Sunday, February 04, 2007

NRM 2.0: A Revisit of Niu Rou Mian 牛肉麵, Chinese Beef Noodle Recipe

Chinese Beef Noodle Soup 牛肉麵

Nearly after one year since my first post on this popular Chinese dish, I continued to work on this recipe at least once a month. Known as 'niu ro mian' (牛肉麵), this is a dish that is shared widely within the Chinese culture - particularly in Northern China and Taiwan. My favorite being the Taiwanese version which is not as spicy as the Chinese version - yet more oily and richer in spices. Tomato paste is also used heavily for its acidity, which balances the 'beefiness' of the dish. I recently went to Taiwan for the sole reason of eating their night markets and pursuing their beef noodle soup. In 2005, Taiwan was named the beef noodle soup capital and started holding competitions that displayed the talents of nearly 40 top noodle restaurants in the city. While I was there, I raided a bookstore for books on beef noodle soup and gladly walked away with 4 books that my parents need to help me translate. I also met a wonderfully sweet lady, that ran a small beef noodle soup stall, that was more than happy to give me her recipe. I was in a rush to fly back to Hong Kong and told her I HAD to have a bowl of her noodles before departing.

With my books and visual lesson of making beef noodle soup, I knew what I had done wrong all this time... I was using way too much star anise and five-spice powder. The technique I used belonged more to the mainland Chinese way of NRM. After cooking NRM with the Taiwanese recipe, I had to have my Taiwanese/Chinese friends come over for a test... and they really enjoyed it. Pictured below is the cut of the beef shank braised in the soup. In my original version, I had cut the beef shank into large cubes. After hours of braising, the cuts of meat lost its shape and much of the fat/tendon content. I found that braising the whole fiber of shank muscle was a better way to serve this wonderful dish. Not only was the soup pot less crowded, I was able to make nice slices - the same way cha shu pork is served in Japanese ramen shops. It's more presentable, easier to eat and shows the grains within the shank meat.

Here's my recipe for Chinese beef noodle soup. Since there are HUNDREDS of variations in China/Taiwan, I picked 2 of my favorites and mixed them together – Sichuan and Taiwan style.

Ingredients for 6-8 Servings in a 5 qt pot
2-3 lbs. of beef shank (use brisket if you don't like tendons)hot chili bean paste (attachment is a non-hot version, but hot is recommended. you don't have to have that same brand. just match the Chinese characters with whatever you can find. In the image attached "chilibeanpaste.jpg", I prefer the brand all the way on the left with the blue label from Taiwan. I don't really like Lee Kum Kee products.)
dark soy sauce (also labeled as Mushroom Soy Sauce)
soy sauce
sesame oil
6 garlic cloves
Small handful of star anise
6-8 slices of ginger
2 bunches of green onions (cut off the green part)
3 small tomatoes, quartered (or whole canned tomatoes for a more punchy, hearty tomato taste (taiwanese) - omit this for Chinese style.)
2 cans of beef broth or 2-3 tablespoons of beef demi-glace (paste)
1 large onion
8" piece of daikon radish (optional... adds a nice sweetness like tomatoes. taiwanese ppl use papaya sometime.)
2 chinese spice packets (image attached)
shao xing rice wine
rock sugar for a subtle sweetness - should not be candy sweet
white pepper
whole black peppercorns
sichuan peppercorns
dried flour noodles
cheesecloth/string (for star anise, sichuan red peppercorns and whole black peppercorns) - omit sichuan red peppercorns if unavailable

green onions
bok choy or spinach ( i like spinach better)

Use this as a starting point. Our pots and BTU's are all different so everything is affected... add more as you need. don't be afraid to add/taste things.

(1) Cut the beef shank into 1.5" square pieces. Place in a pot of water and bring to boil to remove blood and impurities. Remove from pot and rinse off the meat – set aside.

(2) Add oil to a pot, once it's hot, add garlic and ginger to flavor the oil for 1 minute (do not burn). Add the beefshank back into the pot and brown the meat - don't overcrowd the pot – fry in batches. Take out the meat once it's browned, and repeat till finished. Add all the meat back in and add 3 tablespoons of hot chili bean paste, 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, 1 cup soy sauce, small handful of salt, tablespoon of white pepper, 1/4 cup of shao xing rice wine and 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Fry for about 8 minutes.

(3) Add tomatoes, green onions, spice packets (image attached), a handful of sichuan red peppercorns and a handful of whole black peppercorns) along with 2 cans of beef broth, and filling up the rest of the pot with water. Bring to a boil with lid on and lower the heat to a simmer for 2.5-3 hours. longer the better, you want your meat to break easily w/ a fork.

(4) When the meat is tender, adjust the taste of the soup with soy sauce, white pepper and rock sugar to your liking. If the soup is too dense, add water to balance it out. The soup may appear oily from the hot chili bean paste, but keep that in there for flavor. And add another tablespoon of sesame oil to wake up the broth. To ensure a beautiful clean bowl of beef noodle soup, ladle thesoup into a sieve with cheesecloth over your noodle bowl. Aesthetics count! Boil some water and cook your dried flour noodles al-dente. The Chinese refer to the chewiness of the noodles as "Q" and it's important in making a perfect bowl of NRM. Garnish with green onions, cilantro and whatever boiled vegetable.

It is important to note that after your first day, the soup will turn a bit sour from the soy sauce and sesame oil. This is normal. Restaurants make fresh batches every day and never reuse soup. You will have to add more water or sugar to bring back the taste if you eat for the next few days because it will lose its potency.

enjoy, please send photos of your final products. regards, dylan.

Here are some other links to NRM.

