So a national dish of my native Taiwan is beef noodle soup. And of course, I’m bastardizing it, because while I am a legal citizen and was born there, I speak less Mandarin than the employees of Panda Express and have less knowledge about Taiwanese traditions and culture than most of the Chinese mainlanders who think Taiwan still belongs to them. Now the reason why my rendition is a bastardization is just because of one ingredient. The beef. Traditional Taiwanese beef noodle soup uses beef cheeks. However, I prefer oxtail, just because it has this rich, unctuous, sweetness to it that pairs so beautifully with the traditional stock and the noodles, both of which I learned the (authentic and traditional) recipes from both my own mother and my Taiwanese friend’s mother. Now if you don’t want to ruin a traditional recipe, or you’re trying to impress your Taiwanese friend or date, you can substitute the oxtail with beef cheeks entirely in this recipe, with no tweaks needed, but like I said, I prefer oxtail and I’m uncultured and untraditional, so yeah. Without further ado, here’s my semi-traditional beef noodle soup.
1 gallon (16 cups) water, divided into two parts
1/2 cup soy bean paste (can substitute with 3 parts red miso to 1 part soy sauce)
1/2 pound of oxtail (bone-in)
2 tablespoons of roughly chopped ginger
2 cloves of garlic; smashed with skins and brown ends removed
1/2 an onion; sliced (can substitute with shallots as well)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 carrots; roughly chopped
1 leftover bulb of cabbage*; basically if you used the outer layers, but still have an intact inner bulb, use that!
Pour half of the water into one of the pots, and bring to a boil. Add in the oxtail. Allow it to simmer until the exterior of the meat turns brown.
In a pan, heat up the ginger, garlic, pepper, and onion/shallot with some oil and cook until the onions begin to brown. Deglaze the pan with some of the remaining 1/2 gallon of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a rubber or wooden spatula to allow the flavor to impart into the liquid. If the pot is not big enough to hold at least 3/4 gallons of water, then transfer the liquid into a bigger pot (as you can see, my pot in the picture wasn’t big enough, because I dun-goof’d). Place the pot with the aromatics on the stove and bring to a boil. Add in the soy bean paste, salt, and soy sauce at this time.
Once the meat is brown, pour out all of the boiling liquid, then strain and rinse oxtail under lukewarm water to remove the coagulated blood (we do the twice boil process for braising at home because my parents are straight-out-of-Taiwan-Taiwanese, and that’s the way we were taught to do it, so there’s some tradition for you, but if you know how to make consomme using a raft, just skip this step entirely, and your water bill will probably love you for it). Place the oxtail in the soy bean liquid and allow that to simmer for 2 hours on medium-low heat.
Occasionally, you’ll need to skim the fat off the top of the stock, as beef contains loads of it, or more accurately, 3/4 to 1 cup of skimmed fat (if you were all fancy schmancy and know how to make a raft for a consomme, you can implement that technique here as well, just to skim the fat and impurities from the stock).
Roughly 15 minutes before actual plating, be sure to add in the carrots, and cook them down in the braising liquid so that they are tender, but not mushy; carrots and oxtail are a very traditional pairing in both Taiwanese and Russian cooking, according to my parents, and many restaurants in Taiwan actually do use carrots in their beef noodle soups.
Finally, add in the cabbage, leaf by leaf, and stir. To serve, pour the broth over noodles, and gently place the oxtail meat in each bowl (before serving, you can rinse the oxtail under cold water, then remove the meat from the bones, just to make eating the dish a less sloppy ordeal, then add the meat back into the stock to keep warm).
1/4 cup rice flour (mochiko)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup scalding hot water + 1 teaspoon salt (the salt makes the noodles chewier)
In a bowl, combine the ingredients together. It should form into a blob of dough, although if it becomes a bowlful of crumbly flour, just add a tablespoon of water, which will bring it together. Knead the dough on a lightly (all purpose) floured surface so that the dough can get smooth; kneading means to roll out, fold, then roll again, all while applying pressure from your palms onto the dough itself. Dust with a thin layer or flour and allow it to rest for around 10-30 minutes, so that the dough becomes more pliable. Roll out until it’s thin enough that the dough significantly darkens if you were to place your hand underneath it. Slice into noodles, this being a nice time to own a pasta roller, and toss the noodles with more all purpose flour so that they won’t stick to one another. Boil in water for only 30 seconds; fresh made noodles will turn mushy and will all apart if you boil them for more than a minute.