Every once in a while, I get an odd sense of loneliness, not because I don’t have any friends, but because of a disconnection from my upbringing that I’m usually ok with it. You see, its not that I hate the heritage or my past, but the associated humid and sticky summers in Taiwan and awful elementary school system that comes along with it.
I found myself craving this dish, frequently made by my grandmother. This was triggered when I found out that my grandmother had gone on a month long trip to Taiwan. With a strong desire to procrastinate from any midterm-associated studying, I set out to 99 ranch to embark on an seemingly impossible journey to a rich beefy broth.
Taiwanese beef noodle soup is perhaps what I’d call the asian chicken noodle soup. I was always fed the soup as a special treat when I was young, with the special instructions to “finish the broth since it’s been stewed for hours”. It’s made hundreds of different ways with different spices and seasonings but the familiar scent of star anise and Chinese 5 space is prominent in every bowl served.
Surprisingly, it really wasn’t that difficult. The soup starts with the meat in a quick boil to remove any impurities. The fresh seasonings such as chills, garlic, and ginger are quickly fried to enhance aromas before the blanched beef, soy sauce and lots of water join the mix. From this point forward, the soup is stewed for hours until the tendon is thoroughly cooked, anywhere from 2 hours to 5 hours.
If you’ve never had beef noodle soup before but feeling adventurous I’d definitely suggest jumping into it whole. Especially the tendons. This recipe, however, can be easily manipulated to remove the tendon and utilize beef only. I personally love reheating the soup with tendon as the gelatin makes the soup firm up into a jello like form. This dish reheats really well. Whenever I want some the next day, I ladle in the cooled jello-like stock, chunks of meat and reheat until melted. I add any vegetables I have on hand to wilt in the pot while heating up some noodles on the side and in less than 15 minutes I have a delicious meal ready to eat. I also find that the flavors meld overnight in the refrigerator to create a fuller flavor as well.
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
- 4 pounds of a combination of boneless beef shank or chuck and beef tendon, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used 2 of each)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or peanut oil
- 8 large slices fresh ginger root
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- 2-3 small red chilies, such as Thai chilies, roughly chopped
- 1 large plum tomato, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tsp 5 spice powder
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
- 1 cup Chinese rice wine
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 8 whole star anise cloves
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 4 quarts water
- 2 pounds Asian wheat flour noodles (any width you like)
- Fresh spinach leaves, baby bok choy, broccolini, or other small greens, as desired
- Place the beef in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring the pot to a roaring boil and cook for a minute. Strain the meat into a separate bowl. Discard broth and impurities.
- Add the oil to the same pan and heat until shimmering. Add the sliced ginger, garlic cloves, shallot, and chilies. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomato and stir for another minute. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved, about 30 seconds. Add the chili bean sauce, and stir until the mixture just begins to bubble.
- Return the beef to the pot. Stir to warm up and coat the meat with the spices. Add the rice wine and cook for 1 minute, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Add the Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, and the water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until beef is tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
- Using tongs, carefully remove the beef cubes from the stew and set aside in a bowl. Carefully strain the soup over a colander or mesh strainer to catch the ginger, peppercorns, and other stray solids. Retain any solids or small beef pieces from the strained mixture that you may want to keep, and return to the soup. Return the beef to the soup and add greens to wilt if desired.
- Cook the noodles according to the directions on their package. Strain noodles, and divide into serving bowls. Ladle the warm soup and beef chunks into each bowl and serve immediately.