Kirk of Mmm-Yoso
Chez Wang
2005 Taipei Beef Noodle Festival

Feel free to add any NRM links to the comment section. Thanks for reading.


Jeni said...

NRM is by far my favorite! So oishii!!! (*^o^*)

BoLA said...

Sorry that MS and I couldn't come over to partake in this early morning beef noodle soup... looks delicious!

By the way, CONGRATS on your Travel TV debut!!! It was so fun watching it with you and the gang! I couldn't stop giggling and thinking... man! I KNOW THIS GUY! :D

The Guilty Carnivore said...

Is there a particular brand of noodles that work best in your experience?

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Jeni thanks!

Bola, thanks to you and MS for joining us last night. I really appreciate the support.

GC, I recently switched over to dried box noodles. In the chinese market, you'll find various sizes from 3/8" to skinny fettucini. I prefer the fettucini style b/c it isn't so heavy. I believe they are called "Shan Dong La Mian" (Shandong Pulled-Noodles). When you work with dried noodles, you have more control over its chewiness versus knifecut/handcut/freshhandpulled noodles. It's very important in this dish to have chewy noodles. People usually drink and eat the whole bowl so your noodles will be staying in the broth for quite a while and need to stay chewy. Also, price-wise - you win. $3-5 for a 5-lb box is awesome versus $1.79 per bag of fresh noodles.

2nd-favorite said...

The pictures look awesome as always but I don't yet have the mental faculty to actually read the post because we just got back from, well I'm sure that I'll post about it soon enough. Anyway, just wanted to say congrats about the show last night. Very cool man.

Anonymous said...

Cool to see you on Bourdain's show last night - so rad!!

Christine D. said...

Dylan! I've tagged you for "5 things most people don't know about you." Sorry if you've already done it!

Aw man! I'll need to catch a rerun of that No Reservations episode... :( I can't believe I missed it.

lester said...

Sounds delicious, but what are the amounts of the other ingredients besides the beef? ie tablespoons of sugar, salt, pepper, oil, etc.... thanks.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

2ndF, welcome back from wherever you came back from haha. I guess I'll have to hold the curiosity till you post - that is if you don't engage in poker matches w/ the wifey.

Anon, thanks!

Christine D, thanks. I'll try and get to your meme when I can - so much to write.

Lester, email me about the recipe.

Anonymous said...

I saw you on Anthony Bourdain's show last night! I'm so envious! My boyfriend works in the same building he does and sees him when he is in NYC. He says he's very down to earth. I would love to meet him one day. Great job.

Yuzu said...

So these photos are awesome, dude. =D

Chubbypanda said...

Excellent. I approve.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Looks yummy.

I really like the spare ribs, bok choy, egg noodle soup at Phoenix Food Boutique in San Gabriel. Spare ribs are marinated in fermented bean curd. The egg noodles are chewy and soft. Or would this not be considered niu rou mian?

Passionate Eater said...

You are so the King of NRM. You need to open one of those chains now called, "Noodle King." But I think you'd probably name it, "Noodle, F-King Good."

rameniac said...

methinks you are destined to open a restaurant of some sort, quite possibly a niu ro mien shop. that serves snake bile shots ont he side.

KirkK said...

Hey EDBM - sorry it took so long to get those books paid off, didn't they? Looks great.

asiangarden said...

Yummy!!!! It looks great!
How do you prepare the tomatos, do you just cut them up or do you take out the seeds or what?

joanh said...

that's awesome that some lady in a stall gave you her recipe! i'm glad you had a good time in taipei and ate lots

tommy said...

I really want to try making this... but I have no idea as to how much of each ingredient I am supposed to put in. Is there any way you can help and tell me how much of each you need?

js said...

Cool-looking bowl of noodles.

Thanks for sharing the recipe. Been wanting to make a bowl of NRM myself.

The only sticking point is the pickled greens they add as garnish to the bowl of noodles. Do you happen to have a recipe for that? Some say it's pickled mustard greens; others say pickled cabbage.

I've bought pickled mustard greens but it doesn't seem to be the same.

Any tips?

teenz79 said...

hi, you're recipe looks so yummy. i would love to try it but the ingredients were not quantified like tbsp..tsp.. etc. Is it possible for you to email me the thank you!

Anonymous said...


if you don't mind suggestions, when you are stir frying the garlic/scallion/beef i would suggest you put a (x amount to taste) of Red Bean Sauce - it is in a blue can and is labeled spicy or regular. so heat up oil, place garlic in, wait till garlic is sizzling and providing taste, add red bean sauce, and stir fry, add meat then stir fry, add scallion and mix the oil sauce with beef broth.

i am recommending this because soy sauce is basically fast food and americanized for economic reasons. the bean sauce is much richer and the saltiness from the paste is more than adequate to provide personal preferences.

Also the master stock broth of beef bones or your choice is important. First, get the water to boil throw in bones and let it boil off the blood in the bone, change water and fill up with water. Boil now until water almost gone without adding water (BONE ESSENCE STOCK-key), than add veggies/daikon and more water for the final boil. your soup is the most important ingredient. sorry so long but really it starts with the master stock, and than the stir fry and noodles are important but rarely contribute to the taste.

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Anonymous said...

I've been looking for a beef noodle soup for ages and I would love to try this, but can you give any specific measurements for the ingredients above?

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Shian said...

hihi, got here somehow and must say the picture looks amazing. Can't find NRM in Wales and would really like to find out the quantities of the other ingredients. Thank you!

SasquatchTotem said...

Looks Fantastic. I make something very similar to this. Can you please give us some idea of the measurements of the ingredients? That would be very helpful.

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