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Author Notes: Like ramen to Japan, niu-rou-mian (beef noodle soup) represents great importance in Taiwanese food culture. Here is an authentic recipe that does not compromise on flavours. More photos and recipe on Chinese pickled cabbage: http://www.ladyandpups.com/2012/09/28/taiwan-niu-rou-mien-eng/ —Mandy @ Lady and pups
Making beef stock base:
- 2 large beef shank bones, cut into pieces by butcher
- 1 chicken scaffolds and bones
- 1 medium onion
- 1 small carrot
- 2 jumbo scallion
- 5 large slices of ginger
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 3 star amise
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorn
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Place the chicken, beef bones in a large pot with a few pieces of scallions and gingers (not included from the ingredient list). Fill the pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Make sure every piece of bones and meat is submerged and blanch for 3 minutes (no more pink color or blood). Pour the entire pot out into the kitchen sink (facial alert!) with cold water running, and wash each bones and meats under water until all the scums and dirt are removed (discard the scallions and ginger).
- Place ALL the ingredients in a large pressure cooker (or a large stock pot) **. Add 12 cups of water to cover everything by 2? (if your pressure-cooker isn't big enough like mine, I do this in 2 batches), then put the pressure cooker lid on and bring to a “hiss” on high heat (or according to your pressure cooker’s instruction), then turn the heat down to medium-low and pressure-cook for 1 hour (or 2 ~ 2:30 hours without pressure cooker).
- Open the lid once the pressure is completely released. The chicken, pork bones and trotters should be so rendered down that they would just disintegrate when I press them with a tongs, but we are not done yet. BREAK every single piece of joints, muscles, bones and connected tissues with the tongs until everything (EVERYTHING!!) falls apart into shreds. Partially cover the pot by half, then turn the heat back on to medium. Keep it at a medium-boil (NOT SIMMER!), and add more water along the way to keep the water level to its original amount until the liquid becomes milky, dense and opaque (not see-through or clear). This will take approx another 2 hours.
- Every solids in the broth should be an unrecognizable mush. Once you get to this point, stop adding more water and let the stock reduce down a little (depending on how concentrated you want it). I usually let it reduce down to 80%. Strain the broth through a sieve into another pot. Use a wooden spoon to really press down on the bones and meats to really extract EVERY DROP of broth, then discard the scraps. You’d be surprised how much more liquid you could get out of the scraps. Let the broth cool down then divide it into freezer-proof containers and freeze until needed.
Making beef noodle soup:
- 1000 grams (1 kg) of beef rib-meats, or boneless short ribs
- 400 grams of jumbo scallions
- 60 grams of ginger, sliced
- 1 head of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 large onion
- 1 tomato
- 2 teaspoons rock sugar, or raw sugar
- 4 dried chilis
- ** CHINESE AROMATIC DRY HERBS:
- 6~7 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 dry bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons sichuan peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ** PASTE MIX:
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6 tablespoons sichuan douban paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Taiwanese sacha paste
- ** SEASONINGS:
- 1 cup rice wine, or sake
- 1 cup soy sauce + 1/3 cup for adjusting (avoid sweet soy sauce)
- 2 teaspoons of raw sugar
- 6 cups of beef stock base (reserve the rest for later)
- ** TO FINISH:
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter
- 5 ~ 6 cups reserved beef stock base
- ** GARNISH:
- finely diced scallions
- Chinese pickled cabbage
- Dice the beef into 2? x 2? (5 x 5 cm) cubes, and divide them into 2 batches (for easy browning). Heat up a dutch oven or in my case, a wok on medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil, 1 batch of beef cubes and 1 tsp of raw sugar. Flip them occasionally and let the beef and sugar brown and caramelize on all sides. Take the first batch out onto a plate, and repeat the same step with the second batch until all browned as well. Then take all the beef cubes out and set aside.
- Add 3 tbsp of oil into the same pot, and add the jumbo scallions, ginger and 1 tsp of raw sugar. Leave them toasting in the pot on medium-high heat until they become very caramelized (almost seem a bit burnt). During this time, cut the onion in half and toast them over open fire on the stove until charred, then set a side. Once the scallions and gingers are caramelized, add the onion and garlics. Saute for a couple minutes more.
- Add the paste mix and saute until fragrant and the paste has darken in color, approx 2~3 min. Add the aromatic herbs now if you are assembling your own (add them later if you are using store-bought packets). Saute for another couple of minutes, then transfer EVERYTHING including the beef cubes into a pressure cooker or a large stock pot (or if you started with a big enough dutch oven then just stay with it). If there’s brown bits on the bottom of the pot, deglaze with 1/4 cup of water and add to the pot as well.
- Add the seasonings and let it boil for a couple of seconds, then add 5 1/2 cup of stock (add the store-bought herbs packets now if that’s what you are using). UPDATES 2013/05/08: oops I forgot but you should add the tomato (cut in half) at this point. It is now crucial to taste-test the seasonings. Different brands of soy sauce differs in saltiness and sweetness, so much that it is impossible to standardize by saying “however-many-cups of soy sauce”. I would STRONGLY recommend using a LESS sweet version of soy sauce (you can see the one I’m using from the picture). Taste the soup now. It should be fairly salty (too salty to drink as a soup) with a SLIGHTEST (almost untraceable) hint of sweetness just to balance it off. If the saltiness seems too “sharp” and unrefined, add more rock sugar. If it’s a bit too bland (in this case “drinkable” as a soup), add more soy sauce. I ended up adding 1/8 cup more of soy sauce to my pot (but with a less salty brand of soy sauce, it could be more).
- Put the pressure cooker lid on and bring to a “hiss” on high heat, then turn it down to medium-low and cook for 1 hour (reduce the cooking time to 45 min if using shortribs). If you are doing it on the stove-top, simmer for 2~2:30 hours.
- Open the lid once the pressure’s completely release and check the done-ness of the beef. If they are still tough, keep cooking (lid on) for another 30 min. Prepare another large pot and rest a sieve on top of the pot. Strain everything through the sieve into another pot. Carefully pick out the beef cubes without breaking them, then use a wooden spoon to press VERY HARD on the scraps to extract every drop of juice left in them. You’d be surprise how much it is. Discard the scraps. Return the beef cubes back into the soup and add 1 tsp of rice vinegar, then dissolve the unsweetened peanut butter into the pot (or through a strainer if the peanut butter is chunky). UPDATES: 2013/06/24: I find that an extra 1 tbsp of uncooked tomato paste, dissolved in the end, adds a good layer of depth.
- There. We are done. To serve it, cook your favorite noodles (I like the fat ones) and dilute the soup with 1 : 1/2 as the ratio of braised beef soup: unsalted stock. So with 1 cup of braised beef soup, add 1/2 cup of unsalted stock. This would still yield a slightly salty soup but that’s how I like it. Or you could simply use the braised beef soup only as a sauce in the “dry noodle” version. MUST ADD spring onions and pickled cabbage. That’s not even negotiable.