September 22, 2012

mama tran's beef noodle soup

It's funny, the things one does not know how to cook. For me, it was the food I grew up with, that I took for granted. When I started to cook I turned to pasta and italian seasonings. Even now, Asian ingredients still aren't familiar.

But so many years living away from home means I don't take the food I grew up with for granted. Living in the Bay Area again has meant that last year and this year, I was able to request my mom's beef noodle soup for my birthday. And this time I finally captured the process in photo so now I can make it for myself.

(As a side note, my mom wasn't always Mama Tran. For years my friends didn't have anything to call her. Mrs didn't accurately reflect her marital status, Ms made her seem like a stranger, and using her first name wasn't respectful enough. My sister Iris coined the term last summer and it stuck - very ingenious.)

Here's what you would need to recreate the dish for yourself (serves 4):

1 lb boneless beef shank
4 cloves garlic, minced
the equivalent amount of ginger, minced
9 cups water
2 star anise
1.5 tablespoons Por Kwan beef base
1 small daikon
2 large carrots
1/2 lb chinese wheat noodle
handful of cilantro, scallion & jalapeño for garnish

beef shank usa

First sautee the beef shank (USA!) with garlic and ginger until the outside is brown.

searing beef shank

Then add water, star anise and beef base (stir to dissolve). Turn the heat up until the broth is almost boiling, then turn the heat down to simmer.

beef broth

In the meantime, cut the daikon and carrot into chunks. Usually we do roll cut, but my mom bought this handy tool in Vietnam that imparts wave patterned cuts, so we did that.

cutting daikon & carrots

Also cook the dry noodle in boiling water. You want them a little softer than al dente, but be careful because they cook faster than Italian hard pasta. Once they're done, drain and set aside in a covered bowl.


After the broth has been simmering for about 45 minutes, add the daikon and carrots. Keep simmering for another 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

beef broth, simmered

Chop up the garnishes. Besides cilantro/scallion and jalapeño, we also had Chinese fermented mustard greens (sour and crunchy) as well as toasted peanuts.


Portion the noodles into bowls and ladle broth over it. Then top with beef, daikon and carrot pieces. Lastly, garnish to your heart's content!

beef noodle

Hopefully, eating this will be as satisfying for you as it is for me. Thank you Mama Tran!

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