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Beef and Noodles in Taiwan

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Regional Foods

Summer Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(2) pages: 14 to 19


Legend tell us that in the Hun invasion during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 CE), Tatars raised their cattle in tents. Unfortunately some of the tents caught fire, and the cows in them were burned alive. Not all was lost because those tending them got to enjoy eating beef as roasted meat. This they did after boiling them in water or another liquid. Some say this was the origin of Taiwanese Beef and Noodle Soup. Actually, we doubt that, but it could have been when the Taiwanese love for beef with noodles was enhanced.

If the Taiwanese did eat beef that way before, we believe their meat was never from young cows. At that time, they only ate it from animals too old to work in their fields. Meat they cooked was cut into large chunks and boiled or stewed for many hours then served with or as soup.

There are records of beef and noodles in soup, but the only written ones we found were from the 1950s near the Taipei’s Paokung movie theater on Nanyang Street, and from other places on Touyuan Street, Kunming Road, or Lung Chuen Street.

Any earlier Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup information was probably made differently. Nowadays, one can have it Sichuan style, North Chinese style, Muslim style with tsao ko or dried tangerine peel, or any other way a chef might think of. Most like it aromatic, rich, and flavorful, in clear or red broth, with or without chili peppers, with or without broad bean paste, with or without garlic, and/or with or without coriander or ginger in the soup.

Some beef and noodle eateries may have been in business for decades, but their soup was not always thought of as Taiwanese. When it began, we could not date. Some chefs did try to preserve what they believed to be this soup’s original taste, others tried to enrich or enlarge what they thought were its original contents. Some restaurant owners did tell their customers the correct way to eat this soup was to first consume its liquid, then eat some beef, and finally to slurp down its noodles. They thought giving these directions gave their soup credibility and longevity. Others let their customers eat it as they wished but they did tell them of its antiquity.

Most made this soup with beef, not pork or lamb, not even with poultry. Some places became so popular that their owners opened second and third places, even standardized their soups and provided upscale decor. One, the San Shang Chiao Fu, became very popular and soon opened in more than one hundred locations. When they became that big, their dishes were prepared in a central industrial kitchen in an industrial area of Taoyuan County and distributed to their many branches.

The meat at most places was a mixture of tendon and tongue, rib and sirloin in their soup. Some added celery, scallions, coriander, and/or soy sauce. Others used rump, medicinal herbs, and other ingredients. Several customers said this dish was not the simple original they were used to. Others reported it better than ever, even better than what they remembered. There were places serving Taiwanese Beef and Noodle Soup with pieces of thousand year egg, star anise, black bean sauce, Chinese sausage, orange slices, pea shoots, even more.

Some beef was ground or chopped, and sometimes called Ants Climbing Tree. It often did not have noodles. It could have been mixed with shrimp, lamb, or another meat. In most places, this soup did come with noodles; and many thought the Beef with Noodles in Soup they were eating was the best and the most original.

To introduce readers to several variations, we offer some recipes that they can try as one of the many tastes of beef in Taiwan.

Taiwanese Beef and Noodle Soup
Ingredients:

1/4 pound brisket of flank steak, slivered, blanched, and cooked
8 cups chicken or beef stock
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 cup raw noodles, boiled until almost al dente
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with same amount of cold water

Preparation:

1. Heat stock, add the beef, salt, and soy sauce, then the noodles and simmer until they are almost soft.
2. Now add the stirred cornstarch mixture, stir one minute more, then serve.

Beef, Noodles, and Thousand Year Eggs
Ingredients:

½ pound beef loin
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons pickled sliced ginger
3 thousand year eggs, each cut in quarters
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
8 cups chicken or beef stock (optional if serving as a soup)
1 cup cooked noodles (optional if serving as a soup)

Preparation:

1. Slice beef very thin and then marinate it in the wine for fifteen minutes. Drain and discard the wine.
2. Heat a wok or fry pan and dry fry the sesame seeds until golden brown, then set them aside.
3. Add the oil and stir-fry the beef for one minute, then add the soy sauce, sugar, and pickled ginger and stir once then add the egg pieces and mix well.
4. Put this meat mixture in a pre-heated pan, add the sesame seeds on top, and serve or put it into a chicken or beef stock, add the noodles, and serve it that way.

Beef, Shrimp, and Bok Cai
Ingredients:

1/4 cup Xiao Xing rice wine
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil. divided in half
½ pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced
10 raw shrimp, veins removed and discarded, each cut in eight or ten pieces
1/4 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
½ pound bok cai, cut in one inch pieces
2 quarts chicken broth (optional to make into a soup)

Preparation:

1. Mix rice wine, oyster sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl.
2. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add half the oil, and stir-fry the beef until it starts to brown, about two minutes. Next add the shrimp and cook for one more minute until they are opaque, then remove them to a bowl.
3. Then add the rest of the oil and the bok cai and stir-fry it for two minutes, return the rest of the ingredients, stir in cornstarch mixture and when it thickens, stir-fry one minute, add stock if making a soup, the shrimps, and then serve in a pre-heated bowl or bowls.

Beef Short Ribs
Ingredients:

10 beef short ribs, each cut two inches long, scored top down, meat still attached to the bone
½ cup thin soy sauce
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground hot pepper
3 scallions, angle sliced
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
2 Tablespoons pine nuts, minced and toasted
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preparation:

1. Make a marinade of the soy sauce, sugar, hot pepper, scallions, sesame seeds, pine nuts, black pepper, and minced garlic and put meat in it for half an hour, then drain and use marinade for another use.
2. Dust the meat with the corn starch and set aside for ten minutes.
3. Grill for ten minutes or until done. Then serve.

Beef, Noodles, Orange, and Ginger
Ingredients:

2/3 pound loin of beef, cut in thin strips
1 orange, skin zested, then flesh juiced
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon corn- or potato-starch
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
6 ounces rice noodles, cooked just before needed
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 small carrot, cut into very thin strips
2 scallions, angle-sliced

Preparation:

1. Mix beef strips with orange zest and its juice, the soy sauce, and the corn or potato starch, and set aside for fifteen minutes.
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add the oil, then the ginger and the beef and stir-fry half a minute. Next drain the meat and set the liquid aside, and stir-fry for one more minute until the meat is no longer pink.
3. Add the rice noodles, toss well, then add the sesame oil, carrot strips, and scallions, and stir-fry one more minute, then serve.

Beef and Pea Shoots
Ingredients:

1 pound beef loin, cut into small cubes
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Chinese or Asian fish sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
½ onion, cut in quarters, then thinly slice it
2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/4 pound cooked noodles
5 to 6 ounces pea shoots

Preparation:

1. Mix beef, vegetable oil, garlic, sugar, and fish sauce, and marinate the beef for ten minutes.
2. Heat wok or fry=pan, then add the olive oil and stirfry the garlic and onion slices for one minute or until golden but not brown or burned. Next add half the meat and stir-fry for one minute or until no longer pink, and remove it to a bowl; then fry the rest of the beef for half a minute and combine both batches of beef stirfrying just another half minute.
3. Put in the cooked noodles, and two minutes later, add the pea shoots. Bring this to the boil, and remove it from the wok or pan serving the meat on top of the noodles but leaving a one-inch border with no beef on the outside.

Beef, Noodles, and Tangerine Peel
Ingredients:

½ pound boneless sirloin of beef, cut in thin strips
½ teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
5 large soaked pieces tangerine peel, minced
1 dried chili pepper, seeded and minced
1 Tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, smashed
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup chicken stock
2 cups hot drained cooked wheat noodles

Preparation:

1. Mix beef strips, salt, sugar, rice wine, and the minced ginger, tangerine peel, chili pepper and the Sichuan peppercorns and set this aside.
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, and then add the beef mixture and stir-fry for one minute, then add the sesame oil and the chicken stock and boil for one minute.
3. Put hot noodles in a serving bowl, pour beef sauce over them, toss and serve.

