Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

Hey guys, sorry this took so long for me to get up. So this weekend, Jerry and I decided to make a spicy beef noodle soup! Being the Asian connoisseurs (and cheap college students) that we are, we decided to head down to Argyle, the soft-core version of Chinatown. After experiencing Pho for the first time at Pho 777 (it was delicious, by the way), we headed down to the supermarket, where all things can be bought, and bought for cheap! For someone like me, bringing a friend who knows what is what is a necessity, otherwise I would wander around the place in amazement, but having no idea and not enough courage to actually get anything (except for maybe some spicy ramen…) We purchased all of our ingredients, which included 3 lbs. of beef shank for $3. I had also wanted to get some won-ton spoons, but after seeing the label on the back that said “do not use with food. may poison food” I decided against it. Ah the joys of the Argyle supermarket.

Once we got home we immediately got down to work, as the beef needs to stew for a good 3-4 hours before it becomes tender enough. We started out by boiling the beef with a whole bunch of green onions and a couple slices of ginger. I am slowly learning that whatever kind of food you are making, chances are, it will only become better if you add some green onion to it. Consequently, I have added green onion to my small garden (which I will post about soon). While the beef boiled, we got down to making the flavoring for the soup, which included an entire head of garlic, anis seed, cayenne pepper, spicy bean paste, Sichuan peppercorns, and many other delicious and flavorful things. If you don’t have a kitchen hood (like my apartment) I highly suggest covering your mouth and turning a fan on, as when you throw all of these ingredients into a hot frying pan, the cayenne pepper has a tendency to kick up in the air and find its way into your lungs. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant experience. If everything turns out right, you should get a colorful and fragrant concoction, as pictured to the right. After the beef had been boiled for around 45 minutes, we took out the onion and ginger, and cut it up into more manageable chunks. As you can see, the beef is starting to get brown, but still looks nice and red and juicy on the inside. We want our flavor to penetrate all the way through the beef, and smaller chunks help with that. The beef will be pretty tough at this point, so you will want to make sure that you are using a good knife: my super-serrated Brazilian Tramontina knife (somewhat literally) sawed through the beef with no problem, but if you try using a smooth knife you may run into some issues. Once we showed the beef who was in charge, we put it back in the broth (which was already starting to get a very nice flavor), and dumped our spices into the mix as well. PROTIP: if you are making this soup, make SURE you have a strainer. There are tons of peppercorns floating around, and we tried to get them all out with my multi-purpose tea-ball, but there were still more than a few peppercorns floating around when we finished. Not a huge problem, but it can be disconcerting to bite into some noodles and hear crunching all over the place.

At this point we let the stew sit and simmer, started playing some God of War III, and waited for a few more friends with supplies. We were going to try our hand at pulled noodles, but I had an ominous feeling. I had told one of my friends about our hope to make them, and she, in so many words, told me that without years of practice and the help of a parent who had grown up doing it, I had a small chance of succeeding. Not to be discouraged, we pressed on, weighing and mixing the ingredients carefully. The dough has to be kneaded for around 20 minutes, so we each set up a little station and got to kneading. The noodles call for a mixture of cake and regular flour, the idea being that the low gluten content and constant kneading will create a dough consistency that will stand up to repeated pulling. A painful 20 minutes later, our dough felt no better than it had when we started. After trying some, shall we say, creative methods of needing (which included but were not limited to: microwaving the dough, adding more water and leaving it in seran wrap, and punching the dough) we decided to give up and go with pre-made noodles. Somewhat disappointing? Yes. Delicious nevertheless? Verily.
After we had cooked the noodles, fried up some Bok Choy, and added spicy bamboo shoots, everything was ready. What was initially supposed to be a regularily-timed dinner turned into a late night feast. The beef, after simmering for hours on end, had become tender beyond belief, it would nigh-literally melt in your mouth, and apart from the occasional peppercorn, the broth was simply amazing. It had been a lot of work, but was it ever worth it. Definitely an experience I hope to repeat, but next time I hope to be the proud owner of a proper strainer!

(photo courtesy of John Yu)

At this point we had 3 photographers, 4 camera bodies, and tons of lenses lying around, so naturally we spent about half an hour just taking pictures of our creating before getting on to the all-important task of actually eating it. It’s true what they say: waiting only makes it better. I think we have officially started a tradition: every adventure will, and in fact must, end with a food coma. Full stomachs, slumped back on the couch, we sat back and simply enjoyed the effects of this wonderful dish. This upcoming weekend brings a twist on adventures, as it is my roommate’s birthday, so stay tuned for Alton Brown-style pan seared steaks!

Maciek

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  1. This makes me really hungry. Looks delicious!

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