Lanzhou Beef Noodles, also known as Lanzhou Beef Broth Noodles, is one of China’s top ten noodle dishes, originating from the Gansu Province region.
Many restaurants and street stores offer Lanzhou noodles which all look very similar, but most of them are not authentic, and the buyer will not experience the charm and true flavors of this dish.
It is painful for Lanzhou people to talk about these “authentic” noodle shops when in fact they know they are not serving the real thing. It is the same when Beijing people talk about Zha Jiang Mian, and Tianjin people talk about pancakes, something outsiders cannot easily understand because they have not experienced the real deal.
In Lanzhou the locals do not use the word Lanzhou in Lanzhou Beef Noodles, they know them only as ‘beef noodles’, just as in Shanghai they only say ‘noodles with pork chop’, and no noodle shop sells ‘Shanghai noodles with pork chop’.
According to tradition the beef noodles we know today were first created in 1915 by Baozi Ma, after hundreds of years of countless people’s hard work and has long been deeply ingrained into the daily life of the people. It is difficult for Lanzhou locals to find authentic Lanzhou beef noodles in other parts of the country.
There are several features of Lanzhou Beef Noodles that are the same wherever you go:
Firstly, the stock, although white stock or red stock can both make a very delicious beef noodles, Lanzhou beef noodles stock is always white.
Secondly, the bright red chili oil.
Thirdly, fresh and fragrant coriander is also essential.
Now I will teach you how to create the unique flavors that make up Lanzhou Beef Noodles in your family kitchen.
Beef bone soup is the most difficult of soups to obtain a clear appearance, and there are variations on the meaning of ‘clear’.
At the outset, this creates a challenge when making Lanzhou Beef Noodles because if the soup is not clear enough, it produces poor results in other aspects of the dish, spoiling the whole appearance.
Beef Bone Stock Ingredients (2.5 liters concentrated broth produces at least 12 bowls of beef noodles.)
- 2 kg beef bones, preferably shin bones
- 0.5 kg chicken bones
Beef Bones Soup Production Method:
Beef limb, shin or ankle bones are the most suitable for making beef bone stock due to the rich tendons, cartilage and ligaments, and bone marrow close to the surface of the meat. Have your
butcher cut the bone down the middle lengthwise.
Take a sharp pointed knife and cut the joint capsule.
You need to expose the ankle cartilage to release the most of the collagen as you can from the bone. If you buy a whole long bone, you will need to ask your butcher to chop it into smaller pieces of about 6-7 cm2. If you want to do it yourself, use a hacksaw blade with either 18 or 24 teeth.
A commercial grade bone knife can only be used to chop the chicken bones and pork ribs, but is not safe for cutting beef leg bones.
Chicken bones add excellent flavor to the stock. The general rule is to use 0.5 kg chicken bones for every 2 kg other bones.
The hemoglobin and myoglobin in the bones and muscles are the main reason for the loss of clarity in beef broth and produce reddish brown broth. These two iron-rich proteins turn brown when heated. Soaking the bones in water for 4 hours removes some of the proteins.
Chicken bones should also be soaked.
Choose a soup pot bigger than 5 liters capacity, place the pre-soaked bones in the pot and add enough water to immerse the bones. Cover and heat on high until it comes to the boil.Remove the lid and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
At this point, there will be quite a lot of foam on the surface of the water.
Remove the bones and rinse thoroughly, removing any dark pieces. Discard the water in the pot and wash it out.
Put the bones back into the clean pot and fill with water, completely submerging the bones to a depth of 2cm from the rim of the pot. Heat on high until the water temperature reaches to 90 degrees Celsius, then turn to low.
When cooking the stock, the water temperature should be maintained at about 90 degrees Celsius. If the temperature is too low, the collagen precipitation rate is too slow and does not produce enough flavor. If the temperature is too high and the stock boils too rapidly, the liquid will be muddy.
Use a thermometer to monitor the water temperature accurately.
It takes eight hours for collagen to precipitate fully from meat bones. If this is not convenient, you can divide this into two or three cooking times without affecting the result.
Filter the beef stock before use. This quite simple to do by lining a sieve with coffee filter paper. Filter the stock while it is still hot otherwise the collagen will form a greasy residue on the paper inhibiting the straining process.
There will be some fat in the stock which should be removed. The best way to do this is to refrigerate the stock, solidifying the fat on the surface making it easy to remove.
After removing the fat, the beef stock is ready for use. Of course, because there are no other flavors added it must be fully seasoned when making the noodles dish.
