A few years ago I met up with a friend in Taipei where he was on an artist exchange for 6 months. During the day while he was working and giving classes I would explore the usual touristy spots solo as highlighted in a city guidebook and enjoyed a fair few reflexology massages. At night he would take me to different night markets weaving through the city traffic on a scooter, we could sample different hawker food from stinky tofu, freshly squeezed juices, icy fruity desserts and a personal favourite – Taiwanese style beef noodle soup.
One particular night we met up with some ex pat friends of his at a little corner stall at a night market near a university. It was undercover, we sat on bright plastic chairs, that I think were designed for kids rather than adults, fluorescent lights were flickering above, an old TV played the nightly news. I was not expecting much from this little noodle joint,’ an American journalist for the China Post leaned over and said ‘best noodle soup in town’, I was not convinced.
Although the conversations where very stimulating I was preoccupied as soon as a bowl of hot noodle soup was presented in front of me, I didn’t want to order it, I didn’t even like the way it looked to begin with I felt like I was being force fed but as soon as I took my first sip of the broth I was hooked. Since that night it has been a dormant obsession that rears its head from time to time. If I meet someone from Taiwan within minutes I am pestering them for a family recipe. If I am walking down a street and spy a Taiwanese restaurant I suddenly rush in for a bowl. Sometimes I sit and just daydream about it – like now. Sadly nothing compares to the first time. I have looked up the recipe many times before but I just can’t get it right. This recipe comes close.
For soup stock:
½ kg Diced Beef brisket or if available 1kg beef shanks bone in
4cm of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic
2 pinches of dry chilli flakes – more if you like it hot
¼ cup of Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 Tablespoons of vinegar
1/3 cup of Dark Soy Sauce
1 large Tomato cut into quarters or wedges
1 brown onion –peeled & halved
A few star anise pods
1 ½ teaspoons of Black peppercorns
2.5 litres of water and extra water to keep topping up with
Salt & sugar to taste
Serves 4 people
Place all ingredients into a pot bring to boil, then simmer over a medium heat for approx 2 hours or until meat is soft and falling apart. Keep an eye on your broth and add water as needed to help maintain the same liquid level. Add salt and sugar to your liking.
Serve with cooked egg or wheat thin noodles, blanched Asian greens like pak choy and most importantly pickled mustard greens, more chilli if you desire.
This recipe is adapted from a Yong Kang Beef Noodle recipe by Amy Ma, which appeared in Saveur Magazine Dec 2010