I don’t typically love soup. To me, soup is good but having it as an evening meal usually leaves me dissatisfied and cranky unless I’m sick and ALREADY dissatisfied and cranky.
Then it feels restorative.
Right now, we’re trying to eat more at home and make healthier choices in the new year (so we look good for our vacation photos in April. (The Gays are a shallow and vain people---Well, at least THESE gays are). This soup is one of a handful of exceptions to my “Soup is unsatisfying” bias. It’s truly my favorite soup in the world. My good friend Lorna Lee made this for us years ago when she was writing her Newlywed Kitchen cookbook and we were absolutely blown away. Every time it’s cold, blustery and gray in Seattle, I want this soup. I typically make a double batch and freeze it. It reheats really well.
The adaptation I make to this recipe is that after I remove and shred the meat, I run the soup through a cheesecloth-lined chinois a couple of times to help clarify the broth and remove the impurities. I also add both fresh and dried chiles to the initial braise because I like soul-searing heat in this soup. If you can’t get bok choy, Chinese broccoli or broccolini work well.
Taiwanese beef noodle soup
Serves 2, with leftovers for the next day
In Taiwan, beef noodle soup is a vital part of the food culture, much like the hamburger is to America. Taiwanese foodies gather to seek out the best bowl of beef noodle soup in town, much like how Americans enjoy searching for the best burger in their city. Once you try this savory broth, flavored with star anise, five spice, and the addictive, slightly numbing heat of the Szechuan peppercorns, you’ll know why this dish has become an obsession for the Chinese.
2 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
3 lbs. bone-in beef shank or short rib, cut into four equal pieces
3 star anise (or ½ tsp ground star anise powder)
¾ tsp. Chinese five spice powder
1 ½ tsp. whole Szechuan peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, lightly smashed with the heel of your knife
5 slices of ginger, cut 1/4” thick
5 green onions, cut into 4” pieces
3 tbsp Chinese chili black bean sauce
¼ cup Chinese rice wine (Shao Tsing wine, or dry sherry)
1 small piece (about 2 tbsp worth) Chinese rock sugar, or substitute brown sugar
1/3 cup light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
6 cups low sodium beef broth
2 cups water
2-4 fresh, small red chilis, seeded (use 4 chilis if you like things spicy!)
Your favorite Asian noodles, cooked and drained
Baby bok choy
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Chinese chili oil (optional)
In a cheesecloth, combine the star anise, peppercorns, and red chilis.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil until smoking on high heat. Brown the pieces of meat on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions to the oil and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, including the spices bundled in the cheesecloth. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Simmer for 3 ½-4 hours, until the meat is very tender.
Remove the meat from the pot, and discard the bones. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Strain the broth and discard the cheesecloth, ginger, scallions, and garlic.
Cook the bok choy directly in the hot broth for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Place a portion of the cooked noodles in each bowl, and ladle the soup over top. Add some of beef shank and bok choy to the bowl, and garnish with a bit of cilantro and a bit of hot chili oil.
Enjoy, and check out lorna’s books.