As a young woman in the Taigu district of Shanxi, China, Hong Gao didn’t just enjoy noodles — she ate them every day.
Wheat-based, hand-cut noodles have been made in this region of China for more than 2,000 years — a cuisine that’s as much an art form as it is a menu item. These noodles are more than food; they are at the center of life.
In America, Gao could not find them anywhere.
Gao moved to the United States about 30 years ago when her husband came to the country to work on his Ph.D. – he is a pathologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She missed these noodles a lot.
“There are no good noodles around this country,” Gao said. “I really, really wanted to have noodles here.”
Gao’s longing for this food became a dream that’s now gently simmering on her restaurant’s stove.
Taigu is a restaurant in downtown Middleton that features fresh, handmade Chinese entrees. The menu has a delicious variety of items, including scallion pancakes and pan-fried dumplings, but its special stir-fried noodle dishes have drawn an enthusiastic fan base. Popular noodle-based menu items include spicy ginger beef with jalapeno stir-fried noodles and the “Taigu Special” stir-fried noodles.
“Everything is made fresh,” she said.
The restaurant is currently serving carryout orders only. Gao says she wants her customers to know how grateful she is for their kindness, love and support.
“We are particularly touched by how both new and old customers not only come to place takeout orders, but often generously tip to support us during these times,” she said.
Taigu has been a fixture of Middleton’s food scene since 2014.
In China, Gao worked in a human resources position, but her first job in the United States was in an Iowa City Chinese restaurant.
Gao moved to Middleton because of her husband’s employment and for years she dreamed about opening a restaurant of her own. When she helped her brothers Fei and Xiong come to the United States, she told them there was a catch.
“If you are going to come with me, you are going to have to learn how to make noodles,” she said.
They agreed and today help her with the business. Each day, the brothers arrive at 10 a.m. to start the prep work for dinner.
The noodle dough is just wheat flour and water, but it’s a very heavy dough and difficult to work by hand — to keep up with orders, the restaurant decided to invest in a stand mixer.
“We broke three of them,” Gao said.
They persevered, and the brothers spend hours each day making Taigu’s noodles. They cut the noodles the traditional way, by hand, with a knife. They boil the noodles before stir-frying them with vegetables and meat. The cooking time for these noodles is not measured by a clock — the brothers simply know in their hearts when the noodles are done.
Taigu has built a loyal base of regular customers and Gao said she feels lucky and blessed to have the restaurant in Middleton.
“I love my job because I can make people happy,” she said.
And how often does Gao eat these special noodles?
“Every day, every day, every day,” she said, with a laugh.
7610 Elmwood Ave.
Middleton, WI 53562
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, Noon-8:30 p.m.
Currently only offering carryout and delivery. Delivery services include ChowBus and EatStreet.