Xiangyang beef noodles are a rising star among the top Chinese beef noodle dishes.
Of China’s four most popular beef noodle dishes, Lanzhou beef noodles are the most famous, and are naturally at the top of the popularity list. Taiwan beef noodles fans would place their favorite a close second, and Neijiang beef noodles from Sichuan cannot be overlooked.
Xiangyang beef noodles are also up there with the finest Chinese beef noodle dishes. The fresh, pungent aroma and tender beef has made Xiangyang beef noodles a strong favorite in recent times.
Lanzhou beef noodles and Neijiang beef noodles can be traced right back to the Republic of China period. Taiwan beef noodles appeared in the 1960’s and 70’s, but Xiangyang beef noodles are a recent dish, becoming known just in the past 30 years or so.
In the 1980s, the popular street food available was just flour soup with a layer of spicy red oil made of butter, with fried tofu, kelp or beef offal added in. Basically, whatever the food that was added to the noodles was the name of the dish, e.g. add tofu and it is called tofu noodles, kelp and it is called kelp noodles, etc. There were no beef noodles available back then but with improved living standards, beef gradually becomes a mainstream added food, which is when Xiangyang beef noodles emerged.
Compared to other beef noodles, Xiangyang Beef Noodles is known for its extensive use of butter, butter straight from the milk which gives it a very different and very rich flavor. The disadvantage of this, though, is that it gives off a similar aroma to that of mutton. This smell can be neutralized by the use of various spices, which improves the taste, mellowing it, and making it spicy and aromatic.
Similar to the other beef noodles, Xiangyang Beef Noodles also have a very particular method of producing it’s distinctly delicious flavor, which I am going to teach you. The following recipe is how I make a beautiful bowl of famous Xiangyang Beef Noodles.
- 1.5 kg tender stewing beef
- 15 ml rapeseed oil
- 10 g fennel
- 4g pepper
- 5 bay leaves
- 4 dried red peppers
- 1 grass fruit
- 2 clove stars
- 2 star anise
- 1 L water
- 100 ml soy sauce
- 25 g sugar
- 60 g butter
- 240 ml rapeseed oil
- 15 g pepper
- 4 star anise
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cm long
- 40 g garlic, cut into pieces
- 60 g green onions (scallions), cut on the oblique into 1 cm long pieces
- 10 g chili, broken
- 10 g Paprika
- 10 g sesame seeds
Fried beef (4 servings):
- 40 ml red oil
- 25 g green onion (scallions) – the white part only, sliced
- 15 g ginger, peeled and sliced
- 15 g garlic, sliced
- 240 g stewing beef
- 20 ml dark soy sauce
- 30 g steamed beef soup
Xiangyang Beef Noodles (1 person):
- 175 g fresh alkaline noodles
- 20 g salt
- 60 g fried beef
- 80 g steamed beef soup
- 20 ml red oil
- 1 bunch fresh coriander
1. The first step is to stew the beef. Beef is one of the most difficult meats to stew so to ensure it comes out nice and tender there are a few things to consider.
Firstly, choose the right cut, tendons are best for long stewing times, such as the shin or shank, and lean large muscles, such as the ridge or leg. Stewing for too long will cause the meat to become dry and woody. Moreover, soaking the beef for a long time in the pot, allows the muscle fibers to keep their shape and stay tender.
During the stewing process, the water temperature should be as low as possible. The higher the water temperature, the higher the water loss. If the water temperature is too low, the rate of tissue degradation is very slow, and the cooking time will need to be extended. Cut the beef into large pieces of about 300-500 grams. Rinse off any blood from the surface of the beef to prevent muscle fiber cracking. Soak the beef in water for 4 hours. Change the water once every hour, turning the beef each time you replace the water.
2. When the soaked beef is pale pink, place it on a wire rack over a shallow dish to drain for 1 hour.
3. Preheat a 20cm diameter heavy based soup pot, for 30 seconds.
Add 15 ml of rapeseed oil, 10 g fennel, 4 g pepper, 5 bay leaves, 4 dried red pepper, 1 grass fruit, 2 cloves and 2 star anise. Stir fry constantly until the aroma is released. Stir fry lightly so as not to burn the spices.
