I have a bunch of stuff I want to post but in honour of Chinese New Year I'll star with a recipe I've recently been working on perfecting. There's a Chinese restaurant here in San Antonio (Gin) that does the most awesome beef noodle soup! We have been back to try it over and over again and I think I'm finally close enough to a version that I am at least satisfied with. For the sake of transparency, this recipe is also derived from two Gourmet magazine recipes found here and here (God bless you Gourmet...I miss you so).
In a heavy based soup pot or dutch oven combine 6 cups of water, half a cup of soy sauce, half a cup of sweet sherry and a tablespoon or two of sugar and bring to a low boil. Then add the following...
Sliced ginger (about 3-4cm of a root), 3 garlic cloves sliced, 3-4 spring onions, 3 whole star anise, a cinnamon stick, a few pinches (~1tsp) of five spice and some red pepper flakes. Also add 8 to 10 of those big, fat, dried shiitake mushrooms.
Allow the spice mix to infuse at a low boil for about ten minutes then add about 2 pounds (1kg) of boneless beef short ribs (on the bone is also fine but add a few more).
Don't don't chop the meat up at this point. Marbling is good but trim off any large fatty bits on the outsides.
Add the meat and put the lid on, letting the whole thing sit at a low boil/high simmer for two and a half to three hours or until the meat is very soft but not falling apart. Don't have the boil so hard that it shreds everything up and clouds the broth with too much protein. When the meat is done, take it off the heat and allow the meat to cool in the broth for at least an hour but preferably overnight in the fridge.
About half an hour before you're ready to serve, skim off any fat, strain the whole thing (keep the broth!! Dear heavens it is all lost if you throw out the broth!!) Allow the broth to settle and while that is happening rescue the short ribs and the shiitakes from the mess of stewed aromatics. Strip any obvious membranes and or stringy bits from the short ribs and cut the meat into roughly 1 inch cubes. Cut the shiitakes into thick strips. Gently pour the broth back into your soup pan leaving most of the sediment behind (some is good for flavour but not too much), add the meat and mushrooms and bring back to a simmer. At this point you'll probably want to dilute out the broth with either water or chicken stock, depending on how strong the final poaching liquid turned out.
Meanwhile you need to prepare the greens for the soup - Chinese cabbage (wombok) cut into strips and sugar snap peas works well. Also cook some noodles. For this soup wheat based noodles are better than rice so I used a pack of Japanese dried somen noodles. When the noodles are ready, add the greens to the soup until the are just wilted. Serve the soup over the noodles, adding some toasted sesame oil, fresh coriander leaf, sliced spring onion and red pepper flakes at the end.