When I saw a recipe for “Beef with Noodles” in one of my books, I had to laugh. I’m sure they mean “beef noodles”, I thought. I live in the city that is famous for this meal. “World-famous,” my students would say. In China, every city seems to be “world-famous” for some kind of food. Well, these are at least China-famous. If you live in Lanzhou, people constantly ask if you like them (and thank you if you say yes, as if their own mother had prepared them). If you travel in China, people constantly ask if you’ve tried them. Beef noodles–or, Lanzhou lamian–are a traditional Muslim food here in Lanzhou. Fresh noodles are pulled by hand by people who would kill at Cat’s Cradle, and thrown into a simple beef broth. If you are lucky, your beef noodles will include beef. More than likely, however, one piece is all you’ll see.
The beauty of making your own? You can have as much beef as you want! And that’s what I intended to do.
I have already made beef noodles once before. In fact, it’s the only Chinese food I knew how to make before this challenge. I wrote about it on my Examiner page here. I decided to use the recipe that I put together, minus a few things to make it more traditional (for example, traditional recipes don’t use soy sauce, whereas Han Chinese recipes do). This time, I would forego making my own noodles (because I suck at it), and used fresh noodles that I bought at the farmer’s market.
Unfortunately I don’t have too many pictures because I had every camera lover’s nightmare happen: water got into my camera! I was taking photos of the boiling broth and noodles, and the inside of my lens got foggy.
Having lost a camera in the past to this malady, I immediately started freaking out. I put the camera into my rice bowl. Being impatient, I opened it up, hoping to air it out. It seemed to work a alright, but I didn’t take any chances. I closed it back up and let it sit in the rice overnight. Thankfully, she seems to be doing just fine.
All in all, everything turned out alright. If you try it, I would suggest tasting your broth before adding it, to be sure it’s not too salty. I use chicken broth instead of beef, because it’s near impossible to find beef bullion here. But if you’re feeling adventurous, I’m sure you could make your own beef broth.
The Recipe! (About 3 Servings)
What you need:
- 5 Scallions, diced
- 5 Cloves garlic, diced
- ¾ tablespoons Chili paste
- 2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
- 8-9 cups chicken broth
- 3 Bunches of baby bok choy
- ½ pound of Beef (thin-sliced, shredded, or small cubes).
- ½ pound Fresh flour noodles
- 1/8-1/4 cup Peanut oil
- Chili oil for topping (as much as you like)
- Cilantro for garnish (optional)
What to do:
- Heat oil, stir fry garlic, scallions, five-spice, and chili paste. Stir continuously for about two minutes to mix and keep from burning.
- Add broth and bring to a boil.
- Add beef and bok choy. Simmer, covered, for about an hour, or until beef is tender.
- Cook noodles in water for 5-10 minutes. Add to broth and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add cilantro and chili oil.
Lanzhou Beef Noodles