Made in England: Taiwanese beef noodle soup

We had this dish for dinner last Saturday. There isn’t much of interest to report from the day itself. Ash trekked down to Bath (and back) to watch a game of rugby, stuffing his face along the way with a full English breakfast and a sausage baguette lunch. Meanwhile, Miranda slaved away at home, buying, carrying home and preparing ingredients with which to serve a delicious meal to her husband on his return home, surviving on little more than a bowl of cereal and a bit of toast… OK, and there might have been a small nap involved along the way as well.

Quite obviously, trying to turn any of that into an entertaining preamble for this blog post would have been a fruitless exercise, so we’ll instead get straight to the recipe for Taiwan’s national dish: a much better use of both our time and yours. To cook this dish, we took bits and pieces of inspiration from both Serious Eats and SBS.

Beef noodle soup

Ingredients
1kg stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
A few tablespoons of cooking oil
6 large slices of fresh ginger
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
3 birds eye chillies, roughly chopped
1 tomato, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 spring onions, roughly cut to fit in the pot
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Sichuan chilli bean sauce (doubanjiang)
1 cup Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 whole star anise
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1-2L water (as needed)
Enough Asian wheat noodles to serve 4 (for us this was 3 nests)
1 bunch bok choy

Shaoxing wine and chilli bean sauce should be available at Asian supermarkets.

Method
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add a layer of beef and cook until well-browned on all sides. Remove from the pot and continue with remaining beef, adding oil if necessary.
2. Deglaze the pan with the Shaoxing wine and add the ginger, garlic, chilli, tomato, carrot, spring onion, sugar, chilli bean sauce, peppercorns, star anise, soy sauces and water. There should be enough water to cover the beef; add more if necessary.
3. Simmer gently, covered, for 3 hours.
4. Using tongs, remove the beef cubes and carrot from the soup and set aside in a bowl. Carefully strain the soup through a fine sieve to catch the ginger, peppercorns, star anise etc. Return the beef to the strained soup.
5. At this point, add the greens either to the soup itself, or place at the bottom of your serving bowls so that they will wilt on contact with the soup.
6. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Divide into the serving bowls and ladle the warm soup and beef chunks over the top.
Serves 4

614a Browning beef compressed

615a Cooking beef noodle soup compressed

616a Beef noodle soup compressed
(Bok choy not quite as wilted as we’d have liked – we didn’t put it deep enough in the bowl!)

YUM. What an incredibly complex patchwork of flavours this was, and that was just our at-home version: we can only imagine how good this must be when cooked authentically in Taiwan. The chilli-and-peppercorn-filled broth packed a very pleasing punch, and wasn’t overpoweringly salty despite the amount of soy sauce in it. The beef was a revelation: every single piece was mouth-wateringly, meltingly tender, which is something that rarely happens in a stew, where you always find that one gristly bit that has just refused to cooperate. Finally, the chewy noodles and fresh bok choy were the perfect foils for the intense flavours they were accompanying.

This is definitely one to make again. We usually have a kilo of chuck steak in the freezer, which is typically taken out to create some kind of stew or a chilli con carne. Maybe next time we’ll revisit Taiwan instead.

This blog started off by talking about our uneventful Saturday. It’s now going to finish with the promise of the story of our much more interesting Sunday – and some interconnected Japanese recipes – next time. Stay tuned!

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