On every table at Happy Stony Noodle sits a bowl of suan cai, pickled mustard greens, dark and minerally, fermented and then flopped in a wok with sesame oil, garlic, dried onion and a flick of sugar. The chef, Chih Shen Hsu, calls it “Chinese kimchi.” It’s a condiment, to be spooned into soup or over meat, lending a sour frisson and crunch. But I ate it straight and was, as the restaurant’s name promised, happy.
Mr. Hsu, 65, was born in Hsinchu City in northern Taiwan under martial law. As a child, he often lingered over soup at Happy Beef Noodle, a no-frills storefront opened by veterans of the Kuomintang’s Nationalist Army who had fled to Taiwan after the Communists’ victory in mainland China. When he grew up, he took over the noodle shop and ran it for two decades with his wife, Yu Lan Hsu, while they watched the transformation of their country from rural society to megalopolis.
They moved to the U.S. in 1997 and brought Happy Beef Noodle with them, trying out iterations of the restaurant in Flushing, Queens, then Edison, N.J. (Both have shuttered.) Two and a half years ago, they settled on this quiet side street off Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens. The “Stony” now on the awning is Mr. Hsu’s English nickname, bestowed on him by a professor in his college days.
Taiwanese beef noodle soup comes with rough cuts of beef, only half-pliant, and noodles delivered fresh daily.Credit…Danny Ghitis for The New York Times