I was thumbing through some old copies of Saveur Magazine recently and found their recipe for Taiwanese beef noodle soup (牛肉面）and thought I should experiment a bit in the kitchen. As a student in Taiwan, I would often stop by the small street vendors at the night markets to pick up a steaming bowl of chewy egg noodles in spicy broth. I always knew how to find the best vendor by following the slurping noises from happy patrons.
It seems like every Asian country in the region has their own version of this dish, but even within Taiwan it is possible to find many different types of beef noodles with each cook putting their own personal stamp on the dish. Some cooks will braise the beef in soy sauce and make (hong shao niu rou mian) or red braised beef noodles, but my favorite version involves stir frying the beef with chili bean paste before serving with the soup. Although the dish is thought to have originated with Muslim Hui Chinese, it has become one of Taiwan’s national dishes.
This version is my own adaptation of Saveur’s recipe.
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
4 lbs. bone-in beef shank portions
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine (I use Shaoxing wine) or sherry
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
10 cloves of garlic, crushed
8 plum tomatoes, quartered
6 whole star anise
3 yellow onions, quartered
2 dried red chiles de arbol, or other fragrant red chiles
4″ piece of ginger
3 tbsp. Chinese black vinegar
12 baby bok choy
1 lb. Chinese egg noodles
Pickled mustard to garnish
3 tbsp Chinese chili bean paste (look for paste that has broadbeans)
thick black soy sauce to season
cilantro to garnish
- Put the beef in a pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then remove the meat and rinse out the pot and start over with clean water to cover. This will help to remove any impurities and insures a clean, clear tasting broth.
- Add wine, peppercorns, garlic, tomatoes, star anise, onions, chiles, and ginger and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours.
- Remove meat from broth and shred. Strain remaining broth, removing solids. You may also want to skim the surface of the broth of excess fat.
- Add vinegar, and season with soy sauce. You may also want to season with pepper if necessary.
- Bring fresh pot of water to a boil and add bok choy to briefly par-boil. This should only take a few minutes. Then add noodles and cook until softened. Cooking time will vary depending upon the thickness of your noodles. Place a portion of noodles in each bowl and top with bok choy.
- While noodles are cooking, briefly stir fry meat in skillet or with chili bean paste until fragrant.
- Top each bowl with a portion of shredded meat. Garnish with pickled mustard and cilantro if desired.
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