Sunday, June 12, 2011

A free weekend...

Finally, a free weekend!!! Not that I got anything for free this weekend, but my one-and-a-half year old son is in the beautiful city of Vancouver with grandma and his aunts, therefore, FREE weekend!

So, that means: INTO THE KITCHEN I GO! YAI!

There must be something in the raging hormones of the pregnant female body that has been enticing me to want to learn how to make everything now, before my schedule is over taken by two young kids at home.  As for the sex of the latest addition, we really haven't a clue and plan on keeping it that way.

As a child and even still, stepping into any Shanghainese restaurants my first order would be their Spicy Beef Noodle Soup.  Having grown up in Canada and unable to read or write Chinese (yes, shame on me... and something I still want to pick up), it had never dawned on me that I should learn to make it myself in fears that I would not be able to find the proper ingredients. Well, believe it or not, the push of the raging hormones and having one too many mediocre beef noodle soups, it was TIME.

Photography courtesy of Ian Cheung.   

Follow the jump to find the recipe!

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

This recipe is actually derived from of a few different recipes that I have researched online.  I strongly suggest using a slow cooker to create the melt-in-your-mouth beef, however if you do not have one, I have also tried the recipe by simmering the beef over the stove over low heat for 2 - 3 hours, and it turned out well too.

This recipe is surprisingly easy and you can find most all of the ingredients in a Chinese supermarket.  If you do not have a Chinese supermarket nearby, any western supermarkets will do too, but you may have difficulty finding the Sichuan peppercorns. Instead, substitute those with a few extra small hot chili peppers or dried chillies, just to add the extra kick. Also, due to the high sodium content of store bought beef stock, I have diluted the beef stock with equal parts water, but still was able to manage a very flavourful soup without adding in any extra salt. However, if you use the low sodium variety, adjust the taste accordingly, this recipe is quite versatile and forgiving.

The flavour of the soup will be extremely strong when you first taste it.  This is the way it is supposed to be and once you add it to the noodles, the flavour will mellow out.  So don't be scared that it is too strong. You can also add in more/less chilies to suit your taste. Also, you may also skim out the excess fat on top of the soup once it is completed.

This recipe will be enough to serve around 4 people.

1 1/2 lbs    Beef Brisket, whole piece
1 tbsp       Cooking oil
2 tbsp       Shallots, minced
2 tbsp       Ginger, chopped into small slivers
3 tbsp       Garlic, minced
3               Star Anise, whole, broken into pieces
3 tbsp       Sriracha chili paste
3 tbsp       Chinese cooking wine
1 L            Beef Broth
1 L            Water
1 tsp         Five Spice Powder
1 tsp         Cinnamon
1 cup        Carrots, chopped to 3/4 inch cubes
2 tbsp       Sichuan peppercorns
2              Small red chillies, chopped, dried or fresh
1/3 cup     Light soy sauce
3 tbsp       Dark soy sauce
1 piece     Chinese rock sugar, or substitute with 2 tablespoon white sugar (to taste)

Fine or thick Shanghainese noodles
Baby bok choy
Sesame oil

1. In a medium sized pot, boil 3/4 full of water.  Place the beef brisket (whole piece) into the boiling water and let simmer for around 4-5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and remove the brisket from the water.  Cut the beef brisket (careful, it's hot) into 1 inch cubes. Set aside. This allows for easier cutting of the beef brisket and prevents the beef from shrinking while cooking.

2. In a large wok or pan, add in the cooking oil.  Once heated, add in the shallots, ginger, and star anise.  Cook for approximately 30 seconds, then add in the beef brisket and chili paste.  Mix and cook until well coated and fragrant. Add in the Chinese cooking wine and cover with a lid so that the wine can penetrate the meat.

3.  Once the wine has dissipated, add in the beef broth and water. Bring to a boil. Then transfer to a slow cooker.

4. Add in the five spice powder, cinnamon, carrots, Sichuan peppercorns, chilies, dark and light soy sauces, and sugar to the slow cooker. Mix well.

5. Place on high heat with the slow cooker, then once it begins to simmer, place on low heat. Slow cook for 5 - 6 hours until meat is tender.

6. Upon completion of the spicy beef soup, cook the Shanghainese noodles and bok choi in a pot of boiling water.  In a large bowl, place a small amount of sesame oil at the base, add in the noodles, toss, then pour on the beef brisket, carrots and soup.  Finally, place the bok choi on top.  Enjoy.

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