Noodles, Beef, and Oyster Sauce
Ingredients:

½ pound flank steak, cut in very thin slices
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 slices fresh ginger, cut in thin strips
3 Tablespoons oyster sauce
2 cups cooked rice noodles
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

Preparation:

1. Mix meat with the cornstarch and set aside for ten minutes until it dries somewhat.
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add vegetable oil, and the ginger and sir-fry for half minute, then add the oyster sauce and stir well.
3. Add the cooked rice noodles and stir, then remove to a pre-heated bowl, top with the sesame oil and toss lightly, then serve.

Beef Pork and Meatballs
Ingredients:

1/4 pound hand-chopped beef
½ pound ground pork
3 water chestnuts, peeled and chopped
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
½ pound fresh spinach, thick stems removed and discarded
3 cups wide-cooked wheat noodles

Preparation:

1. Mix beef, pork, minced water chestnuts, and the cornstarch and roll this into one-inch balls and set them aside.
2. Heat wok or fry-pan, add the oil, and then brown the meatballs on all sides, about three minutes.
3. Add cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, and the rice wine, stir, then remove all to a bowl except the oil.
4. Add spinach to the pan and stir-fry one minute, then put this vegetable around the edges of a serving platter.
5. Drop the noodles in boiling water or half a minute, drain well, and put them in the center of that platter, reheat the meatballs, then put them down the middle, and serve.

Beef and Noodles in Pancake
Ingredients:

½ pound minced flank steak
½ teaspoon mixed salt and black pepper
2 scallions, minced
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil for egg pancakes
2 eggs, beaten well
1 cup vegetable oil for the pancake-meat stack

Preparation:

1. Mix beef, salt and pepper, scallions, garlic, and cornstarch, and set aside.
2. Heat wok or fry-pan and fry one-fourth of the beaten eggs like a pancake, but only on one side, slide out of the pan and repeat until there are four of them.
3. Put one pancake on a flat surface, cover this with one-third of the meat mixture, put another pancake on top, another layer of meat, etc, until the last pancake is on top of this pile.
4. Heat the cup of oil in a deep pan, cut stack in four, and fry one stack in the hot oil on both dades, then drain on paper towels and put on a serving platter. Repeat until all four stacks are fried and drained. Cut each fried stack in four and put on a platter, then serve.

Braised Beef, Rice, and Noodles in Sa Cha Sauce
Ingredients:

½ pound flank steak cut into thin strips
2 Tablespoons canned pineapple juice
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon water chestnut flour
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons sa cha sauce
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup bean spouts, their tails removed, then blanched for half minute, then drained
1 cup cooked and still hot noodles
1 cup cooked hot long grain rice

Preparation:

1. Mix meat and juice and set aside for fifteen minutes, drain, then add the garlic and cornstarch.
2. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add the vegetable oil, then the beef and the sa cha sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and the bean sprouts and stir for two minutes, no longer.
3. Toss noodles and rice, put on a pre-heated platter, put the meat mixture on top, and serve.

Beef in Casserole
Ingredients:

3 pounds beef ribs
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
3 scallions, cut in one-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, cut in thin strips
3 star anise
1 two-inch stick cinnamon, crushed into small pieces
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons cold water
2 cups cooked wide wheat noodles
2 Tablespoons goji berries

Preparation:

1. Boil beef for one hour in six cups of water, remove and strain the liquid and discard the bones.
2. Cut meat into two inch cubes discarding any grizzle or fat and return the meat to the liquid.
3. Add peppercorns, scallion pieces, ginger, star anise. Cinnamon pieces and the sugar and simmer for two more hours.
4.Stir then add the cornstarch mixture, and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat source, add the noodles and goji berries, pour into a pre-heated large bowl, and serve.

                                                                                                                                                       
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