If you find yourself waking up in Keelung one fine morning, where would you go to quell your rumbling belly? Perhaps a typical breakfast store a few doors down, or the famed Zhou Jia Soy Milk where lines snake out of the shop and down the street for some scallion pancakes (cong you bing). Some noodles tossed in a variation of sauce (gan mian), with a kick from some chili oil, could also do the trick.
I am a strong advocate of all the aforementioned options, but I often find myself getting up early on a weekend morning and making my way to Udon at Pier Number 6 for a special breakfast. Walking in, I order myself a bowl of piping hot udon, a portion of fried tofu to accompany it, and then for good measure a portion of pork belly. What a way to start a morning!
Aside from it being almost always buzzing with hungry locals, Udon at Pier Number 6 looks completely nondescript. The décor is casual and unpretentious, the old-school atmosphere the natural result of hungry customers slurping down bowls of noodles year after year. On the faded signboard, underneath the name of the shop, is a row of Japanese characters that I have never understood yet have never thought to question. From the back of the same signboard, we learn that this little eatery was founded in 1932, and this may be why stepping into this little place is like just taking a step into the past.
I have been coming here for years as my father used to take me here as a child. I remember him hurrying me along, saying that we had to arrive early or there would be no food left for us. Some say the best food is food that evokes the most vivid memories. Once, I asked my father why he liked the udon here so much, and I still vividly remember his reply to my question. “This is traditional, simple, honest cooking,” my father had replied without a second thought.
What is so special about the udon here, that people are willing to get up early for it? There are no bells and whistles, but it is this simplicity that makes it so wonderful: a tangle of udon noodles in a deeply flavourful broth, the result of boiling down pork bones and dried shrimp for hours, topped with Chinese celery and crispy shallots. Sure enough, on many occasions I have overheard the owner, brimming with pride, tell his customers, “you are going to be hooked!” His confident claim is not unfounded—look at me, a walking example.
So, if you are in the area and looking for a good honest breakfast option, Udon at Pier Number 6 might just be the one for you.
Phone number: 02-24264118
Opening hours: 6 am to 12.30pm, or until sold out
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