Tuesday 4 August 2009

Braised Beef Noodle Soup

One of my most favourite noodle soups is this one - beef braised so that it falls apart at the chopsticks. In Cantonese, Ngau Lam Ho Fun is comforting, deeply spiced and hearty. I used to order it all the time at our local cafe in Hong Kong. There, it would be served with beef tendon and tripe in the soup with it. Tendon is a wonderful texture; slightly sticky and gelatinous. I thought the recipe would be quite complex, but having had a quick scour of the internet, it seems not.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get my hands on any tendon. I had decided on a whim to cook it on a Sunday, and I wasn't about to mission it to Chinatown to get some. In my neighbouring Peckham, there is a Chinese grocery that sold fresh ho fun (flat wide rice noodles) so with a packet of this, I set about recreating an old favourite. To up the vegetable content, slices of mooli were added. Mooli is also known as Chinese radish, or daikon. It has a slightly bland, turnip-like flavour but when you add it to meaty stews and soups, it takes on the flavour of the meat. The Japanese shred it and serve it raw in a little pile with sashimi, but I prefer it cooked.

Braised Beef Noodle Soup (Ngau Lam Ho Fun)

For 4

800gr braising beef
1 small mooli (also called daikon)
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
3 shallots
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 star anise
5 slices of ginger
1 3" stick of Chinese cinnamon (cassia bark)
3 cloves
2 pieces of dried tangerine peel
Light soy sauce to taste
1 tbsp dark soy
4 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp black vinegar
4 stalks of spring onion, sliced
400gr fresh ho fun noodles
A handful of Chinese greens, or spinach

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Cut the beef into large chunks and when the water is boiling, blanch the beef. Remove the beef, throw the water away. Place the beef in a saucepan and add enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil, and then turn down to a simmer and add the Shaoxing rice wine.

Cut the shallots in half and add to a muslin bag. You don't have to use this, but I prefer not to have to fish spices out of my bowl. Bash the black peppercorns lightly and add these, along with all the other spices. Tie the bag and submerge with the beef. You may have to add a little more water. Simmer gently for 2 hours. Peel the mooli and cut into rounds. Add this to the beef mixture along with the vinegar and soy sauces. Braise until cooked, which usually takes 30 - 40 minutes.

To serve, add fresh ho fun noodles to a pot of simmering water and gently loosen with chopsticks. Drain and add to the serving bowl. Simmer some Chinese greens (I used choy sum) and add to the bowl, and then ladle the soup stock in along with the beef and some mooli. Scatter the spring onion on top.

Serve with a fiery chilli oil.


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

I have to try this. Anything that is 'ho fun' sounds right up my street... ;-)

Helen said...

I'm not sure I've had much mooli cooked, but I can imagine just how it tastes with all those beefy juices inside it. Mmmm, beefy juices.

Ollie said...

I never knew mooli and daikon were the same thing. Well there you go.

Very pretty picture with the spices all laid out.

Chris Pople said...

Absolutely. When are you going to buy me some ho fun, Lizzie?

The Curious Cat said...

oh! You always tempt me with such lush food - want to come and cook for me!?

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Yum, one of my favourites! You can also get really fresh ho fun from the little factory down a tiny dark alley off Wardour Street (can't remember what it's called)...

Anonymous said...

I aways use Beef brisket when I make this...I think the layer of fat in the brisket adds juicyness, plus I am a fat whore!

Chris Pople said...

"You can also get really fresh ho fun from the little factory down a tiny dark alley off Wardour Street"

I bet you can! I. Bet. You. Can.

Jenny said...

I too am immature and chortled at the "ho fun".

Looks very tasty though, will add this to my ever growing bookmark folder!

Unknown said...

This looks great Lizzie - I love how you have laid out all your ingredients as well already chopped like a cooking show/ professional kitchen! (I must admit to doing the same occasionally it gives you a feeling of total organisation)

Hollow Legs said...

Chortle chortle! What with fat whores and ho fun, I think we've got ourselves a party...

GC - I'd like to say it's so that I look professional and organised, but in reality, if I didn't I'd only end up forgetting a vital ingredient...

Jefner said...

I am so glad you posted this recipie; I lived off this when I was in China. I tried to recreate it at home, but didn't add half of the ingredients, I'll try it again, now I know what goes in it. ho fun!!
(ah, we're all immature)

pigpigscorner said...

Yum! Love this with brisket. I usually add chu hou sauce which adds a slight licourice flavour to the dish.

Boo said...

This looks brilliant, it's exactly the kind of thing that I find myself craving in summer months and end up feeling uncomfortably hot after eating a bowlful. Not that it's been much of a summer, I think i'll give this a try.