4. Add 1 liter of water to the soup pot.
5. Add 100 ml of dark soy sauce and 25 g of sugar.
6. Bring to the boil, cover with the lid, and simmer on low for 2-3 hours.
After two hours, if you can easily insert the blunt end of a chopstick into the beef, it is ready. Cover with the lid, turn off the stove, and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate to allow the flavors to mature.
7. The stewing process will produce a lot of collagen, making a flavorsome stock which can be frozen for later use.
8. Strain the soup into a bowl.
Now you can begin the spicy red oil of xiangyang Beef Noodles.
9. Take a 20 cm diameter heavy based pan and add 60 g butter and 240 ml rapeseed oil. Heat on low until the butter is melted.
10. Add 15 g of pepper, 4 star anise, 5 bay leaves and 2 cm long piece of cinnamon stick. Then add 40 g of garlic and 60 g of scallions. Butter is animal fat and the smoke is relatively low, but it is easy to burn (which is why I have a combination of butter and rapeseed oil), so is best heated on low and watched. Evaporation from the garlic and scallions cooking will reduce the heat ensuring the oil temperature is not too high. The flavors of the onion, garlic and other spices will gradually penetrate the oil making it fragrant.
11. Cook until the green onion becomes golden yellow. This means the oil temperature is gradually rising. The oil temperature must not exceed 150 C otherwise it will burn and diminish the flavors and aroma. Check the temperature with a cooking thermometer.
12. Place 10 g of chili, 10 g of Paprika and 10 g sesame seeds into a heat-resistant bowl. The chili gives a spicy aroma and the paprika offers color and spice, giving the oil its distinct red color.
13. Pour the hot spice mixture from the pan through a sieve onto the chili and sesame seeds in the bowl. The hot mixture may foam and overflow the bowl, so for safety it is best to put the bowl inside a larger one to catch any overflow.
14. Stir with chopsticks to break up the chili and so the chili powder and sesame seeds are penetrated by the hot oil, thus releasing the fragrance. At this point Xiangyang Beef Noodles spicy red oil is complete.
15.The stewed beef is not ready to serve yet. It is to be fried before serving and combined with other flavors for a much tastier dish.
When the stewed beef is completely cooled, cut into 5mm thick slices. Do not cut the beef until it has completely cooled in the refrigerator.
16. Take a 24 cm diameter flat bottomed non-stick pan and preheat for 1 minute. Add 40 ml of red oil, then add 25 g green onions cut into pieces, 15 g of ginger and 15 g of garlic pieces. Stir fry until the aroma is released.
17. Place the beef slices on top and stir fry for 1 minute.
18. Finally add 20 ml of dark soy sauce and 50 g of beef stew soup. Continue to stir fry for 2 minutes until the beef is heated through and flavored. The stir frying action must be gentle to avoid crushing the beef slices.
The preparation of Xiangyang Beef Noodles is now complete.
19. Take a 20 cm diameter soup pot, add 2 liters of water and bring to the boil. Add 20 g of salt, cook the alkaline noodles for 1 minute and remove.
20. Drain and gently shake a few times to get rid of excess water and then place into a serving dish. Add more salt to taste if necessary.
Place the noodles into a serving bowl and arrange the beef slices on top. Pour over the red oil and garnish with chopped coriander and some chopped green onions if you like. Your Xiangyang Beef Noodles are ready – enjoy!
1. The beef stew will dry out in the refrigerator so either keep it in the beef soup, or wrapped in plastic wrap.
2. The butter can be bought ready-made, or you can use the butter formed on the surface of the cooled beef stew or beef soup. The easiest way to collect this butter is to put the beef stew or broth into the refrigerator or freezer, the butter will condense on the surface, and you can remove it gently with a fork.
3. Traditional Xiangyang beef noodles use ‘wozi-noodles’ or alkaline noodles. For a commercial operation, these can be cooked several days ahead, mixed with a little oil, portioned and stored in the refrigerator to save time. However, this is not necessary for the home cook.