Around the World in 30 Soups: This month we’re collaborating with chefs, cookbook authors, and our own Kitchn crew to share a globetrotting adventure in soups from countries and cuisines around the world. Today’s stop: Taiwan.
Taiwanese beef noodle soup, or niu rou mian, is a must-have for anyone visiting Taiwan — and a source of homesickness if you’re Taiwanese and abroad. Fortunately, it’s very easy to make at home. With its long-simmered slices of tender beef and hearty broth with hints of chili and star anise, it’s a comfort food of mine as well.
My mom, who was born and raised in Taiwan to parents from China’s Hunan Province, would often make hongshao (meaning “red-cooked,” or soy sauce-based) stews on the weekend, often with beef and some hard-boiled eggs that dyed brown in the broth. (The eggs would then be saved for snacking with or without the rest of the stew.) She always used star anise and a bit of chile sauce, so her formula was pretty similar to the typical Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup broth.
It’s widely believed that this hallmark of Taiwanese cuisine was created within the military villages set up to accommodate the influx of mainlanders at the middle of the 20th century. There is nowhere else a noodle soup quite like it, although the dish has conspicuous influences from Sichuan province: chili bean sauce and Sichuan peppercorns. Some call it Taiwan’s “national dish,” while others argue that Danzai Noodle Soup is more representative of older, more traditional Taiwanese cuisine. Regardless, its deeply savory, delicious broth has made it a popular favorite on the island, and amongst visitors, too.
—Cathy Erway, author of The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island