It is tricky to know when to add the spices because if they cook too long in the soup, the pigments seep out making a ‘red’ stock. Of course, the bones must also be fresh to avoid a strong ‘mutton’ smell when there are no spices to offset this. The cooking temperature affects both these aspects.
Cooking at a lower temperature of 90 degrees Celsius means that there will not be as much fat released into the stock, which is the main source of the ‘mutton’ smell.
Lanzhou stew beef is traditionally cooked at a lower temperature than similar dishes from the mainland, which is what sets it apart.
The stewed beef and beef bones stock are made separately because they require two different cooking processes. The beef bone stock is cooked at a higher temperature to extract the collagen, the main source of flavor for Lanzhou Beef Noodles.
The stewed beef is cooked at a lower temperature to lock in the moisture and maintain the tenderness of the meat. Beef needs a lot of spices to flavor it adequately, and these spices would discolor the stock.
When you are making this dish at home, you will get the best result by cooking the stock separately to the stewed meat.
Stewed Beef Ingredients (12 serves ):
- 1.2 kg tender beef steak
- 2 teaspoon fennel seeds (1 teaspoon = 5 ml)
- 1 teapsoon white peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried coriander
- 10 g ginger, sliced
- 800 ml water
- 4 teaspoons salt (20 g)
Method for Stewed Beef:
Beef is one of the most difficult meats to stew. To ensure it stays tender there are a few principles to learn. Firstly, it is important to choose the right cut.
Tendons, being concentrated muscle fiber, are the most suitable for slow cooking. Larger lean muscles, such as the loin or leg, etc., tend to become dry after stewing for a long time. Secondly, the beef should be soaked for a long time so the muscle fibers cannot spread, maintaining tenderness.
During the stewing process, the water temperature should be as low as possible. The higher the water temperature, the higher the proportion of water loss from the beef. If the water temperature is too low, the degradation rate of the tissue is very slow, and you will need to extend the cooking time.
Cut the beef into large pieces of about 300-500 grams and rinse any residual blood from the surface to avoid the muscle fibers cracking. Soak the beef in water for four hours, changing the water every hour turning the meat each time.
Soaked beef should be pale pink. Place the beef on a rack over a dish to drain for one hour.
Take a deep pot 24 ml in diameter, add the beef and 800 ml of water. Cook, and as the temperature rises, the water will discolor as blood emerges from the meat. This needs to be filtered out using a small fine sieve.
Add the fennel, white peppercorns, bay leaves, coriander, ginger and salt.
Cover and cook on low 2-3 hours. Pay close attention to avoid the water boiling. 20 grams of salt will make the soup very salty, which is fine as beef is difficult to flavor and needs heavy seasoning.
Some of you may be worried that so much salt will cause the beef to dry out, but the main reason for stewed meat drying out is high heat, so when the temperature is lower, in general, 80-90 degrees Celsius, the meat will not dry out with that amount of salt.
Even better is a temperature of 70-80 degrees Celsius but this would require a longer cooking time.
After two hours check if the beef is cooked. If the blunt end of a chopstick inserts easily into the thickest part of the beef, it is ready. Cover and turn off the stove, leaving it to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to penetrate fully.
Dice the cooked beef into 1 cm cubes, which will be added directly to the beef noodles.
Now that the beef and spicy oil are ready, it’s time to cook the noodles and pull this meal together! The flavor of fresh alkali water noodles is very similar to home-made noodles, which can be used instead.
Now you have all the components you can do the final assembly.
Ingredients for Lanzhou Beef Noodles (1 person):
- 200 g concentrated beef stock
- 300 ml water
- 2 teaspoons ginger garlic water
- 3 g salt
- 4 slices white radish
- 1 portion alkaline noodles
- 50 g diced stewed beef
- 50 g chopped fresh coriander
- 1 garlic leaf or green onion, chopped
- 4 teaspoons Spicy Oil
Lanzhou Beef Noodles Assembly Method:
Put the concentrated beef stock and water in a small pot and bring to the boil. Add the ginger and garlic water and salt to seasoning the stock.
Blanch the white radish into the pot for 30 seconds, remove and put aside. Add two liters of water to a 20 cm diameter soup pot and add the alkaline noodles. Cook for 1 minute.
Remove the noodles with chopsticks, gently shake a few times to get rid of excess water and then put them into the serving bowl. Place the hot white radish, stewed beef, chopped fresh parsley or coriander, chopped green onion in with the noodles and pour over spicy oil.
Personally, I like vinegar and soy sauce and other seasonings to go with the Lanzhou Beef Noodles.