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)
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
whole black peppercorns
dried flour noodles
cheesecloth/string (for star anise, sichuan red peppercorns and whole black peppercorns) - omit sichuan red peppercorns if unavailable
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
2005 Taipei Beef Noodle Festival
Feel free to add any NRM links to the comment section. Thanks for reading.