Meatless Madison: Jade Mountain Café’s sesame noodle bowl

Bringing Taiwanese culture to Eken Park

Next up in the Meatless Madison series, where we highlight vegan and vegetarian dishes, is the newly launched sesame noodle bowl from Jade Mountain Cafe.

Starting in January, Jade Mountain Cafe, a hidden gem in the Eken Park neighborhood, will serve a new vegetarian dish — the sesame noodle bowl. Owner and manager Kevin Chen says the dish is a Jade Mountain Cafe twist on traditional sesame noodle bowls that he often ate as a child in Taiwan. Its rendition is made with buckwheat noodles, a house-made white sesame sauce, crunchy garlic and steamed bok choy.

“This is a comfort food for people in Taiwan,” says Chen. “There are good options for vegetarian food [here in Madison] but it is missing the type of flavor that I am used to.”

Chen grew up in central Taiwan in a town called Puli, which has a high concentration of practicing Buddhists and a lot of good vegetarian restaurants. He moved to Madison in 2011 to attend college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He started helping in Jade Mountain Cafe in 2014 and, by 2017, took over as owner and manager.

Although Jade Mountain Cafe offers a variety of food options, including non-meat options like veggie bao and pot stickers, Chen says what they are really known for is bubble tea, a traditional Taiwanese beverage made with fresh tapioca pearls.

Chen and his staff make fresh batches of tapioca pearls, two or three times a day. Each tea starts as a fresh tea with tapioca pearls, but customers can experiment and customize the drinks with milk alternatives, tea varieties, fruit flavors and more.