While I was in Taiwan, my aunt taught me how to make beef noodle soup. There are so many different versions and variations out there, but to determine if the dish is good or not, there are two things you want to look at: the beef, and the broth. Is the flavor there? The color and the depth? Is it salty with flavor to a certain point where you can drink it without parching yourself? As for the beef, is quality meat used? Is the right kind of meat used where when it is cooked, it almost falls apart as you eat it? Is there too much fat attached to each portion? Is there too little fat? Many restaurant that serve this soup may achieve the broth but often lack in the quality or type of beef, making it tough to eat. However, I have sought out to make my aunt’s version of beef noodle soup. Granted, I have tried my best to copy her version but is a little bit of a challenge. You see, the recipe she gave me had ingredients on it but no measurement. I asked her how do I know how much of each to put in, and she proceeded to take out a kitchen bowl and gave me estimates on “about 50% full” or “60% of this bowl.” With that knowledge, I have come as close to her version of beef noodle soup as possible.
First, prepare all of your veggies. You only need to give them a rough chop, as you won’t be eating them– they are just to flavor the broth. Place them into a bowl and set aside. You want to have this ready to use for later.
Chop the meat up into large chunks (the meat will shrink in size as it cooks). If there are any hard pieces of tendon, remove it. Heat a large skillet and very lightly drizzle with oil. Once the pan is hot, drop the pieces of meat in to sear. At this point, you only want the outside of each chink to be cooked.
After almost all the sides have been seared, dump the vegetables on top and toss it around.
After a few minutes, the tomatoes will begin to blister, the onions start to caramelize, the garlic start to fume, and the green onions begin to wilt. Juices will begin to form and pool at the bottom of the pan.
Once all of the tomatoes have blistered and juices start to coat the bottom of the pan, you can deglaze the pan with rice wine, followed by the bean paste and soy sauce.
Then, add in enough hot water (make sure it is hot) into the pan until just covered. Boil on high for 5 minutes.
Transfer the entire pan into a tin fitted for a rice cooker. I am using a 10 cup tin. Because there is not enough soup to cover the entire tin, I then add hot water into the emptied pan and bring it to a boil. As I wait, I clean off the sides to get any last bit of flavor into the broth. The color of the soup in the above photo is simply from deglazing the sides and bottom of the pan.
Once it boils, I add that broth into the tin (see how clean the pan is?) The tin should be about 80% full. To stew the meat, there are three stages. The first two are the same: add 3 cups of water into the steamer and cook until the steamer says it’s ready. Repeat for stage two. After two rounds in the steamer, the broth and meat should be ready. The flavors are there and the meat should be soft enough for you to eat. However, I like my meat really soft to a point where it will almost fall apart when you eat it.
To get it to that stage, I transfer the whole thing into a high pressure cooker and cook for an additional 35 minutes. Again, this stage is optional.
While the high pressure cooker is finishing the soup, I get everything else ready. I like to use flat noodles as they can easily soak up the flavor of the broth.
Boil some veggies to go along with the soup! I am using baby bok choy.
Slice up some scallions. Cilantro and chopped pickled mustard are also popular condiments, but I didn’t have any on hand. Once the broth is ready, it’s time to assemble! Pile on the noodles, bok choy, scallions, broth and meat, and you are ready to eat!
Beef Noodle Soup
1 white onion, rough chop
4-5 ripe tomatoes, rough chop
4-5 ginger slices
5 garlic cloves, rough chop, optional
3 green onions, rough chop
1.5 pound beef shank, chopped into large pieces
1/2 c rice wine
1/2 c broad bean paste
1/3 c soy sauce
pot of boiling water
Have all the vegetables and beef chopped and ready to go. In a large heavy bottomed pan, lightly coat with oil. Wait for it to get hot, then add the meat and sear the sides of each chunk. Once the majority has been seared, add the veggies. Allow the tomatoes to blister and juices to come out. Continue to sauté until the tomatoes begin to break down and its juice begins to coat the bottom of the pan, about 10 minutes on high heat. Turn the heat down to a medium, allow it to simmer for about two minutes, then add the rice wine, bean paste, and soy sauce. Turn the heat back to high and bring it to a boil. Add the boiling water into the pan to just cover, and bring it back to another boil.
Transfer everything into a tin fitted for a steamer. You need enough soup to cover the meat, so if you need more, pour more boiling water into the original pan to deglaze, bring it to a boil, then pour it into the tin. Don’t worry about adding too much water as more flavor will continue to stew. Add 3 cups into the steamer, add the tin of soup in, and cook until it says it is ready. Add 3 more cups into the steamer and cook once more and the soup is ready.
If you want the meat extra soft and tender, proceed to pour the broth and all its contents into a high pressure cooker and cook for 35 more minutes. As this is going, prepare the noodles, baby bok choy, scallions, cilantro, pickled mustard, anything you wish! Once the broth is ready, pick out the meat and broth to serve. It is usual for the broth to be very thick and concentrated, so add hot water to even it out, and enjoy!