Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spicy Chinese Beef Noodle Soup

Spicy Chinese Beef Noodle Soup

This recipe is close to what I ate in the 80's at a long gone Chinese restaurant. My husband and I used to go there with my older sister and her husband to slurp noodles and sweat. There was serious heat in those noodles with succulent, tender chunks of beef and lots of little red chilies. My version is milder but it doesn't have to be. Just toss in more dried red chilies and slow cook to infuse the broth with spiciness.


1-1/2 to 2 lbs beef such as brisket, chuck roast etc., something with some marbling so the result is not dry. Cut to bite-sized pieces - boiled for about a minute or two, then drained and rinsed – this removes impurities. (Tendons would be good to add too.)
2 tbs grapeseed or safflower oil
4-6 tbs hot chili bean paste (depends on how spicy you want it).
1 qt beef broth and extra chicken broth as needed
1-1/2 to 2 inch chunk of ginger smashed a bit
1-2 whole star anise
2 green onions, trimmed and left whole
4 tbs Shaoxing rice wine (no substitutions)
1 tbs dark soy sauce
3-4 cardamom pods
dried red chilies (as much as you want. I use mild chilies for flavor and hint of heat.)

Optional: 1 tsp whole Sichuan peppers

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker, add the chili bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is a “red and fragrant.” Add beef and mix to coat. Then add broth, unpeeled ginger, star anise, green onions, Shaoxing rice wine, dark soy sauce, cardamom pods and extra chilies or peppers to your taste. Stir around a few times making sure nothing sticks to bottom of pan.

Cook on high pressure for 30 mins, quick release to check doneness. If meat is not tender, reseal and cook longer as needed. Or without a pressure cooker, cook on low for about 4 - 5 hours. Slow cooking will intensify the flavors and if you have time, is the preferred method. If slow cooking, add chicken broth or water as needed

When beef is almost done, cook some noodles (Chinese or spaghetti or make your own noodles) and set aside in 4 bowls.

Remove beef from pot. Strain liquid into sauce pan make sure there are no pods or seeds or green onion bits. Taste it and add chicken broth to thin (if needed). Heat to boiling. When broth is very hot, add about 1 cup of the cooking liquid/broth to each bowl, top with beef and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and green onions and a drop of sesame oil.

In the bowl before adding the broth, I usually add some vegetables such as shredded cabbage, or chopped baby bok choy. You can even add a few sliced jalapenos if it’s not hot enough.

NOTE: I used half chili bean paste and half koukujong. I threw in some yellow bean sauce. I used Better Than Bouillon Beef broth because it is better than bouillon. When I used brisket which is a tougher piece of meat, it took an hour in the pressure cooker. When I used chuck, it took around 30 minutes. (BTW koukujong is NOT gluten-free)

Another Note: If you have time, chill broth and skim fat. If don’t have time, skim what you can. Some fat is OK!

Vegetarian option: fry the bean paste and add broth and fresh mushrooms (shiitakes and criminis). Stir to coat the mushrooms and then add BTB veggie broth. Throw in an extra chili or two. I’d add all the spices etc. I would add shredded cabbage and some baby bok choy maybe some fresh pre-cooked bamboo shoots too.

I found a version of this recipe on the internets and modified the heck out of it. I lost the original citation but thank you to the mystery blog that gave me a good starting point!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the urge to purge!

 This is from a homeschooling group I subscribe to and I thought it was lovely...but then again, I frequently have the "urge to purge"!  A touching story...
  When I was 5, my father left and I didn't see him for a long time. I missed him so much and longed for him. I cried myself to sleep so many nights. When I was 8 he brought me a music box from Okinawa, Japan. From then until I was about 16 I listened to it every night and thought about him. After age 16, I decided it was bringing me down to continue like that and I put it away. But I kept it with me, year after year, move after move and it always stayed near. It had become my replacement for him. Sometimes I would get it out, wind it up and listen to it. But I had to be in a good place because it would really hurt.
  When I was 38 and still estranged from my father Hurricane Ivan (the year before Katrina) blew into my world. It took out several out buildings and all the items from them were strewn as far as I could see. It looked like tossed salad, debris everywhere. I stepped onto the grass and leaned down and saw a piece of the music box. I had no idea it was in this building. I just knew it was in the top of my closet. But, no, here was a piece of it. I looked around and saw more and more pieces of it. I dropped to the wet soggy ground and held the pieces in my hand and cried. I HATED this hurricane and my father for being gone and for doing this to me. I was truly broken now. My heart physically ached. But then suddenly like a brick upside my head, I had one of those ah ha moments.
  I was the problem.
  He had tried to reach out to me several years before and I ignored him. I was the problem, refusing to deal with the tough reality of forgiveness and choosing instead to cling to this inanimate object. I knew that my lesson was to let go. The things you own, end up owning you. I knew I had to embark on the journey of making peace with my father and letting the old identity of abandoned daughter, go. I had to grow up and replace that beautiful music box with a beautiful relationship with him. It wasn't easy and we both worked at it but over the years we developed something I would gladly trade any music box for. Holding him is much more wonderful than listening to that music.
  So today I find myself having just had probably the largest yard sale I've ever had. I let go of things that I could easily have decided that I can use. But I learned that purging, really purging, traveling light, creates a feeling that's indescribable. I see that owning lots of stuff makes you have to lug it around, store it, maintain it, it becomes a chain around your ankles. The joy at the yard sale of seeing people's eyes at the ridiculously low price and getting things they really needed for so cheap, was the most amazing experience. Instead of putting prices on everything, I asked them what they thought it was worth. And whatever they said, I said "sold". My husband got into it too and sold a nice large table saw for 5 bucks. Watching our things march away in droves and the driveway slowly become empty wasn't the least bit upsetting. And we now had freed up the $50 a month to the storage unit place. I have lots of empty drawers at home and the empty storage bins are stacked up. And best of all, I made $200 that I gave my husband toward replacing his camera that was stolen. His passion is photography and now we are one step closer to having him back in his element.
  But the biggest surprise is how wonderful and light I feel. I am giddy with freedom. I really have so few things left and I feel so happy about that. Are you feeling the need to purge lately? It seems like many of us are. Are you clinging to "things?" Are they going to be able to replace that person who gave it to you? Can you get by, do you have the ability to make do without it? Then perhaps someone else could really use it. After our yard sale, my husband started going through all his old stuff he has been hanging onto. It was nice to see him let go of things that belonged to his father, things from his childhood, things that no longer served a purpose. I sat with him last night and watched him move through his process, sorting what goes and what stays. He woke up different this morning. He seemed lighter and happier.
  I continued today, listing lots of stuff on facebook and the items are going quickly to homes that will use them.
  This process has created love and given love and freedom that affected not just us, but all the other people who needed what we set free. What can you let go of? I wish you discernment and peace.