Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Taiwanese beef noodle soup consists of braised, tender slices of beef, boiled vegetables, flavorful beef broth, and noodles. Although it seems simple enough, I have a hard time finding a really good bowl of beef noodle soup at restaurants. Here in the Seattle area we actually have plenty of Taiwanese restaurants (Din Tai Fung included) that are my favorite restaurants and they have really good food, but from most of the places I’ve tried around here, most of their Beef Noodle Soups lack the full-bodied, flavorful broth that accompanies the tender beef. Which led me to find a recipe to make at home to satisfy my own craving. While I am no expert when it comes to Taiwanese food, I’ve eaten plenty of it to know what I like and what tastes good. My Taiwanese in-laws makes some killer home-style dishes which actually sparked my love for Taiwanese food years ago.
On my search for the perfect bowl of Beef Noodle Soup, I made quite a few recipes and only one stood out. I had stumbled upon a recipe shared by Chef Hou Chun-sheng, the winner at the 2011 Taipei International Beef Noodle Soup Festival. The measurements may be different than what he used for his winning recipe, but the ingredients were all there. The recipe I found was a modified version using a pressure cooker rather than the slow method of boiling on the stove-top for 6+ hours. My first attempt at making it was very time consuming, even with the use of a pressure cooker, because the recipe calls to make a beef broth and a beef “sauce” (both needed to be pressure cooked separately) then combing the two with a specific ratio. The result was spectacular, but it was too much work and time consuming for me to make more frequently. So I modified it even further, in both measurements and method, to simplify it while still keeping the intense flavor of the beef broth. All the ingredients are the same as before (although, I don’t use all the harder to find Chinese herbs that the chef used and I reduce some of the ingredients because I’m not a fan of strong herb-tasting things), but the real test was finding the right ratio of water to meat to bones and to the rest of the ingredients.
In one test run, it turned out just the way I was hoping. After a quick parboil then being pressure cooked for only 35 minutes, we were rewarded with flavorful slices of beef shank that just melts in your mouth along with intense-flavored, collagen-rich beef bone broth that coats your soul. This recipe isn’t really spicy, but it has a little peppery taste from both types of peppercorns. For those unfamiliar with Sichuan peppercorns, they are actually seed husks and not peppercorns. They are not exactly spicy, but they create a slight numbing feeling that compliments spicy foods and are sometimes used in chili oil (like Din Tai Fung’s chili oil).
This recipe requires an 8 quart pressure cooker. I have a manual stove-top Fagor pressure cooker which reaches 15 psi (pounds per square inch) versus most electric pressure cookers that reaches 11.6 psi. Basically, water’s boiling point is at 212°F. At 15 psi it increases to 250°F, or 243°F for 11.6 psi. The higher the temperature the faster it cooks, so you’ll need to add an extra few minutes to compensate if you are using an electric cooker, like Instant Pot.
Here are two tips that helped me: 1) full-sized steamer basket insert, if available and 2) using a metal threaded tea infuser for the spices and herbs rather than a cloth spice bag. My pressure cooker came with a steamer basket that fills the pot and was able to hold all 4 lbs bones and 4 lbs beef shank, which makes it easy for me to just lift out all the large solids all at once. It isn’t necessary, but it made my life a lot easier. For the spices, I used to use a reusable cloth spice bag, but cleaning it out wasn’t fun. Now I use a threaded stainless steel tea infuser and it worked really well in the pressure cooker, it was easy to empty and dishwasher safe!
Oh, and for those wondering about the lack of soup in the pictures, that would be due to bad timing and inexperience with shooting soup noodles. I had filled the bowl drowning everything with the deep, dark brown bone broth, but the sun peaked out of the 99% cloud-filled sky right as I was about to take pictures. Direct sunlight creates very harsh shadows and bright spots in photos. And since noodles soak up liquid, they absorbed all the visible broth as I was waiting for some cloud cover before shooting. *sigh* There was still soup underneath the surface, so it was still a good lunch.
Note: Products and links listed on this post are products that I personally purchased and use. I am not associated with nor do I get any compensation with the products or links listed.
