Food and Drink

Soup season is here: This beef noodle bowl is as versatile as it is tasty

Beef and noodle soup with greens and herbs

Soup season is here, and this variation on a classic Asian-inspired beef noodle bowl is easy to throw together with mostly pantry ingredients. The broth gets lots of flavor from inexpensive lesser cuts like shank, oxtail or short rib. If desired, beef and broth can be replaced with good chicken stock and leftover roast chicken. Or, this time of year, if you have a freezer full of game meat, try any lesser cuts of moose or bison — with the bone for more flavor. The garnishes are optional suggestions for maximum pleasure, but don’t let the fact that you might be missing one of two of the ingredients discourage you. Seek out a good Asian market or the international section of your favorite grocery store. Most importantly, keep tasting and adjusting the flavor, balancing spicy, sweet and sour notes until your palate is happy.

Beef and noodle soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or hoisin or, in a pinch, low-sodium soy sauce)

1 pound ribeye steak, very thinly sliced

For the broth:

1 pound beef shank, short ribs, or oxtail


1 cinnamon stick (or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

2 whole dried star anise

2 bouillon cubes (about 2 teaspoons granulated) chicken or beef bouillon, such as Knorr

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or combo sweet and thin soy sauce)

1 stalk celery plus 1 small carrot

1 whole head of pickled garlic (or whole head fresh garlic; unpeeled)

1/4 cup pickled garlic juice (optional)

For the noodles and soup:

1 (16-ounce) pack of dried rice noodles (thin or flat)

1 cup bok choy, spinach, chard, or broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces

Optional: 10-12 store-bought Thai beef balls (luk chin), thawed, if frozen and sliced in half

Garnishes: Fresh chopped cilantro and basil; thinly-sliced green onion; lime wedges

Serve with: dry chile flakes or powder; garlic chili sauce such as sambal oelek; fish sauce; fried garlic; crushed pork rinds (chicharrones)

• Combine oyster sauce and ribeye steak to coat slices well; cover and let marinate in fridge.

• Make broth: In a large soup pot, add 12 cups water; add shank, short ribs or oxtail, cinnamon, star anise, bouillon, soy sauce, celery, carrot and, if using, pickled garlic or fresh garlic, and pickled garlic juice. Skim and remove froth as water comes to a boil. Once liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low to low — you want some gentle bubbles on surface. Let simmer, partially covered, and adjusting heat as needed, for 30 to 45 minutes. Taste and add more soy or some ground black or white pepper, as needed. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Strain broth in a colander set over a large bowl or pot. Remove any chunks of meat from bones and place back in broth and discard other solids, i.e., whole spices and garlic, etc. Note: This can be done two days ahead; cover and refrigerate.

• When ready to serve, prepare noodles according to package instructions. Once noodles are cooked, strain and divide noodles, about 3/4 cup to 1 cup per bowl, among four to six serving bowls.

• Bring strained broth, and any cooked meat, to a boil. Add any greens, such as fresh spinach, bok choy, chard or kale. Add reserved marinated ribeye and meatballs, if using; cook for one minute; ribeye should be rare and will continue to cook in hot broth. Divide meat and vegetables evenly over noodles. Ladle broth over and serve at once with cilantro, basil, green onions, lime wedges and any of the optional garnishes.

Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit