Noodle Beef


“Thorne has an accompanying recipe for Noodle Beef. The beef takes eight hours to poach, but based on the results with the chicken, I’m ready to embark on a beef adventure.”

So I said at the end of my Noodle Chicken story. Well, I have now cooked the beef. As a bonus, I cooked another batch of chicken during the first three hours of beef cooking. Both went in the fridge.

I used boneless beef short ribs from Golden Gate Meats. The meat poaches for eight hours at 170°F. I learned to control the water temperature by cracking the lid on the pot to a greater or lesser degree to keep the temperature in the acceptable range of 165 to 175. Although 8 hours is a long time, the cooking doesn’t require much attention. I checked every 30 to 45 minutes.


The poached beef was almost as tender and velvety as the chicken, but there was no mistaking the rich beef taste. Once cooled and shredded, the beef and its broth can be kept in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for a week or so.

The next day I made the Noodle Beef. The method is the same, but the ingredients vary to go with the meat — red bell pepper and Napa Cabbage to complement the chicken, carrots and bok choy for the beef — along with the common ingredients; scallions, garlic, ginger, chile paste and noodles.

When cooking the chicken version I found the recipe hard to follow. It’s written as though John Thorne made it up as he went along and prepped his vegetables while he was cooking. Maybe he did make it that way, but I’m not seasoned enough to cook like that. I have learned that if I get my mise en place together before starting to cook I don’t forget stuff. What one does with the carrot, for example, (2 medium to large carrots, peeled, cut into thirds and sliced vertically into wide thin strips.) I would note in the ingredients, rather than in the instructions. So I altered the recipe for the way I work.

In any case, the resulting (non) soup was as simple and delicious as the chicken version.

Scallions, bok choy leaves, carrots, bok choy stems

Scallions, bok choy leaves, carrots, bok choy stems

vegetables cooking

vegetables cooking


Adapted from Mouth Wide Open by John Thorne and Matt Lewis Thorne

2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar (optional)

2 medium to large carrots, peeled, cut into thirds and sliced vertically into wide thin strips.
1 small to medium head bok choy cut into 1/2 inch strips keeping the thick white stems and the green leaves separate.
6 scallions, including green tops, cut in 2 inch lengths and split
1 large garlic clove, minced

1 pound boneless beef short ribs, cooked and shredded as above, with accompanying broth (see note)
1 inch chunk ginger peeled and grated or minced (see note)
1 teaspoon fresh chile paste or hot sauce to taste (see note)
1/2 pound Japanese somen noodles (see note)

Fill a pasta pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt.
In a separate medium size pot, (wok) put in the peanut oil, salt, the soy sauce and the sugar and begin to heat over a medium low flame.

Add the carrots to the pot with the hot oil and flavorings, tossing the mixture with a spatula as you do. Cook these for 5 minutes before adding any other ingredients.

Stir the bok choy stem pieces, the scallion strips, and the minced clove of garlic in with the carrot slices. Cook, stirring occasionally for several minutes, until the scallions are wilted and soft and the bok choy stem pieces are tender, about 5 minutes. Taste a piece of carrot – at this point it should be soft but still slightly crisp. Add bok choy leaves to the pot. Mix well and cook another minute or so, stirring occasionally, until the leaves have wilted. Add the shredded beef and its jellied broth. Turn the heat up to medium.

When the beef jelly has melted, stir in the minced ginger and the fresh chile paste. Continue cooking until the beef is heated through. Taste the broth for seasoning, adjusting as necessary. Throw in a good handful of bean sprouts or snow peas if you want.

Strew the noodles into the roiling salted water. Cook until tender — about 3 minutes — and pour out into a colander. Shake out any excess water and divide the noodles between two large soup bowls. Ladle over the beef mixture and serve at once. Chopsticks are optional.

Cooks notes:
Crushing ginger in a garlic press makes sense, since gingerroot is full of coarse fibers that add nothing to a dish. Peel and cut the ginger into garlic size pieces and crush away. [I use The Ginger People grated ginger from a jar and mince that.]
Fresh Chile Paste: Sometimes called sambal oelek, these can be found in Asian Grocery stores and some supermarkets. Look for the gold label with a red rooster on it and a simple list of ingredients — fresh chile paste, vinegar, salt, and preservatives. To temper the fire, sieve out the seeds.
Somen Noodles: (available at Whole Food) These thin white noodles, made of wheat, are related to udon noodles but are noticeably thinner — a delicate wisp of a noodle that still manages to retain a distinct texture and delicious taste. They are divided — within the cellophane packaging itself — into neat little bundles, each bound with a ribbon. These noodles cook very quickly, don’t let them get mushy.

Meat-Cooking Method
Fill a large pot about half full of hot tap water and set it on the stove. Turn the flame to high. Meanwhile, put the pieces of meat into a quart-size microwavable ziplock bag. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of kosher salt in 1 cup of water. Pour this over the meat. Tie the bag shut after forcing out as much air as possible. Lower this into the water on the stove. Insert a thermometer into the water (we use instant read and hold it in place with the pot’s cover). Bring the temperature up to 170°F and then adjust the heat to keep it there (a 5°F fluctuation in either direction is of no concern). Once this temperature has been reached, cook chicken for 3 hours, or beef for 8 hours.

When the meat is ready, grasp the knot of the bag with a pair of kitchen tongs. Lift the bag out and set it into a shallow bowl. Gingerly untie the knot and open the bag. Let its contents cool for 20 minutes. Remove the meat and shred it, discarding any bone, pieces of fat, or cartilage. Put the shredded meat into a bowl. Fold the top of the cooking bag over until it reaches about halfway down the bags side. Now close one hand tightly around the top of the bag and hold the bottom firmly with the other. Invert it over the bowl of meat and loosen your fingers enough to allow the broth to stream into the bowl, closing off the flow when it reaches the fat. Reserve abut a tablespoon of fat separately (if desired) and discard the rest. Refrigerate the bowl of meat and broth and cover when cool. This can be done a couple of days before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

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