Chewy noodles and tender beef in a rich and earthy broth. Need I say more? Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup is as iconic a Taiwanese dish as they come. Everyone loves it and everyone also makes it a little differently. This one is adapted from a hand-written recipe in a yellowing spiral notebook entitled Silvia’s Cook Book in charming block letters by my childhood bestie who used to tail her mom in the kitchen, taking notes while she made her favourite dishes from their homeland.
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Doubanjiang (豆瓣醬) is a Chinese fermented soy and broad bean paste that is quintessential to this dish and worthy of seeking out at a Chinese supermarket or online to make this dish. I’ve listed pickled mustard greens as an optional garnish but beef noodle soup connoisseurs consider it a must-have!
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For Blanching the Beef
For blanching the beef: In a large pot, place beef cubes, ginger slices and 10 cups of cold water. Bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for 5 minutes or until all the scum floats to the top. Pour everything into a colander set inside the sink. Give the beef a quick rinse. Drain well.
Note: Rather than browning the meat, Chinese cooks often braise using this method. Start by briefly blanching the meat to rid impurities so the resulting broth is clean and clear. You won’t lose flavour from the beef, but you will find it satisfying to pour all of that scum down the drain and far away from your bowl of noodles!
For the soup: Lay out a 5-inch square piece of cheesecloth for the spice sachet. Set a medium pot over medium heat. Toast the star anise, bay leaves, coriander seeds and cinnamon stick in the dry pot briefly until fragrant and darkened slightly, ensuring they don’t burn. Set bay leaves and cinnamon stick aside. Scoop star anise and coriander seeds onto cheesecloth and tie up with twine.
Increase heat to medium-high and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and white parts of scallion, dried chili peppers and sauté. Season with salt and continue to sauté for 3 minutes or until tomatoes and onions are slightly softened.
Add doubanjiang, tomato paste and sugar. Add the drained beef. Stir well and continue cooking a couple of minutes.
Add the spice sachet, reserved bay leaves, cinnamon stick and all remaining ingredients: Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, dark soy sauce and water. Bring to a boil. Taste and season with salt as needed. Reduce to a simmer. Skim and discard the scum. Cover, ensuring liquid is at a gentle simmer rather than a vigorous boil. Cook for 2 hours or until beef is tender.
Taste again and adjust seasoning with more salt and/or dark soy sauce to taste.
Place noodles and bok choy into serving bowls. Ladle beef and broth over top. Serve immediately with reserved scallions, chili oil and/or pickled mustard greens.