Stewed Beef Noodle Soup – Gkuay Dtiow Neau Nahm Khon (or Guay Tiew Neau Nam Khon)*
A Recipe of Kasma Loha-unchit
Recipe Copyright © 1997 Kasma Loha-unchit.
Be sure to see Kasma's Blog entry on Beef Noodle Soup.
- A 2 -lb. package of fresh rice noodles
- 1/2 lb. tender cut of steak, thinly sliced in bite-size strips (optional)
- 8-10 beef meat balls, cut in half or leave whole (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
- 4 cups fresh bean sprouts
- 4 cups green-leaf lettuce pieces
- 1 cup short cilantro sprigs
- 4 green onions, white and green parts, cut in thin rounds
- Fried garlic oil - 8 cloves of chopped garlic fried in 1/4 cup of peanut oil
Stewed Beef Soup:
- A whole beef shank (about 1 1/2 to 2 lb.), or other cut with tendon
- 8 cups water
- 2 star anise
- 2 stalks lemongrass, cut in 2-inch segments and crushed
- 2-inch section fresh or frozen galangal, crushed (or use 6 dried pieces)
- 4-5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 head garlic cloves, crushed whole
- 20 white peppercorns, cracked
- 1/2 cup cilantro roots and stem sections, crushed
- 5 green onions, leave whole including roots
- 2 Tbs. black soy sauce
- 1 Tbs. palm or brown sugar, to taste
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 4 or more Tbs. fish sauce (nahm bplah)or light soy sauce, to taste
Hot Chile Sauce:
- 10 red and green Thai chiles, chopped
- 2 red serrano or jalapeno peppers, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 2-3 Tbs. fish sauce (nahm bplah), to taste
- 2-3 tsp. sugar, to taste
Place the whole beef shank and all the herbs, spices and flavor ingredients in a large pot. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered until the shank is tender (3+ hours). Remove shank and strain the broth. Slice into bite-size chunks and return to strained broth.
While the beef is stewing, prepare the hot sauce. Pound the chopped chiles and garlic to a paste with a mortar and pestle. Combine with the remaining sauce ingredients and let sit to allow the flavors to blend and mingle. Sauce should be equally sour and salty with a hint of sweetness.
Separate the noodles as much as possible into single strands. Make the fried garlic oil and prepare the remaining ingredients.
When the soup is ready, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Toss the beef meat balls into the pot and while it is cooking, use a Chinese wire-mesh basket with a bamboo handle to blanch the noodles, bean sprouts and lettuce for just a few seconds - a handful at a time, enough for one serving. Lift basket to drain quickly. Place in an individual serving-size bowl and spoon a few pieces of stewed beef and broth over the noodles.
Next, blanch a few pieces of the sliced steak in the hot water using the wire-mesh basket, just enough to cook to medium rare. Arrange beef slices over the noodles and spoon one or more pieces of meat balls into the bowl. Sprinkle with green onions, dust with white pepper and top with fried garlic oil (both garlic pieces and a little oil) and cilantro. Repeat to make more bowls of noodles.
Serve immediately with the chile sauce. Makes 8-10 servings.
Notes and Pointers
Each Southeast Asian culture has its favorite noodle dishes. The Vietnamese are fond of their pho, the Thai of their gkuay tiow reua ("boat noodles"), and the Malaysians their laksa. These noodle dishes share similar roots - they are Chinese in origin, introduced by immigrants from different parts of China who settled in the region several generations ago. Their descendants continue to run the noodle shops that abound in many Southeast Asian cities, or hawk countless bowls from push-cart stalls and paddle boats, adding color and aroma to the sidewalks and canals of the Orient.
The common origin explains why many noodle dishes of different Southeast Asian cultures are suspiciously similar in look and taste. This certainly is true of beef noodle soup. The Vietnamese "pho" is not much different from the Thai "kuay tiow reua, " or the Cantonese beef noodles you get in Chinatown noodle shops.
There are essentially two kinds of beef noodle soup – one with clearer broth and a cleaner taste and the other with a darker, richer and heartier broth. The latter is what I prefer for the colder seasons of the year because of its warming qualities.
I like to stew the beef for my noodle soup with a multitude of herbs and spices, adding a fragrant aroma that is not only inviting to the appetite but turns the concoction into something of a preventative medicinal broth. And because a good, hearty broth is produced by simmering the beef over very low heat for a number of hours, the making of it warms and perfumes the home just as much as the finished soup is warming to the tummy and the soul.
Asians like a variety of textures in their food and prefer to stew beef that is laced with tendons. Well-tenderized tendons give a contrasting gelatinous texture to the chewier meat. Many westerners are leery about eating tendon; they often mistake it for fat and think it is bad for their health. Yet, they do not realize that this same tendon is the basic stuff that jello is made out of, and it certainly is not fatty.
For my stewed beef soup, I like to use a whole shank because it is attached by large tendons to the muscles and bone. It is readily available from Asian markets with a meat counter. I simmer it whole until the entire shank is tender. This takes about three to four hours. The slower the cooking, the sweeter and more flavorful the broth.
For further contrast of texture and flavor, tripe may be added to the stewing pot. Fresh steak slices, lightly cooked to medium rare, and beef meat balls also frequently accompany the stewed beef on the noodles. The latter is available in the refrigerated compartments of Asian markets. They have a similar elastic texture to fish balls, but are a darker grayish color.
The favorite noodles served in beef soup is fresh rice noodles - the same kind used for Chinese "chow fun." Available in most Asian markets, they come in dense two-pound packages. Be sure to separate the noodles into individual strands before using, or else you will have one big lump in your soup.
The soup is served with bean sprouts and lettuce either already wilted in the broth, or separately on a side dish for dunking into the soup as each person wishes. The Vietnamese like to add sprigs of mint and basil to the side dish for bites of refreshing herbal flavors.
Finally, each partaker at a noodle meal can spice the soup any way he or she wishes with chile sauces, fish sauce and other condiments laid out on the table. Bottled sauces, such as Chinese chile sauce with garlic or Sriracha hot sauce, are available from most Asian stores. I prefer to make my own with fresh chiles as in the recipe that follows.
*Because the Thai language has it's own script, there are different ways of transliterating Thai into English. The more phonetic version is Gkuay Dtiow Neau Nahm Khon; the more usual spelling is Guay Tiew Neau Nam Khonπ. See A Note on Thai Pronunciation and Spelling.
See Also: The Spirit of Thai Cooking – comments on what contsitutes authentic Thai food.
Be sure to see Kasma's Blog entry on Beef Noodle Soup.