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Beef Noodle Soup

Beef Noodle Soup excerpted from A-Gong’s Table by George Lee.Taiwan is now famous for beef noodle soup, but many Taiwanese people two generations ago did not grow up eating it. My A-Má, for one, has never eaten beef in her life. As a girl, she was taught that cows and oxen were hardworking, sagacious beasts not meant for food consumption. In these earlier times, people’s livelihoods depended on cows not only for heavy-duty agricultural work but also for cargo and transportation. The animals played such an important role that many considered them family. Folklore deemed only the most ungrateful farmer would slay and consume their loyal companion. Doing so would simply invite karmic retribution, so the thought of eating beef hasn’t crossed her mind since.
My mom, on the other hand, is part of the generation for whom eating beef became more socially acceptable. Cows and oxen on farms were gradually replaced by tractors, their iron counterparts. And postwar, in 1949, Chinese and Muslim soldiers brought over their beef-eating habits and affinity for wheat flour noodles. When my mom was in middle school, she tried beef for the first time: a friend’s mother, who was a Chinese immigrant, cooked a bowl of beef noodle soup for her.

Beef Noodle Soup excerpted from A-Gong’s Table by George Lee.

Beef Noodle Soup

George Lee
Superior Stock
Makes about 10 cups
• 7 ounces (200g) fresh mushrooms such as shiitake, shimeji, and oyster
• 2/3 cup (100g) cherry tomatoes
• Core portion of 1 large napa cabbage (350g), quartered
• 1 (3-inch) piece peeled ginger (50g), cut into 1/4-inch- thick slices
• 1 unpeeled carrot (200g), cut into 1-inch chunks
• 2 scallions (30g), both white and green parts, cut into 2-inch segments
• 12-1/2 cups water
• 14 dried shiitake mushrooms (35g)
• 1/2 peeled daikon radish (300g), cut into 1-inch chunks
• 1 yellow onion (200g), halved
• 1 stalk celery (40g)
• 2 tablespoons (25g) non-spicy preserved cabbage 冬菜, Minced 
• 2 cubes (32g) Sweet Wine Fermented Bean Curd 豆腐乳 or use store-bought
1) Preheat the oven to 390°F (200°C), with convection on if available.
2) On one or two baking trays, spread the fresh mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, napa cabbage core, ginger, carrot, and scallions in a single layer. Roast for 22 to 25 minutes, until all the pieces are deep golden brown.
3) Fill a tall pot with the water and add the roasted vegetables. While the baking tray is still hot, add about 2 Tbsp water, gently scrape up any brown bits, and add this caramel-brown water to the pot. Add the dried shiitakes, daikon radish, yellow onions, celery, and minced preserved cabbage. In a small bowl, using a bit of the stock from the pot, mash up the fermented bean curd to a slurry. Add the slurry to the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring the broth to a rolling boil. Lower the heat slightly so it is still bubbling but not as rapidly. Cover and cook for 3 hours, until the stock reduces to about 10 cups.
4) Strain the stock through a tofu-cloth-Lined sieve into another pot. Once it’s cooled, twist and squeeze the vegetables in the cloth and extract as much of the stock and flavor as possible. The stock won’t taste salty enough, but this is intentional; you’ll lose seasoning flexibility in later dishes if you salt it now. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze the stock in a few separate resealable bags for ease of access for up to 3 months.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Makes about 2 lb (900g)
• 10-1/2 ounces (300g) dried lion’s mane mushrooms
• 6 tablespoons (30g) soy protein isolate
• 2 teaspoon Mushroom Powder 香菇粉 or store- bought
• 3-1/2 cups water
• 4 cups neutral oil, for frying
1) Place the dried lion’s mane mushrooms in a large bowl and cover with room- temperature water. Place a plate and a weight over the bowl to keep the mushrooms submerged. Let them soak and rehydrate for 1 hour, or until fully soft and easily torn by hand.
2) Inspect the mushrooms for any black or discolored spots, using scissors to remove them. Trim off and discard the thicker, harder stems. Cut the mushrooms into 1-inch chunks that resemble broccoli florets. In the same large bowl, soak the mushrooms in new water for 1 more hour, squeezing the water from the mushrooms and changing the water every 15 minutes. The water will get clearer as you soak and change the waters. This is a sign that the bitter, unpleasant flavors are leaving.
3) Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the hydrated mushrooms and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until no longer bitter (taste a small piece to check). If there is still a bitter aftertaste, drain the mushrooms, bring a new pot of water to a boil, and repeat the blanching process.
4) Drain and rinse the mushrooms under running water until cool to the touch. Take your time with this; mushrooms are great at retaining heat, and you don’t want to scald yourself when squeezing out the water! Squeeze the mushrooms to remove as much liquid as possible.
5) On a cutting board and with a heavy rolling pin or the flat side of a cleaver, lightly smack the mushrooms one by one to release the fibers and tenderize them until they are 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick.
6) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the soy protein isolate, mushroom powder, and the water. Whisk until no lumps remain and then transfer all the smacked mushrooms to this bowl. Let soak in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
7) Spread the mushrooms out in a parchment-lined, 9-inch bamboo steamer or a steamer of choice. Set the steamer over a large pot of boiling water and steam on high for 40 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and let them cool completely before squeezing out any excess water.
8) Line a large plate with paper towels. In a wok over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until the temperature reaches about 250°F (120°C). Add the lion’s mane mushrooms and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, until the hairs of the mushrooms are golden brown. Using a spider strainer or slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to the paper towel–lined plate to drain. Cool completely. If not using them the same day, pack the fried mushrooms into eparate resealable bags for ease of access and freeze for up to 6 months.
Stir-Fried Mustard Greens
Serves 4 as a side
• 2 dried shiitake mushrooms (10g)
• 1 head Fermented Mustard Greens 酸菜 (400g)
• 2 Tbsp neutral oil
• 2 tsp minced ginger
• 1 fresh red chili (10g), cut into thin rings
• 4 tsp golden granulated sugar, plus more as needed
• 1 tsp sesame oil 香油
1) In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in water to cover until fully soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Snip off and discard the stems, chop the caps into a rough mince, and set aside. Discard the soaking liquid.
2) Gently rinse the mustard greens to mellow the excess salt without ridding the greens of their prized flavor. Chop into a 1/4-inch mince. The leaves can get tangled; chop them through a few more times so they won’t be in long strands.
3) Warm a wok over medium heat until just smoking. Add the fermented mustard greens and fry for 1 to 2 minutes to allow some moisture to steam off. Transfer the greens to a bowl.
4) In the same wok over medium heat, warm the neutral oil until hot. Add the ginger and red chili and fry to release their fragrances, 15 to 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and fry for 1 to 2 minutes to release their fragrance. Add the mustard greens, tossing to combine. Add the sugar, swirl in the sesame oil, and stir-fry for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the greens are fragrant and crunchy. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more sugar if it is still too sour.
5) Serve warm as a side dish, sandwiched in between guàbāo, or on top of hóngshāomiàn (Beef Noodle Soup).
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Taiwanese
Servings 4 servings


