One of the great things about Northern China are its noodle soups. Freshly-made loooong noodles immersed in a rich, tangy, sometimes spicy broth, topped with leafy greens, soybean sprouts, hard-boiled eggs, beef cubes, cilantro, whole garlic cloves, roasted peanuts or preserved vegetables – and sometimes all of those. In years past, I lived off these bowls full of flavour. So we needed to come up with a low carb beef noodle soup variety – and thanks to kelp or shirataki noodles, it turned out to not even be that hard! These noodles are an excellent replacement for the traditional wheat noodles, and the rich broth is all the same.
The recipe I use here is how a Chinese friend makes them. She loves cooking and improvising, and she is full of useful hints about how to make the most flavourful, healthy and good-looking soup.
If the ingredient list looks intimidating or exotic – don’t worry too much. You can replace hard-to-get spices with more regular alternatives suggested in the recipe. For example the chili bean paste. This kind of paste may be hard to come by in the West, so if you can’t get it, replace it with regular red chili paste. If that’s unavailable too, use 2 tbsp of unseasoned tomato puree and 1-2 dried, finely chopped chilies. You add these to your wok in the same way as you’d use the chili paste.
This is basically what local chefs, stall owners or home cooks do all the time. They all have their own slightly different variation of this soup anyway. Home cooks may slightly vary the ingredient list each and any time they cook the soup, depending on which spices or pastes they have at hand. So you can do the same.
Simmering your soup
So while this soup takes some time to be ready and boasts all these fanciful ingredients, it is actually not difficult to make. The simmering time is 2 hours but that doesn’t mean you have to stand by your pot all the time and stir. You can use the time preparing the veggies that are cooked separately, cleaning up the kitchen tools you’ve used thus far and then sit down nearby and relax.
Now to the choice of beef. This really depends on your tolerance of fats, and on how moist you’d like the meat to be. You can use chuck, short ribs, sirloin, steak or even fillet. Anything you could use for a good stew. For the leaner varieties, taste them regularly towards the end to avoid overcooking which makes them a little dry or hard to chew. And buy a chunk and dice it yourself! Quality is better than pre-cut meat.
You cook the beef with most spices in a large pot for at least an hour. Towards the end of this time, you prepare all other ingredients such as noodles, egg and veg separately, before everything goes into large serving bowls together for a steamy and delicious soup. Whatever you use, you will end up with a tasty and traditional home-cooked bowl of low carb Chinese beef noodle!
A word on storage: In a sealed container, the stock can be stored inside the fridge for a few days and also frozen. The meat can be stored inside the stock when refrigerated or frozen. But don’t add any noodles or the vegetables when storing them as they’ll change texture. When you pull out the stock, prepare fresh veggies or noodles.
Alternative low carb noodle varieties
If you can get hold of tofu skins in an Asian grocery store, they make for a great low carb beef noodle soup as well. Just cut them into fine stripes and throw them into the broth right before serving to warm them up a little. They don’t emit anything that would change the texture of the soup so can be boiled inside the broth. Shirataki noodles, made from the Japanese konjac yam, also work well in this soup.
For the traditional high carb version, use Chinese wheat noodles from an Asian grocery store. They need to be boiled separately just like the low carb pasta to prevent the starch mixing with your broth. Boil them according to package – usually they need no more than a few minutes.
Goodness from the North of China: Beef noodle soup with low carb kelp pasta! Add to it eggs, green leaves and soybean sprouts, and lots of spice.
for 4 servings
600g good quality beef, diced (by yourself)
2 tbsp coconut or rapeseed oil
1/2 sprig leek, white or green parts, cut into 2cm chunks
10g fresh ginger, cut into a few thick slices
3 tbsp soy sauce, coconut aminos or tamari
2 tbsp of rice wine (optional)
2 or more tbsp chili paste or chili bean paste (if unavailable, use tomato puree plus 1–2 dried chilies, finely chopped)
1 tbsp fennel seeds
3pc of star anise
6 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom capsules – alternatively use green ones, but the taste is slightly different
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tsp coconut sugar or Sukrin Gold
4 eggs, hard boiled
350g kelp noodles (actually you can use a bit more or a bit less, according to how hungry you are. It doesn’t affect the intensity of the soup’s flavour as they’re cooked separately)
250g bak choy
four handfuls soybean sprouts – one for each serving bowl
- Bring 2 Litres of water to the boil in a large pot. Meanwhile, put a wok or non-stick pan to medium heat and add 1 tbsp of coconut or rapeseed oil. Stir-fry half the leek and half the ginger, as well as star anise, cardamom capsules, bay leaves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, sichuan pepper for a few minutes until fragrant. Put all the wok’s content into the boiling water and bring back to the boil if needed. Add the beef cubes once the water is boiling again. Turn heat down a bit and simmer your soup for one hour.
- After about one hour, heat your wok again with another tbsp of oil. Add to it the second half of the ginger and leek and stir-fry for a minute. Mix in the chili paste and keep stirring. When the paste changes color, after about a minute or so, add soy sauce. rice wine and coconut sugar/sukrin gold. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, and then pour mix into the soup. Keep simmering for another hour or so. It’s done when the meat is tender. Taste the soup and add any seasoning to taste if needed.
- Meanwhile, cook the other ingredients separately. They are added directly to the serving bowls. First hard-boil the eggs. Then cook the kelp noodles in salted water for about 4-5 minutes. Drain and keep warm. Then bring some salted water and a drop of oil to the boil and blanch first the bak choy and then the soybean sprouts – no more than 2 minutes each.
- For serving, cut the eggs in half. Pour the broth and meat into large bowls for each serving, and add noodles, vegetable and eggs on top, directly to the bowl. Enjoy!
You can also use shirataki noodles or tofu skin noodles. Make shirataki pasta in the same way as the kelp pasta. The tofu skin noodles are thin stripes cut out from tofu skin sheets. They can be thrown into the large pot directly, together with other ingredients.
In a sealed container, the stock can be frozen or stored inside the fridge for a few days. The meat can be stored inside the stock when refrigerated or frozen. But don’t add any noodles or the vegetables when storing them as they’ll change texture.
- Category: soups
- Method: chop and simmer
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Serving Size: 1 bowl
- Calories: 379
- Fat: 17.7g
- Carbohydrates: 8.5g net carbs
- Protein: 44g