I have a possibly unpopular opinion about Taiwan Noodle in Albany – I don’t think the noodle dishes are that special. For something that is literally in the name of a restaurant, you’d think the noodles would be the must-order dish. But after trying them a few times, I find the broth to be underwhelming and oddly seasoned, and the meat or vegetable additions to sometimes be tough and flavorless. Although not exactly the same style of soup, I think there are far superior noodles at places like Sushi Tei (for ramen) or TapAsia or the now defunct Northeast Dumplings House (I am hoping the new version of that restaurant will still include some of their spicy noodle soups).
But there is one dish at Taiwan Noodle that I think is spectacular and worth a visit in its own right: the spicy wontons. You’ll find these beauties on the dim sum menu (served all day) in an order of ten for $6.95.
The great thing about these wontons is how delicate the sauce is, especially for something that could be heavy and overpowering. It’s mostly just a chili oil sauce with a touch of soy and a healthy dusting of red pepper flakes and scallions. It clings just enough to the dumpling shells to give a light coating of spice while still allowing the flavors of the filling to shine through.
And the filling is really excellent too. The menu doesn’t say exactly what is inside the wontons, but if I had to guess, I’d go with a pork and chive mixture. There’s lots of green bits in there to balance out the dense chunk of meat, and it’s well seasoned.
One thing I always look for when trying dumplings or dim sum around the Capital District is if I think they are homemade, versus some sort of frozen version that gets popped into the steamer. And these wontons get points in my “likely homemade” evaluation because the shells are so thin and fragile. I like how they are wrinkled around the filling instead of being a tough doughy layer, and the taste of the meat inside doesn’t remind me of any other dumpling I’ve had around the region.
A few other dim sum items on the menu here are on my “questionable” list for being homemade – like the pan fried dumplings, which have a very thick shell, and the shrimp dumplings, which are suspiciously symmetrical and look like the same order at multiple other establishments. But without spending any time in the kitchen, it’s hard to say for sure.
I can say with definitive conviction that the spicy wontons are delicious and possibly the best thing offered at Taiwan Noodle. I always mean to try a few more items from the very lengthy menu here, but get sidetracked by at least one or two plates of these wontons. It’s the kind of dish where you think to yourself that an order of ten seems like it might be too hefty for dim sum, but then it disappears in the blink of an eye. And you might just need to order another plate. And come back to share the experience with more friends sometime very soon.