Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homemade Beef Noodle Soup 牛肉麵 Recipe

Being Taiwanese-American, I am ashamed of not knowing much about Taiwanese cooking. Sure, I can enjoy a night on the town eating through a Taiwanese night market, but I don't know how to prepare much of what I see. Food, je t'aime did a great write-up and photo entry on Taipei's Shilin Night Market (士林夜市). So when my friend Stephen offered to make me some of his famous beef noodle soup, I jumped at the chance and asked if I could watch him prepare it too.


Since there are so many variations on beef noodle soup, no recipe can be definitive. Stephen told me his family recipe was no secret. In fact, I called my mom and she told me she had her own recipe as well but never taught me. You may notice that this recipe does not have any units of measurement. If you're making beef noodle soup, it's likely that you'll have had it before and can determine your own proportions of ingredients by taste. If you haven't tried it before, does it really matter how accurate the taste is? Just adjust to your preferences.

This recipe is best made a big potful at a time. Good for several servings and several days. It may even freeze well.


Two Onions (we used red, but I don't think it matters)
Napa Cabbage
Green Onions

Beef Shortrib (although most beef noodle soup involves beef shanks, Stephen insisted that the better cut of meat made a better soup. Also, the long cooking time probably compensated for lack of bone for a proper stock.)
Flour Noodles (we used a Korean brand, but you can substitute however you wish)
Imperial Spice Packet 滷味香 (this is where most non-Chinese cooks may run into a snag. Stephen got his from Taiwan, but I've seen equivalent packets in Chinatown. It's a combination of spices, most importantly star anise, cloves, cinnamon used for braises.)
Soy Sauce
Rice Wine
Brown Sugar

Imperial Spice and Noodles

Stephen's simple recipe involves the use of every dorm-bound, college student's best friend, a slow cooker.

1. Chop the onions and slice the beef into large cubes.

2. Brown the beef with the onions and some garlic.

3. Quarter the tomato. Combine the beef, onions, garlic, tomato in the slow cooker. Cover with a combination of soy sauce, rice wine, water and a dash of oil. Pop in two or three spice packets.

4. Put the slow cooker on low and leave it overnight. Your kitchen will smell delicious.

5. For lunch the next day, fry the napa cabbage or any type of hearty, leafy green. Strain out the onions and garlic from the broth. They were there just for flavor. Cook the noodles separately in clear water. If you cook the noodles in the broth, the starch will thicken the soup and you'll have a hard time making multiple batches.

6. When the noodles are al dente, strain, place in bowl. Add the broth and cabbage. Garnish with green onion.

Food, je'taime also coincidentally wrote up her own family recipe here. That should give you an idea of the variation on this common, but popular dish. I don't write recipes too often, but check out my Sticky Rice Recipe too.


Wilton Winrow said...

Wow! This recipe is perfect for my weekends! Maybe after my wife has her teeth cleaning with our dentist, we will cook this when we arrive home. Well, I'll just save your link so we have a guide for cooking it.

Kung Food Panda said...

Fantastic Aaron, I'm going to get myself a slow cooker to make this!

Botany Dave said...

Thanks for this. I was trying to track down a recipe for some soup I used to eat in middle school at a local Chinese restaurant -since closed down. I finally found that it was Tiwanese Beef Noodle Soup... The picture you posted looks almost exactly like it! I will be playing with the ingredient ratios shortly! >.<

Anonymous said...

do you have exact ratios for ingredients? don't feel confident enough to play around with ratios.


Aaron said...

Here's what the original recipe's author had to say about ingredient ratios:

"For soy, I usually use enough to cover the meat in the slow cooker as a metric, with just a little bit of rice wine to make sure everything is covered, then add water to top it off. For sugar, that's really just to-taste: it shouldn't be so sweet that it's more sweet than salty. How much would really depend on the specific soy sauce you're using. Because there's a long stewing process there's plenty of time to adjust to taste."

Hope that helps!