $10, xiao long bao  – $9, scallion pancakes – $5, tea – $1.50). It was a little bit more expensive than I was used to, and certainly at least twice as expensive as any bill I would get at A&J, but well worth it in my opinion. Albuquerque can be proud that is has an excellent place for Taiwanese food, and it’s good enough that there’s no need to fly to LA.