Within the national food sphere, ramen reigns as the king of noodle soups. Pho comes a distant second, and the rest of the possible candidates are all also-rans. However, within Chinese-Americans communities, there exists a haunting passion for the beef noodle soup. This is especially true for the foreign born Taiwanese-Americans who were raised under the relentless olfactory assault of beef braised in soy sauce and five spice. In the island country of Taiwan, where many have hailed as having the best street food in the world, beef noodle soups trump all.
When Bull Demon King opened in 2010 at a dingy shack in the Taiwanese stronghold of Temple City, it wasn't much to look at. While it wasn't an offshoot of a Taiwanese brand, it featured the most expensive bowl of beef noodle soup known to Angelenos. Within a year, it jousted with the long-respected Dai Ho, an LA Weekly 99 Essential Restaurant, for the position of SGV beef noodle soup champ, not in small part due to the gimmicky $16 spicy noodle soup challenge meant for guys like Adam Richman.
More than four years later, Bull Demon King opened its first shop on the SGV Strip, also known as Valley Blvd, thus growing into a fledgling chainlet with locations in Temple City, Diamond Bar, and Rosemead. The Rosemead branch, taking cues from the successful Diamond Bar location, features red and black cafe decor, and no longer feels like a hole in the wall. Little else has changed from the original except the price. With the expansion, the XL "Hell Style" noodle soup challenge has risen in price to a whopping $20.99, and still comes with a t-shirt for those who finish the bowl in 30 minutes.
But make no mistake, BDK, as evidenced by the empty winners circle blackboard in Rosemead, isn't about the fight with the food. It's just about the noodle soup, which here means semi-square chunks of beef, laced with connective tissue, in a 72-hour stock that sends a strong profile of 5-spice and soy sauce, all paired with a choice of 4 different noodles.
The soup base isn't too complex; it's jammed with primordial profile of glutamates that even a toddler with basic taste buds could appreciate. There are no tomatoes, sometimes considered a cheater ingredient in Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Also don't expect any green accoutrements beyond chopped cilantro in the bowl.
From there, chili and spiciness can be added in 3 strengths to the $8.95 noodle soup: little, medium, big. Or one can dabble in the house chili oil provided on the table. Alternatively, one can step up to varying levels of "Hell". "Hell No. 1" is spicier than the "big spicy" regular broth. "Hell No. 4" is as spicy as the noodle soup challenge, but in a smaller quantity. "Hell No. 1" should be rather pleasant for anyone used to the habanero salsa at Guisados, or the Young Sister's diced rabbit at Chengdu Taste.
One can step up to varying levels of "Hell"
The noodles at BDK are a whole ‘nother story. Hearty udon-esque "thick" noodles offer the most carbs, and seems to be the L.A. favorite, but the glass noodles weigh less heavily on the bowels and provides a completely different post-dining experience. Unlike Japanese ramen, noodle hardness can't be specified, but the kitchen is typically capable of not over-boiling.
Beyond the noodles, Bull Demon King offers the typical, borderline blase Taiwanese snacks, fried rice, and cold noodles, but for noodle lovers, a plate of the stewed offals combination (brisket, tripe, pig ear, tofu) is perfect for sharing.
Bull Demon King
5953 Temple City Blvd
Temple City, CA