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Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

6 Servings

2 hours 45 minutes 45 minutes active

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Niu rou mian, or beef noodle soup, is one of Taiwan’s signature dishes. Chuang Pao-hua, founder of the Chung-Hua Culinary Teaching Center, located in Taipei's Datong District, taught us how to make the hearty meal in a bowl the slow, labor-intensive traditional way. For our much-simplified and streamlined version, we use beef shanks, as the combination of bones and meat yield a richly flavored, full-bodied broth and tender, shreddable beef with a couple hours of simmering. Fragrant star anise and Sichuan peppercorns flavor the soup, along with toban djan, a spicy, fermented chili-bean paste. It's sold in most Asian markets, but if you can't find it, substitute with 2 tablespoons white miso mixed with 4 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce and 2 teaspoons soy sauce The soup is lightly spicy; you can add more toban djan or some ground Sichuan pepper at the table for more heat. Chinese wheat noodles of any thickness worked well, as did Japanese udon and long, thin pastas such as spaghetti.




Don’t forget to skim the fat off the strained cooking liquid. This prevents the soup from tasting greasy. And don't rinse the drained noodles under cold water. Lukewarm water will keep them from cooling down completely.

2 hours 45 minutes

45 minutes active


  • 1

    tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 6

    garlic cloves, smashed and peeled


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Suzanna Y.
November 20, 2022
I am Taiwanese and this recipe is absolutely genius! The amount of work and time is not daunting yet the outcome is delicious and with all the right flavors. I had no trouble finding the right cut of meat at Publix. I made fresh wide wheat noodles with a Kitchenaid mixer / pasta attachment. Thank you for developing this recipe.
Jennifer B.
May 5, 2024
Fantastic flavors
I had never cooked with beef shank before, so thanks for teaching me. Absolutely fabulous broth. I ended up using Ramen noodles and it was great.
Lorene S.
January 9, 2023
Substitution question
I would love to make this recipe but am allergic to chili peppers of all kinds. Would black bean paste work instead of the toban djan?
Karen H.
July 31, 2022
Simple, but wonderful depth
Takes planning to have ingredients on hand and often sub bone-in spare ribs for shanks when not in season. Prep all ingredients, even the water, before you start as it moves quickly! Portion bok coy and noodles separately to take for lunches in the week
Neill M.

Beef shanks are extremely difficult to find. Would bone in short ribs work (or something else)?

Cindy S.

if you can't find the shanks in your local market, nearly all Mexican grocery stores have a great butcher shop and beef shanks are one of their top cuts they sell and they are so reasonably priced.

Lynn C.

Hi Neill -

Unfortunately, short ribs are quite meaty and fatty and don't have much (if any) marrow in their thin, narrow bones. For this recipe, the shank is not only there for the meat, but also because the shank bones are rich in marrow and gelatin, which give the soup its silky texture. If you can't find beef shank, we would probably recommend substituting boneless beef chuck cut into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes combined with a few marrow bones. Beef shank and marrow bones are sometimes not displayed in the meat section, but we often find that the meat department has these in the back and will sell them to you if you ask!

The Milk Street Team

Paul H.

Excellent. Before the pandemic meant we could no longer go to the office, I would eat at Xi'an Famous Foods in New York at least once a month. Of course this isn't the same (I am not handpulling fresh made noodles, among other things) but it lets me at least get my fix for a spicy brothy vegetable noodle soup.

Justin P.

Would gochujang be an appropriate substitute for the toban djan?

Lynn C.

Hi Justin -

Toban djan is fermented bean paste whereas gochujang is fermented chili powder and glutinous rice so their flavor profiles are quite different. The Lee Rum Kee brand of Chili Bean Sauce is pretty prevalent in most supermarkets. However, as a substitute we recommend a combination of 2 tablespoons of white miso, 4 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, and 2 teaspoons soy sauce.

The Milk Street Team