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Beef Noodle Soup

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Many versions of beef noodle soup exist, all delicious in their own right, though the bowl that stole my heart over a decade ago was Lanzhou-style. Located in the Gansu province of Northwest China, Lanzhou is a city famous for its hand-pulled noodles. Its bowls of beef noodle soup tout five characteristic colors: clear broth, white radish, red chili oil, green herbs, yellow noodles.

Because I am not a noodle master, we will be using store-bought noodles in our soup. I recommend Asian-style wheat flour-based dried noodles that look like ghostly white spaghetti in the package. Cook them for as little time as it takes to get to al dente, because they will bloat further as they sit in the hot beef broth.

The star of this recipe is the bone broth. It contains beef bones as well as daikon radish, a whole piece of beef shank, and a handful of spices. Time is the star ingredient: You must set aside 4 hours for the broth to work its magic, or you’ll risk not extracting all of the delicious flavor hiding inside the marrow. At the very end, we’ll add some water back in to dilute the broth and cool it down slightly for serving. MSG is optional but highly recommended!

It’s very important to let your shank chill in the fridge before attempting to slice. Resting and chilling the beef will allow the protein structure to set up and gel, so that when you go to cut it, you will yield clean, thin slices. Be patient!

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Yields: 6 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 30 mins
Total Time: 5 hours 30 mins
2 lb.

beef bones

1 lb.

beef (preferably shank) 


(4") daikon radish, peeled




(3") cinnamon stick


(2") piece ginger, sliced


star anise pods


bay leaves


black cardamom pods

1 tbsp.

Sichuan peppercorns

1 1/2 tsp.

kosher salt

1 tsp.

cumin seeds

1 tsp.

fennel seeds

1 tbsp.

granulated sugar

1/2 tsp.

ground white pepper

1/2 tsp.

MSG (optional)

3 oz.

dried wheat noodles

Hard-boiled egg (optional), chili oil, sliced scallions, and chopped fresh cilantro (for serving)

  1. Rinse bones and beef three times, then transfer to a large pot. Add 6 cups water and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a bare simmer, then remove from heat. Drain and discard water, then gently rinse bones and meat.
  2. Return pot with bones and beef to medium-high heat and add 3 quarts water. Add radish, scallions, cinnamon, ginger, star anise pods, bay leaves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, salt, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, granulated sugar, and white pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and partially cover. Continue to simmer until meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours. 
  3. Transfer beef and radish to a heatproof container. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Thinly slice beef and radish once completely chilled.
  4. Keeping bones and spices in pot, continue to simmer 2 more hours. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups water and MSG, if using. Strain and reserve broth, discarding bones and spices.
  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles until al dente, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.
  2. Top with broth, a few slices of beef and radish, egg, if using, chili oil, scallions, and cilantro.
  3. Transfer any remaining broth to clean glass jars and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

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