  • 3-1/3 cups Superior Stock 上湯 (above)
  • 5 cups water
  • 6 (3-inch) pieces kombu (15g)
  • 3 tomatoes (300g)
  • 4 whole star anise pods (6g)
  • 2 teaspoons (4g) red Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 whole tsaoko (Chinese black cardamom) (3g), crushed open
  • 2 (2-inch) pieces cinnamon stick (8g)
  • 2 teaspoons (5g) fennel seeds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 pieces gan cao (dried licorice root)
  • 2 whole dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 6 garlic cloves (20g), lightly smashed
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger (20g), peeled and sliced
  • 3 to 5 dried red chilies, snipped in half and seeded
  • 3 scallions (45g), both white and green parts, cut into 1-inch segments
  • 1 yellow onion (200g), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons yellow rock sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dòubànjiàng (chili bean paste) 豆瓣醬
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice cooking wine
  • 7 ounces (200g) Lion’s Mane Mushrooms 猴頭菇 (above)
  • Stir-Fried Mustard Greens 炒酸菜 (above), for serving
  • 4 portions thick white wheat noodles (600g fresh / 300g dried)
  • Salt
  • Few heads of bok choy or vegetable of your choice 
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish


  • Fill a medium pot with the stock and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the kombu. Cover to keep warm and let the kombu soak until the broth is needed.
  • Core the tomatoes and score a 1-inch X on the opposite bottom end. Bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil and blanch the tomatoes for 30 to 45 seconds, until the skins visibly begin to peel back. Remove the tomatoes using a slotted spoon and rinse them under cold water until cool. Peel off the skin and cut each tomato into six to eight wedges.
  • Set a large pot over medium-low heat and add the star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, tsaoko, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, gan cao, dried bay leaves, and black peppercorns. Toast slowly until very fragrant but not burnt, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer all to a braising pouch or on a small piece of cheesecloth. Tie a knot to secure and set aside.
  • In the same pot over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, ginger, red chilies, and scallions and quickly fry to release their fragrances, about 15 seconds. Add the yellow onions and continue to fry together until all the aromatics are browned and blistered at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rock sugar and dòubànjiàng and fry to stain the oil and all the aromatics red, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue frying for about 1 minute to caramelize the tomato paste; its color should noticeably darken. Before anything has a chance to burn, deglaze the pot with the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and rice cooking wine and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, until its fragrance has deepened slightly.
  • Remove the kombu from the reserved broth. To the pot with the soy sauce, add the broth, the braising pouch, and the lion’s mane mushrooms. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium-low or low to maintain a slow boil, cover with a lid, and cook for 40 minutes. As the broth is cooking, you can prepare your toppings, namely the stir-fried mustard greens.
  • Place a large mesh sieve over a clean pot and pour the broth through the sieve. Press on the aromatics with a ladle to extract as much of the broth as possible. Discard the cooked aromatics but keep the braising pouch. Add the braising pouch and lion’s mane mushrooms back into the strained broth, along with the tomatoes. Bring the strained broth to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes more, or until the tomatoes have just softened and released their flavors but have not turned to mush. 
  • Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil. Cook the noodles to your desired doneness and strain them into serving bowls. Add a pinch of salt to the still gently boiling water (this helps season and rid bitterness in the vegetables that will follow) and blanch the bok choy for 30 to 45 seconds, until vibrantly green and still crunchy. Add to the serving bowls. Top with the broth, lion’s mane mushrooms, mustard greens, and cilantro. Serve immediately. Cool any leftovers and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


A-Gong's Table by George Lee (© 2023). Photographs by Laurent Hsia. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.Recipe reprinted with permission from A-Gong’s Table by George Lee (Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York., 2023). Photography by Laurent Hsia.
Keyword A-Gong’s Table, Bay leaves, Bok choy, carrots, Cinnamon sticks, Daikon radish, dòubànjiàng, Fennel seeds, Garlic, George Lee, Ginger, kombu, Mushrooms, Napa cabbage, Noodles, Scallions, Sichuan peppercorns, Soy sauce, Star anise pods, Tomatoes, Yellow onion

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