Beef Noodle Soup...
I lived in Taiwan as a little girl, I don't remember everything about the place, but some things never have left my memory. The smell of the place, the Buddhist monks chanting and walking up the street the night we got there, my friends, Chinese New Year, and the flavors. Taiwan is where my taste buds became adventurous. I tasted everything. I had my first sip of wine, tasted my first caviar (which I loved and still do), and developed a palate that was traveled and a bit sophisticated for a child my age.
One thing I can't shake is the smell of beef noodle soup at The American Club. My parents used to gobble the stuff, bowl after bowl. There was a very distinctive smell and flavor to it. My mother recently came to me begging for me to find a way to make it. She had lived without it for thirty years and she literally couldn't go one more day without it. Funny what we will do for a flavor that is attached to memory.
So I set out to somehow make the perfect beef noodle soup. It is the national dish of Taiwan, and I didn't want to shame it by messing it up. I researched oodles of recipes and what I found was that the best soups were the ones with the fewest ingredients. Simplicity. There are some key ingredients that you cannot omit, however, without them you loose that classic flavor and smell. You MUST have booze, good white wine to be more exact. I am not a drinker, but darn, when a great recipe calls for the wine, you drive your fine self to the store and get ya some! You also MUST have the correct spices. Star anise is the key ingredient for flavor and smell. Beef noodle soup is nothing without the anise...
This does take two days to make. WAIT... don't go, it's one day for ignoring the meat on the stove while it simmers away for a few hours and then the next day is just assembly. This is a great meal for a busy night if you prepare the day before by cooking the meat. The only reason it takes two days is that you want to chill the meat so you can slice it and it is a bit more tender after it has sat overnight.
After making this, I invited my mom over for a bowl (or three). As she walked in the house she cried, "That's it! That's the smell!", so I must be pretty close on the recipe. She seriously ate bowl after bowl until we ran out, and then said, "Is there more?"...
BEEF NOODLE SOUP
adapted from chinesegrandma.com
Beef Shank Ingredients:
1 boneless beef shank about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (or here's a little variation use a pork roast and have pork noodle soup instead)
1/2 cup soy sauce or Bragg's Amino Acids
1/2 cup white wine or rice wine
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
2 green onions, ends trimmed
3-4 slices fresh ginger
1-2 whole star anise
Let the shank and liquid cool. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove the shanks and liquid. The fat will have solidified on the top of the liquid and you can easily take it off with a spoon while it is still cold. Remove the shank from the liquid and slice crosswise. Strain the liquid and reserve.
Udon noodles, to serve the number of people you are feeding
Broth from the shanks
Salt and pepper
Greens, optional (baby pak choy or napa cabbage sliced lengthwise in half)
Crushed red pepper flakes
Heat oven to 200ºF. Place the sliced meat on a heatproof plate, cover with foil and set in the oven to bring it up to temperature.
In a large pot, combine the broth, about two cups of water. (If you need more liquid to feed more people you can add some chicken stock and adjust the seasoning.) Bring to a boil and adjust the seasonings (add some salt and pepper or a little more soy sauce). Set aside.
Boil some water in a large pot, immerse the greens quickly to barely cook through, remove and set aside to drain. Prepare the noodles according to package directions, drain.
Divide noodles among bowls. Add the pak choy and slices of beef to each bowl. Cover with broth add some sliced green onions and red pepper flakes. Sit your self down with some chopsticks and slurp yourself into a moment of happiness. That's what we did and it was delightful...
Oh, and by the way, happy Chinese New Year on Friday, it's the year of the horse... my year! Enjoy!