I want to share with you how to prepare the slurpingly delicious Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
This Taiwanese beef noodle soup will surely make your tummy rumble with its umami-rich soup base and nearly melt in the mouth braised beef. The hunger-inducing aroma is the result of the intermingling of a variety of Asian spices, aromatics, and herbs. It is hard to resist when the remarkable aroma wafts up along with the steam from the bowl.
Taiwanese beef noodle soup 红烧牛肉面 is a popular staple in different countries in Asia. This Asian beef noodle soup is very similar to the Szechuan style beef noodles soup.
In this article, I will cook the way how it is served in Malaysia, where I live. It might be slightly different from the authentic version from Taiwan. However, I will try to stay true to the authentic traditional flavor by adding the Szechuan chili bean sauce as the primary flavoring ingredient.
I will explain clearly every step that is essential to produce a bowl of umami-rich noodle soup, rather than drilling into the regional difference of the flavor.
Let’s kick off by preparing the beef soup.
1. Blanch the beef
You can use almost any cuts of beef, such as brisket, shank, and chuck. These cuts are tougher and have more fats than sirloin, but it is perfect for braising for a few hours.
You can shorten the time of braising with the pressure cooker or put it in a slow cooker overnight. The method is similar except adjusting the temperature and time accordingly. I am using the ordinary stovetop for cooking this beef noodle soup to illustrate every step.
- Cut the beef across the grain into about 1.5 inches cubes. You may also purchase the precut beef chunks from the supermarket to save time.
- Prepare a pot of water with a few pieces of ginger and a handful of scallion that cut into 5cm sections.
- Add the beef and bring it to a constant boil to blanch for five minutes. Blanching will mainly only cooked the surface of the beef, which will not cause any loss of flavor. You will notice that the internal of the piece of meat is still cold and raw after cutting it into chunks. The impurities and blood on the surface will separate from the beef and float on top of the water as scum.
- Discard the whole pot of water and the scum. Wash the beef with cold water or under running water to remove all the impurities.
- Drain the beef in a colander and is now ready to use.
2. Browning the beef
The next step is to brown the beef before braising. Some recipes omit this step, but I prefer browsing it as it creates another dimension of flavor which can only produce by frying it over higher heat. You should not overlook this step if your goal is to produce a good quality beef noodles soup.
- Heat the cooking oil in a well-seasoned wok. You may use a large pan if you prefer. Put the well-drained beef into the hot wok and shear both sides of the beef until brown.
- The beef will take longer time to get brown, and oil will splatter if it is wet. Therefore I always make sure the beef is well-drained and dry before browning.
- The beef will exude its juice during browning, which will wet the pan. If this reduces the browning effect, pour the beef along with the juice through a wire mesh strainer to remove it and return the dry beef chunks to the pan. Keep the juice aside and add to the braising liquid in the following step.
- Arrange the beef in a single layer to maximize the contact with the hot surface to getting the excellent browning. Turn over the meat after a few minutes to brown the other side. You will start to smell the marvelous aroma rising from the pan. Keep the heat at low to medium and be patient. We want to brown the beef as much as possible but not to burn it.
- Once the beef is adequately browned, remove the meat from the pan. There should not be any charring if the heat is low during the process.
- Add some hot water to deglaze the pan. Keep the liquid for braising as it contains lots of flavors.
3. Saute the aromatics and spices
- Saute some ginger slices, garlic cloves and white section of the scallion in the pan with some oil. When it becomes aromatic, add a medium-size onion that has cut into large chunks.
- Add the spices once the onion turns soft and translucent. The spices are cinnamon bark, bay leaves, star anise, dried orange peel, and dried chilies.
- Season with brown sugar, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt, chili bean paste, tomato paste.
The chili bean paste and tomato paste adds a gorgeous hue to the beef. By now, you should start to smell the amazing aroma as a result of the intermingling of flavors of the spices and seasoning.
- Dried chilies. Omit it if you can not take too spicy food. You can also add fresh red chili, but dried chili is spicier. (Caution: Dried chilies are very spicy!)
- Dried orange peel. This item is called chenpi 陈皮 in Chinese. Dried orange peel is commonly used in Chinese cooking as a dried spice for beef and other stews.
- Brown sugar. Brown sugar adds some caramelized flavor. You can use white sugar for this recipe. Some Chinese prefer rock sugar, which purportedly gives a smoother mouthfeel, although it is not significant.
- Tomato paste. We use tomato paste to provide a reddish hue to the stew, as well as adding some flavor. You can substitute it with ketchup.
