Comfort Food: Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

April 27, 2020

There are different stories of how beef noodle soup became a staple of Taiwanese cuisine: some accounts point to Kuomintang forces that fled to Taiwan, others cite more global food influences after WWII

Whatever its origins may be, beef noodle soup is a true comfort food for many Taiwanese Americans, including myself. I never formally learned how to cook at home, but this is the one recipe my mom gave me before I left for college. And no, she did not write it down or give me exact measurements, all of the details I’ve written below come from my own trial and error learnings over the years. 

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 2.5 hours+

Quantity: This recipe is Costco-sized and will probably feed 8-10 people. You *can* freeze the extra beef and soup for later!


  • 5 pounds of beef stew meat (in this case, fattier pieces are better than super lean ones), cut into 1.5-2” pieces 
  • 2-3 scallions, cut into 2-3" pieces
  • 3 inches of ginger
  • 1.5 garlic bulbs
  • 1 jar of sweet bean sauce (aka tianmianjiang or 甜麵醬), generally found in a glass or plastic 12-16 ounce jar in the sauces aisle in your local Asian grocery store or online.
  • 1 jar of salty bean paste sauce (aka doubanjiang or 豆瓣醬), also generally found in a glass or plastic 12-16 ounce jar in the sauces aisle in your local Asian grocery store or online. You want to make sure you get the plain version, since there are some funky garlic and spicy versions out there, too. They won’t ruin your soup, but they will give it some added flavor. 
  • 2 cups soy sauce
  • 100g or 3-4 ounces of noodles per serving
  • 1 pound of bok choy, or other green vegetable like spinach 
  • Optional toppings: chili oil, chili crisp, chopped scallions


  1. In a deep pan or pot (I use a large dutch oven), heat a neutral cooking oil and sautee the scallions, ginger and garlic until fragrant.
  2. Add beef to the pot and cook until each cube is just browned. If you can't fit it all in the pot, you can do this in batches and set aside the browned beef in a heatproof bowl.
  3. Turn off the heat. Remove the beef, scallion, ginger and garlic from the pot. Strain out any weird fatty cloudy bits in the oil and discard. 
  4. Turn on the heat again and add neutral oil to the pot, enough to coat the bottom. Dump the entire contents of both sauce jars into the pot and "fry" the sauces for 1-2 minutes. 
  5. Once the sauce mixture is bubbling, add the beef mixture back into the pot and make sure it’s evenly coated in sauce. 
  6. Add soy sauce and stir to break up the sauces a bit. Then add enough water to the pot to cover all of the beef. 
  7. Cover and simmer for at least 30 min. Check on the soup every 30 minutes and make sure to add more water, if needed. The longer you go, the more the beef will break down and get soft. I like to aim for 2+ hours on the stove, but you can also transfer the mixture to a slow cooker as well. 

To serve:

  1. Discard scallions, ginger and garlic from pot. 
  2. Boil water in another pot. Cook your noodles in this water, and then use this water to gently blanch your bok choy/vegetables. 
  3. Strain the cooked noodles and put them in a serving bowl. 
  4. Top the noodles with bok choy/vegetables and beef. 
  5. Taste the soup to make sure it's not too salty (saltiness will depend on how much water you added during the simmering process), and add as much soup as you'd like to the bowl. 
  6. Add toppings and garnish. 

To freeze:

  1. Wait until the soup has cooled. Discard scallions, ginger and garlic. 
  2. Portion out individual servings into freezer-proof soup containers. Stores well for up to a month. 

Note: The use of the 2 sauces are obviously a shortcut that my mom picked up somewhere along the way. I’ve made this dozens, if not hundreds of times, and I’ve had my fair share of “completely from scratch” beef noodle soups, and I have to say that I have no shame in taking this shortcut, it saves me tons of time and energy and tastes just as good. 

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