Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

updated Oct 1, 2022
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
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(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

I’ve been having a blast recreating recipes from my summer food adventures in Taiwan. Thank goodness it’s soup week at The Kitchn because I think I saved the best for last! Beef noodle soup is considered a national dish in Taiwan, and I had a chance to experience it firsthand at Lao Zhang Beef Noodles, a former winner of Taiwan’s annual Beef Noodle Festival.

I was jet-lagged and perhaps a bit delirious when I entered the noodle shop for my first meal of the trip (I refuse to count the Texas-sized bag of Peanut M&M’s washed down with Cool Ranch Doritos in the hotel minibar a meal). We were immediately swarmed with appetizers — pickled cucumbers, bean curd noodles, marinated tofu, and Coca Cola Classic to name a few — but it was the beef noodle soup that was the obvious star of the show. Nutrient-starved and cranky, the rich, steaming broth swimming with fork tender beef and piles of noodles soothed my weary soul. The flavors may have been new to me, but there was a familiarity in the soup that just goes to show comfort food is the same around the world. It was hands down the best meal of my trip.

Making the Recipe at Home

That being said, I was a little nervous about attempting this recipe at home. Not only are most of the ingredients a bit exotic compared to my usual Southern fare, but trying to duplicate a memory often ends in complete failure. Expectations are usually set far too high.

Putting the Noodle Dish Together

I was convinced the recipe was going to be both labor and time intensive; I allotted my whole day to slaving in the kitchen. To my pleasant surprise, the hardest part of this was shopping at the Asian grocery (the ability to read Mandarin Chinese would have helped immensely). Other than that, this recipe really does all of the work itself. Throw the ingredients in the pot, bring to a boil, pour a glass of wine, reduce heat, and simmer. Those Taiwanese are really on to something!

I made this recipe the day before I was planning to eat it and I’m so glad I did. It was a little spicy when I first sampled it and each flavor was a little too distinct for my taste. I decided to wait it out and adjust the flavors before serving. And good thing I did! It was absolutely perfect! Seriously, the recipe was fabulous. It took me right back to that little noodle shop, slurping broth and dripping juices all over my chin. At least from my house I could use a spoon… chopsticks just aren’t my forte.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


For the soup

  • 3 to 4 pounds

    beef shanks with bone still in (or beef short ribs)

  • 5

    garlic cloves, smashed

  • 1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

  • 1 bunch

    scallions, cut in 2-inch slices

  • 1

    plum tomato, quartered

  • 1 teaspoon

    Chinese five spice powder

  • 1/4 cup

    packed brown sugar

  • 4 to 5

    whole star anise pods

  • 2

    Thai chiles, split lengthwise (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons

    chili bean sauce

  • 1/2 cup

    Chinese (Shaoxing) rice wine

  • 1 cup

    good-quality soy sauce

  • 1

    (14.5 ounce) can chicken stock

  • 10 cups

    water, or enough to cover beef

To serve

  • 1 pound

    baby bok choy or broccoli rabe

  • 1 pound

    Chinese egg noodles or wheat noodles

  • Chopped fresh cilantro, if desired


  1. For the soup, in a large stockpot, cover the beef shanks with water and bring to a boil. Immediately drain the water and set the beef aside.(This step helps remove impurities to make a more pure soup.) Clean out the stockpot (or have another ready).

  2. Add the par-boiled beef, garlic cloves, ginger, scallions, tomato, five spice powder, brown sugar, star anise, chiles, chili bean sauce, rice wine, soy sauce, chicken stock, and water to the pot.

  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 2 hours, or until the beef is fork tender. Turn off the heat and shift the lid to allow steam to escape. Let meat stand in the cooking liquid for another hour.

  4. Remove the beef to a cutting board. Pour the stock through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into another pot. Discard the vegetable solids. Slice the beef and return to the stock. (At this point, it's best to refrigerate soup overnight, or up to three days. The flavors will improve while resting and the fat will be easier to remove.) Skim the fat from the surface, and return the soup to a boil.

  5. To serve, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the bok choy and blanch until bright green and tender, about 2 minutes. Remove the bok choy with a spider and set aside. Bring the water back to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. Strain.

  6. Divide noodles and bok choy among bowls. Ladle the beef and hot broth into the bowls. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

(Images: Nealey Dozier)