Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How To Impress Your Man - Taiwanese Oxtail Noodle Soup

One day, Wes handed me a key to his bachelor pad.  He didn't make a big fuss out of it, but there had to have been some intent behind the act of walking up to the key copier at the Chinese supermarket and surrendering his key at the counter, with thoughts of doom on repeat in his head.  Soon after that happened, I made a trip to the same Chinese supermarket myself, on a mission of my own.  I wanted to validate his action.  So, I pulled out my good-potential-wife secret weapon: niu rou mian (Taiwanese beef noodle soup).  My mom has been making it for as long as I can remember, I swear that the aroma can make any bad day a good one.  Secretly, I gathered my ingredients and brought them all to Wes's kitchen while he was still at work.  I was afraid that the stew would not be flavorful enough compared to all the beef noodles he has eaten at those many Chinese restaurants in the SGV. Thankfully, all went well and Wes hasn't been opposed to eating it now and again.  And I guess he hasn't been opposed to marrying me - looks like my mother's recipe sealed the deal.

These are the absolute essentials of Taiwanese cooking:  sesame oil, rice wine, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, star anise, green onion, tomato, and onion.  My mom always, always, always had these things on hand, as do I.

I also really like to add daikon radish root into my beef noodle soup.  The chunks are delicious to gnaw on and they give the soup a nice flavor.

I will put my best attempt out there to give a recipe, but honestly, I never measure the ingredients.  If my visual perceptual skills serve me well, then the proportions should not be wildly off.


2.5 pounds of oxtail (or any beef with beef bones)
4 medium size tomatoes (cut into wedges)
1 eight-inch-long daikon radish root (peeled and cut)
1 large onion (sliced)
1 bunch of scallions (flattened and chopped into 2-inch lengths; save a little for garnish)
8 cloves of garlic
3-inch piece of ginger (sliced)
5 or so pieces of star anise
1 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup of sesame oil
1 cup of rice cooking wine


1.  Place the meat into a large pot and fill with water.  Cover and let it come to a boil.  Scrape away the gunk that rises to the top or pour everything out.

2.  Throw all the ingredients into the pot, over the meat, and then fill with water again.  Cover and let it come to a boil.  Once it boils, cook it on low for as long as you want... the longer the better.  I'm talking hours.

3.  Check on it once in a while and add some water, or soy sauce, or sesame oil, depending on how it looks or tastes.  Everybody likes it different, but you can't go wrong with adding more soy sauce if the flavor is not strong enough for you.  If it's too strong, add water, turn up the heat, and let it slowly reduce with the cover off.  It's very instinctual, which is why I like it.

4.  Boil salted water in a separate pot and cook the noodles as instructed on package.  I prefer this brand for the chewiest noodles!

5.  Place noodles in a bowl and fill with the stew, top it with some chopped green onion.

If it didn't take hours and hours to make, maybe I would do it more often.  We could try to make it more efficiently in a pressure cooker, but for some reason it just wouldn't be the same.  The process wouldn't be as fluid, with the constant tasting and readjusting, and the aroma would not be as pervasive.  Nostalgia and nurturing is a big part of what makes this bowl of noodles what it is.  Hopefully, I will be able to pass it on to the next generation, but for now it is encapsulated in this blog!


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