Happy birthday to my wonderful husband!

He is in Istanbul today, probably stuck in meetings. I hope they are at least feeding him well!

I figured he probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the day as much being on the job, so I made him an early birthday meal this week to celebrate before he left. After his comment a few days ago about needing more meat, I decided to do something meat-inspired for the occasion. Grilling is not so much of an option where we live. And given that our schedules were pretty tight this week, I wanted to try and make do with what I already had on hand. I had been saving this beef shank in the freezer, so I thought I’d try to make Taiwanese beef noodle soup with it. Despite his earlier comment, lucky for him it takes a SE Asian not to balk at the idea of making a hot noodle soup in the middle of a DC summer. I think he didn’t mind eating it either. :)

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Adapted from Viet World Kitchen
Serves 3

Normally I’d make this in a Dutch oven or stock pot, but to cut down on some of the heat from the stove in the summer, I browned the meat and pan-fried the aromatics and spices in a skillet before transferring everything to a thermal cooker to slowly stew. Ideally I’d let it sit overnight, but since I didn’t start this until the day of, I just waited a few hours. The meat could have been more tender, but it was still flavorful. I’ve kept the recipe’s original instructions for cooking in a pot here but incorporated a few of the modifications I made. Next time I would use chicken or beef stock instead of water for fuller flavor.

1.5 lb bone-in beef shank
1 Tbsp canola oil
5 garlic cloves, bruised
1-inch fresh ginger, cut into 3 slices, each one bruised
2 scallions, halved crosswise
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 star anise
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 Thai bird chili, split lengthwise (seeds and ribs removed if you want less spice)
2 Tbsp chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
1/3 cup Shaoxing rice wine
1 oz yellow Chinese rock sugar
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
5 cups water or chicken or beef stock

1/2 lb broccolini, broccoli, or baby bok choy, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 lb Chinese wheat noodles
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro

1. Pat the beef dry and then season all over with salt. In a 5- or 6-quart pot, heat the oil over high heat. Sear the beef on both sides until there is some browning, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

2. To the same pot, add the garlic, ginger, five-spice, star anise, peppercorns, chili, and bean sauce. Stir for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the rice wine. Scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt, rock sugar, both soy sauces, and water.

3. Bring to a boil, skim off the scum that floats to the top. Lower the heat to medium-low to gently simmer. Cover and cook for about 2 hours, until the beef is tender. The broth will simmer under cover.

4. Turn off the heat and move the lid askance so that there’s about a 1/2-inch opening. Let the soup cool. The beef will finish cooking to fork tenderness as the broth cools and concentrates in flavor. (If you make the soup in the evening, let it sit overnight.)

5. Remove the meat and set aside. Strain the broth into another pot. Discard the solids. Skim off the fat if desired. Reheat the broth over high heat.

6. Meanwhile, cook the vegetable and noodles in a large pot of water. Divide among soup bowls.

7. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch-thick pieces; if it the beef is cold, use a mesh strainer or skimmer to warm it in the hot broth. Divide it among the bowls.

7. Bring the broth to a boil, taste and adjust the flavors. Ladle the broth into the bowls. Top with cilantro and serve.