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
- 3-4 lbs Boneless beef shank, (found at Asian grocery stores)
- 3-4 lbs Beef bones, preferably with bone marrow
- 10-11 cups Water, plus more for par-boiling
- 3 stalks Green onion, cut into 3" sections
- 6 cloves Garlic, sliced
- 1" Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 2 TBLS Rock sugar, (or brown sugar)
- 6 TBLS Chili bean sauce
- ½ cup Soy sauce, (Regular, "light" or "low sodium")
- ¼ cup Tomato paste
- 4 ½ TBLS Kimlan soy paste
- 2 ½ TBLS Dark soy sauce
- ¼ cup Spicy fermented bean curd, (found in a glass jar in refrigerated section of Asian grocery stores)
Spice bag (or use a small threaded stainless steel tea infuser ***):
- ½ TBLS Sichuan peppercorns, (found at Asian grocery stores)
- ½ TBLS Whole black peppercorns
- 1 Cinnamon stick, cut in half to fit in spice bag or metal tea infuser
- ½ tsp Fennel seeds
- ½ tsp Dried orange peel
- ½ of a Star anise
- ½ of a Small bay leaf
- Dried or fresh Chinese wheat noodles
- Bok choy, halved and rinsed (1 per serving)
- Green onion, chopped (for garnish)
- 8 quart Pressure Cooker *
- Full-sized Steamer basket insert for pressure cooker **, (optional, but helpful)
- Par-boil bones and beef: Place the beef bones and beef shank into a large stockpot. Add just enough cold water to cover the bones and meat. Bring to a boil, and let it boil for 5 minutes. This step reduces the scum that builds up as it cooks.Tip: If using a manual stove-top pressure cooker, par-boil in the pressure cooker pot with a full-sized steamer basket for easy removal and rinsing.
- Prep ingredients: While the water is heating in step 1, combine spice bag ingredients into a spice bag or stainless steel tea infuser; set aside. In a bowl, combine the sauce ingredients: rock sugar, chili bean paste, soy sauce, tomato paste, soy paste, dark soy sauce and spicy fermented bean curd; set aside.
- Rinse and slice: After par-boiling, discard the water and rinse the scum off of the meat and bones. Then slice the beef shank into 1" thick slices; set aside.Tip: If using a full-sized steamer basket for pressure cooker, rinse it out and fully dry the pot before heating oil in it.
- Aromatics and sauce: Heat up the pressure cooker pot ("Saute" mode for electric or on Medium heat for stove-top). Add some cooking oil. Once hot, cook the green onions, garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Then add the sauce ingredients. Cook for 1 minute.
- If using a full-sized steamer basket in the pressure cooker, the bones should already be at the bottom. Then use a slotted spoon to scoop up the green onions, garlic and ginger and place them over the bones. Then place the beef slices on top, then the spice bag. Place basket into pressure cooker pot.If not using a steamer basket, add all ingredients to the pressure cooker pot: bones, beef slices and spice bag.
- Add water and pressure cook: Add 10-11 cups cold water (I add the water all the way up to the "Max" liquid line to get as much of the beef submerged as possible, but it will not be fully submerged, which is fine in this case). Close and seal the lid. Bring to pressure, then pressure cook for 35 minutes (add a few extra minutes for electric pressure cooker). Natural release pressure. Do not quick release the steam or it will be messy!
- Remove bones and beef: Carefully remove the steamer basket, if using. If not, scoop out the bones and beef with a spider spoon or large slotted spoon. Save the beef shank slices (Careful! They are super tender and fall apart easily). Discard the rest of the solids.
- Strain and skim: Pour broth through a fine mesh sieve to catch small bits for a clean and smooth broth. There will be a lot of fat at the top. If you have a fat skimmer spoon, use it now and toss the fat with the bones to solidify and throw away later and not down the sink.
- Assemble: Boil a medium pot of water. Add halved bok choy and boil for 4 minutes, then remove bok choy and set aside. Bring water to boil again and cook noodles according to package. Drain and divide into serving bowls. Top the noodles with beef slices and halved bok choy. Ladle soup into each bowl. If needed, add some water to dilute the broth if it's too salty to your preference. Garnish with green onion slices. Optional: drizzle hot chili oil or hot chili sauce into your own bowl.
- * 8 qt pressure cooker is required for this recipe. Reduce recipe if you have a smaller pressure cooker. This will fill an 8 quart to the top.
- ** If your pressure cooker doesn’t have a full-sized basket that fits inside, you can just strain like usual. The basket just makes removing the larger bones and meat easier by simply lifting it out. Either way, you will still need to strain the broth of the small bits for a clean, smooth broth.
- *** Spice bag: You can use a regular 100% cotton spice bag to hold the spices or use a metal tea infuser that has a good latching system so it doesn’t open up while it cooks. After removing the chain, I personally like to use this stainless steel tea infuser (the smaller size works perfectly after cutting the cinnamon stick in half), because the lid is threaded rather than using little metal tabs that might break off into the food.
Tried this recipe?
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