- Doubanjiang (Szechuan chili bean paste). This sauce is a unique ingredient that does not have any substitute. It is made with broad bean paste which is one of the main seasonings for Szechuan cuisine. The beef stew will still taste incredible without it, but it will not have the characteristic flavor of the original formula. Since it does contains salt, you need to increase the amount of light soy sauce or add some salt if you want to leave it out.
4. Simmer until the beef is tender and soft
You may want to transfer the beef to a smaller pot with a lid to braise it instead of using the pan. Since the pan has a relatively large bottom, more water is required to submerge all the beef to cook evenly.
I transfer it to a small clay pot to braise slowly for three hours! Add sufficient water to cover the beef and start to simmer over low heat. It is passive cooking, but you may want to stir it occasionally and check the level of water. Add some water if the braising liquid starts to dry out. Boiling water is preferred as it helps to maintain the temperature at a constant boil at all time.
It will take about two to three hour of braising until the beef is soft and tender. You may only need less than an hour by using the pressure cooker, or overnight cooking if you put into a slow cooker.
The actual duration depends on the cut of meat, and also the size of the beef chunks. The gold standard is it should be able to break it up quickly with the tines of the fork.
Do a taste test before turning off the stove. I would suggest to adjust it towards the savory and saltier side as the beef is served along with noodles.
5. To serve as a soup or dried noodles
There are two ways to serve braised beef with noodles.
Prepare a basic soup stock for the noodle. If you have time, get some beef bones to make a pot of beef stock. Season the stock with salt and pepper and pour onto the bowl of blanched noddles. Then spoon the beef along with the gravy on top of the noodles.
If you think this is too troublesome, use the ready-made beef stock or chicken stock purchase from the supermarket. Alternatively, use water with some salt to dilute the thick, concentrated braised gravy to make the soup, which will not be as flavorful of course.
Alternatively, serve the beef with the blanched noodles without the soup.
Place the blanched noodles on a plate, and then mixed with some oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sesame oil, and ground white pepper. I have a video to explain how to prepare this dried noodle (Chinese lo mien) in detail. You can follow this link to watch the details.
You can also cook a hard-boiled egg to serve along with the noodles. Garnish with some blanched vegetable such as bok choy, and serve.
Prepare the noodles
You can use any noodles for this Taiwanese beef noodle soup recipe, but my choice is the Shanghai ramen. You need to blanch the noodles in boiling water until it becomes al dente. The timing depends on the types of noodles and pleases following the instruction as stated on the packaging.
Drain the noodles in the colander and place it in a bowl. Add the stock and then spoon the beef and the rich beef gravy on top. Since the beef gravy is highly concentrated, make sure you taste to avoid adding too much, which will turn too salty.
- 1 kg beef (brisket, chuck)
- To blanch the beef:
- 4 slices ginger
- 1 handful of scallion
- To brown the beef:
- 1.5 tbsp cooking oil
- 4 slices ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 handful scallion (cut into sections)
- 1 medium-size onion (cut into large pieces)
- To braise the beef:
- 1 cinnamon bark (about 5cm)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 star anise (about 10 star-points)
- 1pc large dried orange peel
- 2-4 dried chilies
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 2.5 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.5 tbsp doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Sufficient water to braise the beef
- Serve with:
- Any noodle of your choice
- Bok choy
- Hard-boiled egg
Blanch the beef
Prepare a pot of water with a few pieces of ginger and a handful of scallion that cut into 5cm sections.
Add the beef and bring it to a constant boil to blanch for five minutes.
Wash the beef with cold water briefly to remove all the impurities.
Cut the beef into 1.5 inches pieces.
Drain the beef in a colander and is now ready to use.
Browning the beef
Brown the beef in a pan with some oil until brown on both sides. Remove.
Add some hot water to the pan and deglaze the pan. Keep the liquid to braise to beef.
Saute the aromatics and spices
Saute some ginger slices, garlic cloves and white section of the scallion in the pan with some oil. When it becomes aromatic, add a medium-size onion that has cut into large chunks.
Add the spices once the onion turns soft and translucent. The spices are cinnamon bark, bay leaves, star anise, dried orange peel, and dried chilies.
Season with brown sugar, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt, chili bean paste, tomato paste.
Simmer and serve
Transfer the beef to a smaller pot.
Add sufficient water (and the deglazed liquid) to cover the beef and start to simmer over low heat for 3 hours.
Do a taste test, season with salt.
Serve with any types of noodles, wither with a soup stock or as dried noodles.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1071 Total Fat: 63g Saturated Fat: 22g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 32g Cholesterol: 283mg Sodium: 1959mg Carbohydrates: 43g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 10g Protein: 81g