Archive for July, 2008

White Boy Niu Ro Mian

July 19, 2008 3:32 pm

There was this restaurant near work in Redmond called Bar Shu and man it was good. They closed down about a year after they opened, but they served authentic Chinese food, and they had this beef noodle soup called niu ro mian or ็‰›่‚‰้บต. It was the best soup I’ve ever had in my life - even better than chicken noodle :-). the broth was so rich and so hot I could drink it by the cupful. and the beef was so tender you mash it up with your tongue and swallow it ;-)

Ever since they closed I’ve wanted to recreate that soup. So with a little help and training, I’ve managed to take a first whack all on my own, and here’s how it goes. I humbly present “White Boy Niu Ro Mian” :-)


  • ~1/2 clove Garlic (about 7 or 8 toes)
  • ~1 or 2 pieces of *fresh* ginger
  • 20 Star Anise pods
  • 3 tblsp Sichuan pepper
  • 2 or 3 tblsp Grains of Paradise
  • ~20 Cardamom pods - green ones.
  • ~1/4 cup rice wine for cooking
  • 2 to 3 spoonfuls of hot bean paste (this might be the only thing you cant find)
  • 2 spoonfulls of brown sugar
  • 3-4 Serrano peppers
  • 2 packages of beef bones for soup
  • a few beef bullion cubes
  • ~ 2 pounds of beef brisket - big chuck here, a whole 2 pound slab of meat.
  • 5 baby bok choys
  • thick rice noodles.
  • Green onion, cilantro

Its important that you use beef brisket. Very important. If you cant find beef soup bones, use something boney like short ribs. (the cross cut thin kind worked well) Ox tail is the best, though it is expensive. If you cant find bean paste, thats alright. Pretty much any red bean paste will do if its spicy :-) When you get home with it, pop it open and take a whiff. If its kinda vinegary and spicy as hell, you got the right stuff. If you cant find it, oh well. you can try grabbing a couple more/different hot peppers but the bean paste really gives it a special kick. I’ve done without the bean paste and its still alright but you miss this awesome red film on top of the soup that is off the hook hot. The ginger must be fresh, get a nice fresh piece, probably about the size that can fit in the palm of your hand. I used two pieces that were about thumb sized but thicker.

Here is what you do.

First, blanch your beef bones. Boil them in water for a couple minutes. The idea here is to get rid of the foam and boiled up blood. Once they boil and the foam forms, rinse them off.
Now, put them into a large stock pot, aprox. 2 gallons-ish of water. You’ll reduce this water about 2x, so start with a bit more than 2x the broth you want.
Turn the heat on the stock pot and start it boiling.
If you really want to do it right, double the bones and water and reduce to form the broth. The easy way around is add some beef bouillon cubes here :-) go ahead and add the cubes :-) I’m cheating and this is White Boy Niu Ro Mian :-)

Next, prepare the spices as follows:
Crush and peal the garlic.
peal the ginger and slice into strips. A hint is slice into strips then cut the skin off around the strip :-)
Slice up the Serrano peppers (save one for garnish when the soup is done)
In a skillet over meduim heat, add oil.
Once oil is heated, add garlic, ginger, serrano peppers, brown sugar, grains of paradise, sichuan pepper, cardamom, and star anise.
Stir fry this to release the flavors. you dont really want to cook it, you just want to get the flavors going. you’ll smell it when it starts to happen.
Once the flavors are coming out, add the 3 spoons of hot bean paste and the 1/4 cup rice wine.
Stir fry this for a bit longer to reduce it a bit. Dont breath it in or it might knock you out :-) This should smell pretty potent right now.

Now your bones should be close to boiling or boiling in your stock pot. Add the spice mixture
Make sure you get all of it, rinse that fry pan out and get all the good juices and dump them in the stock pot
Rinse it out again and get all the flavor, don’t miss any!!

now, you’ve got the start of the soup base. Boil the shit out of this covered until it reduces by about half. This should take about 4-6 hours. No joke. 4 hours. It really needs to be this long, trust me. Every hour makes it twice as good :-)) This thing is all about the soup base, and there is no substitute for time.

Once you get the soup base where you want it, run it through a strainer and strain out all the spice and meat and bones. Pull any meat off the bones and eat (yum!) or throw back in the pot. :-) Ox tail is great here - if you’ve cooked it long enough the meat should already be off or coming off the bones :-) Even those cartilages off the ox tail is good to eat :-)

When you get close, take out your brisket, DO NOT CUT IT UP. blanch it whole same as you did the beef bones. rinse off the foam.
This goes into the pot WHOLE after you’ve rinsed it.
Boil this in the pot with the rest of the goodness until cooked. You can add a bit more water if you need to, make sure the entire brisket is covered.
Once the brisket is all the way cooked, remove it and let it cool. Cut it up into cubes - it should just about fall apart if you’ve cooked it long enough.
Put the brisket back in and boil for a bit longer to make sure the soup base flavor penetrates the brisket.
Once you are close, in a separate pot, boil the rice noodles. Use a separate pot, its important. the rice noodles will leave a film in the water when cooking that you dont want in the soup.
Cook up the noodles to al dente
Break up the bok choy, i.e. separate the leaves like you would do lettuce. Rinse them off.
Put the cooked noodles and bok choy in the soup, Boil until the bok choy is done (the bases of the bok choy should remain a bit crunchy.)
serve in a big ole bowl. garnish with green onion and sliced up serrano pepper for a bit “extra” kick if needed. (yea right - probably not needed but do it anyways :-))
you can top it off with some cilantro too if you want

This is cooking up right now as I type :-) I’ll report back how it goes.

Update: Its good :-) the best part? the meat I pulled off the short ribs. The meat is packed with flavor. and of course, photos:

* WPG2 Plugin Not Validated *