My parents are both from Taiwan. I grew up listening to post WWII stories from the mother country – you know the ones about working hard on the farm, walking barefoot to school, and barely having enough to eat. That last point is very important – because they didn’t have much food when they were children, my parents appreciate food and view it much more fondly than your average Joe. I have a feeling that most people in Taiwan have a reverence for food in the same way my parents do.
So where can you find authentic Taiwanese food in Austin where they care about food quality as much as they do “back home”? My favorite Taiwanese place in Austin is Rice Bowl Cafe, where you can get a little taste of the “motherland” here in the Live Music Capital of the World.
I’m going to be honest. I really I want to bring special attention to Rice Bowl Cafe not only because the food is great and the owners are super nice. I have another motive… I don’t think many people know about this place yet and I really want Rice Bowl to get a lot more business. I would feel terrible if a place that makes it like mom does didn’t succeed – then where would I get my Taiwanese food fix???
So where is this culinary hidden gem? This diamond in the rough?
Rice Bowl Cafe is conveniently located on Braker and Lamar across from the Chinatown shopping complex, in a slightly out of the way spot next to Pho Dan.
What should I eat there?
1. They have the best beef noodle soup in Austin and they make their own hand made noodles. This to me, is 3x better than your standard Vietnamese Pho for the same price. The broth is full of flavor but isn’t greasy, so that you can taste the flavor from the thick, firm and chewy (a quality known simply as “Q”) noodles. Make sure to ask for the pickled vegetables on the side.
Unanimously among my Taiwanese friends here in Austin, we like the beef noodle soup at Rice Bowl best (way better than Coco’s or Tapioca House). Also, ask anyone who has lived in Taiwan where the best Taiwanese food is in Austin, they will tell you this place.
2. Rice Bowl Cafe is inexpensive and the portions are generous – you will be full and happy at the end of the meal. Some even say that one dish is enough for 2 meals.
3. They have some really authentic dishes on the menu that are not part of every other Chinese restaurant’s standard take out menu. The fried chicken with rice, green onion pie and fried pork chop (kind of like Japanese katsu) are all the same as in the mother country. I also really like the stir fried rice noodles, which are just like my mom used to make, and the delicious snow pea leaves.
Green Onion Pie from Rice Bowl Cafe
If you like green onion pie, you will like the beef roll, which is a green onion pie with beef inside, then rolled up. It could be a whole meal and it’s only 5-6 bucks.
Rice Bowl does have some standard Chinese fare, but I usually stick to the real deal.
4. Bizarre yet very tasty foods! Rice Bowl serves an entire pork knuckle (slow braised) which comes with a big bowl of noodles in a clear broth. Also, the pigs ears are quite tasty if you have never tried them. They have beef tripe / honeycomb as well.
Pickled pigs ears, a bit gelatinous but delciously porky in flavor. A must try for the curious bizarre foods eater.
5. The “ethnic food rule” – If you go to any ethnic type restaurant, it’s usually a very good sign if a lot of people of that ethnicity are eating there and enjoying the food. Rice Bowl cafe passes this rule with flying colors – I always hear my parents’ mother tongue in the background when I eat at Rice Bowl.
Also, if you check Yelp’s reviews of Rice Bowl Cafe, you’ll see that the Taiwanese people on the board give it 4-5 stars, shower it with praise, and call it the most authentic place in Austin.
I’m done making my case – if you can’t tell, I highly recommend this place! Go get some Rice Bowl Cafe 🙂
As always, happy tasting!