Noodle soup is an all-purpose Chinese dish because it can be served any time of the day or night. Varieties abound, and the flavors and ingredients contained in noodle soups are culinary clues to Chinese regional cooking as well as a cook's training.
Lily Yuan, a professional Chinese cook in New York, often makes this hot and spicy home-style beef noodle soup.
Yuan begins the soup a day in advance, cooking the beef with the holy trinity of Chinese seasonings--green onions, garlic and ginger--to create a light broth. She cools and chills the broth and meat overnight.
About an hour before serving, Yuan slices and stir-fries the strips of beef with garlicky Szechwan hot chili paste. The paste is partially absorbed by the meat, adding a reddish color and hot taste.
The wok is rinsed with some broth in order to transfer any chili paste remaining in the wok into the soup.
After stir-frying, the meat is sliced and simmered in the broth until tender. Noodles are boiled separately and divided among serving bowls. Meat slices, green onion slivers and fresh coriander leaves finish this delicious snack.
Chinese cooks sliver green onion bottoms by hand with a cleaver. Similar results can be obtained by using the thin (2-millimeter) food processor slicing disc. If you do not have this thin disc, it may be best to sliver the onions by hand since the medium (4-millimeter) slicer creates pieces that are too large for a nice garnish.
To use the thin slicer to create green onion slivers, cut the bottoms of green onions into even lengths to fit sideways in the food chute. Stack them in the chute like logs and slice with a gentle push.
Slivers result from slicing onions sideways because onions are composed of concentric rings that divide into thin pieces when cut across the grain.
LILY YUAN'S SPICY
BEEF NOODLE SOUP
3 pounds boneless beef brisket
3 quarts cold water or chicken stock
4 green onions
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 (1-inch) cubes ginger root
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons hot chili paste with garlic
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 bunch green onions
1/2 pound thick fresh wheat noodles or fresh fettuccine
1/2 cup loosely packed coriander
Combine brisket, water, 4 green onions, garlic, ginger and salt in stockpot. Heat until simmering and cook until beef is tender, about 3 hours. Skim off fat that accumulates. Cool and refrigerate until meat is thoroughly chilled, overnight if desired.
Cut beef into lengths to fit upright in food chute. Insert thick (6-millimeter) slicing disc in food processor container. Place meat in food chute and slice across grain with firm push. Set meat aside. Strain broth from stockpot and set aside.
Combine chili paste and oil in wok. Stir-fry beef in hot oil until meat just turns brown. Add soy sauce and 1 cup strained broth. Simmer 3 minutes. Transfer meat mixture to stockpot with remaining broth. Partially cover and simmer rapidly 1 hour.
Insert thin (2-millimeter) slicing disc in food processor container. Cut remaining bunch green onions in lengths to fit sideways in food chute and insert in chute. Slice to sliver onions with gentle push. (There should be 3/4 cups loosely packed slivered green onions.) Set aside.
To serve, boil noodles in 1 1/2 quarts water until done. In individual serving bowls, place several slivers green onion and 2 or 3 coriander leaves. Drain noodles and divide equally among bowls. Add broth and meat to bowls. Garnish with additional coriander and slivered green onions. Makes 8 servings.