Handmade noodles are the star of the show at Taigu in Middleton
The restaurant’s menu and name are inspired by the Gao family’s hometown of Taigu.
*Editor’s note: Taigu is open to curbside takeout orders.
Gao Fei lowers his cleaver onto a folded sheet of dough. After he lifts his hand, a slim ribbon falls away on the other side of his knife. The strands multiply as he continues to make rhythmic slices. He’s making noodles for Taigu, the Middleton restaurant that offers hand-cut noodles for traditional Chinese dishes.
“I had been very sorry for my stomach because I hadn’t tasted the food that reminded me of my hometown for many years — until Taigu,” says Gao Hong, Gao Fei’s sister and the mastermind behind the restaurant.
When Gao Hong moved to the United States 30 years ago, her first job was at a Chinese restaurant in Iowa City, Iowa. It took her a few years, but she convinced her two brothers and sister-in-law to move to America and open a noodle shop. Her brothers, Gao Fei and Gao Xiong, and sister-in-law, Lin Libing, are the ones cooking in the kitchen. Gao Hong says her brother Gao Fei is an “expert in noodles,” while Gao Xiong and Lin are “experts in fried noodles and dishes.”
You’ll usually find Gao Hong with a warm smile on her face behind the front counter of the modest dining room as she seats guests or hands over takeout orders. “Our customers’ praise is my greatest satisfaction,” Gao Hong says.
Taste of Home
The restaurant’s menu and name are inspired by the Gao family’s hometown of Taigu in the Shanxi region of northern China. The menu features many stir-fry dishes, dumplings, dan dan noodles, rice noodles and soups along with other chicken, beef, vegetable and seafood entrees. “Our ingredients are fresh and simple, just like at home,” says Gao Hong.
Made by Hand
It’s not complicated to make noodles by hand, Gao Hong says. “But it takes time to make good dough.” You can see and taste the difference in a dish that includes fresh noodles. The dough is made with all-purpose flour and water and is tossed with carrots, onions and snow peas in many of Taigu’s stir-fry dishes.
Behind a set of swinging doors, the kitchen at Taigu is usually in a state of constant motion. Cooks careen large woks around burners as flames lick up around the edges. Stir-fry ingredients bounce and sizzle in the wok before they’re slid onto a plate in an unintentionally artistic fashion.
One Spicy Slurp
If you dine in at Taigu, you might want to ask for an oversized spoon to take on a bowl of noodle soup. Enjoy slurping up handmade noodles, spicy broth, green onions and bok choy along with your choice of meats.
The Cat’s Meow
The kung pao chicken stir-fry is served with cat ear noodles. Shaped like cat’s ears, these noodles are a Shanxi specialty. To make these curly little noodles, each wedge of dough needs to be rolled by hand. “It makes your thumb sore,” Gao Hong says. A sprinkle of peanuts tops off this delicious dish.
Sweet to the End
Gao Hong isn’t usually in the kitchen anymore, but she still enjoys making one item on the menu — the sweet sticky rice cakes. The cakes have a very mild sweetness and are filled with a red bean paste. After tackling one of Taigu’s large-portioned entrees, the rice cakes make a fitting final course.
Find them: Taigu 7610 Elmwood Ave., Middleton, 831-3458
Andrea Behling is editor of Madison Magazine.
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