Monday, October 10, 2011

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mian)

This is an adaptation of the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup recipe I learned from Joline Chen, my landlady in San Gabriel back in the late '80s, who liked to cook up a big batch of this soup for her mahjong buddies. She invariably used a lot of booze in her rendition, be it Shaohsing wine or whiskey, basically whatever the boys & gals happened to be drinking that night, and would always add a dollop of chili oil to each serving bowl for an extra kick. Over the years, I've made some changes to the recipe, including adding a medium carrot to this recipe, which I think adds a nice touch of sweetness, and a couple teaspoons of Szechuan peppercorns. Next to Korean tofu, this is my fav spicy soup dish for winter eats. 

2-3 lbs. of beef chuck, beef stew meat, or beef shank, cut into 1 1/2-2" pieces.
4 slices ginger
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4-5 scallions, cut into 1" sections
1 cup whiskey or Shaohsing wine
4 tbsp. hot bean paste
2 medium carrots, peeled & cut into 1" pieces
1 onion, quartered
20 cups water
2 star aniseeds
1/4 tsp. 5-spice powder
2 tsp. whole Szechuan peppercorns or 1 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorn (optional)
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. sugar
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup fresh cilantro (mostly stalks), chopped

1 lb. fresh Chinese noodles (or use dried wide noodles; fettuccine is a good substitute)

Fresh cilantro, chopped
Scallions, chopped
Chili Oil (Layu)
Fresh red chilies, sliced

1. Heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add ginger, garlic, and scallions and saute for 30 seconds. Add beef and cook 2-3 minutes until slightly browned. 

2. Add Shaohsing wine and cook for several minutes until reduced by about 1/4. Add hot bean paste & carrot, onion, and toss for 30 seconds. 

3. Add 20 cups water, star aniseeds, 5-spice powder, Szechuan peppercorns, sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce and cilantro stalks. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. cook at least 2 hours or until the beef is really tender (longer, if using beef shank). Once the meat is tender, remove the carrots, onion, ginger, and star aniseeds (you don't want to accidentally serve these, as the seeds are as tough as bark). 

4. In the meantime, cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain & set aside.

5. To serve: pour about 1 tsp. of chili oil in the bottom of each serving bowl. Top with noodles & garnish with chopped cilantro, scallions & red chili peppers. Ladle soup over the noodles & serve immediately. 

Cilantro, scallions, ginger & garlic (left off the carrot from this shot, but it's in the recipe).

Onion & carrots.

Asian markets are kinda nowhere to be found here in Murrieta, so the traditional ingredient of beef shank is not always an option. Beef chuck roast or beef stew meat, however, are readily available.

But if you can find beef shank (99 Ranch Market carries boneless cut beef shank), then by all means use it because it will be the most tender. 

Saute the garlic, ginger and scallions. 

Add the beef and cook until lightly browned.

Add 1 cup of Shaohsing wine (or whiskey, if you prefer).

Add the hot bean paste, carrot & onion. 

Add 20 cups of water. 

Add soy sauce.

Add star aniseed.

Add cilantro stalks, 5-spice powder, Szechuan peppercorns, sesame oil, and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Shaohsing wine, soy sauce, hot bean paste, star aniseed, sesame oil. 

Cover & simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until beef is tender (if using beef shank, you'll probably need a longer cooking time, about 3 hours or more).

Remove the onions, carrots, ginger slices & star aniseeds before serving.

Chili oil (Layu).

For this dish, I like to use this brand of dried wide noodles from Taiwan (available at 99 Ranch Market). If not readily available in your neighborhood, then substitute with fresh or dried fettuccine or linguine. 

Cook the noodles per package instructions, drain & set aside.

Add about 1 tsp. of chili oil to the bottom of each serving bowl.

Add noodles & top with chopped scallions & cilantro.

Ladle soup over the noodles & garnish with red chilies. 


  1. I tried this recipe last night and both me and my family enjoyed it so much! It's pretty similar to the beef noodle soup I eat at my favourite Manchurian restaurant, except for the spicy flavour. Is there any variant I can try without using hot bean paste? I think a pinch of cumin should do the trick

    1. Davide, sorry for the belated reply. If you don't have or don't want to use hot bean paste, you can always try a chili-garlic sauce (a common Chinese ingredient)or other hot sauce. I think cumin would give it a very different flavor (might be interesting to try) without imparting any spiciness.

  2. Thanks for posting this!