Brasied Beef Noodle Soup

Braised Beef Noodle Soup (Tendons)

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I had my very first trip to Hongkong when I was just about 10 years old. It was a family trip, and of course, for everybody else’s, it was outright and absolute shopping and feasting-no questions asked. The trip was about family bonding given that both my parents were busy with work and the kids (that’s us) were on a summer break. I was not really into the enjoyment of neither good food nor shopping for clothes and knick-knacks at that young age. All I was thinking about was toys and the martial arts. Those were my utmost prerogatives for every trip the family made, anywhere.

Hongkong was a shopping mecca for good, quality martial arts books which were not or never available in the Philippines at that time. I began collecting at around this age; absorbing as much as I can from various authors and teachers. These books were very limited in bookstores back in the early ‘80s. Others were written just for the sake, but some were done in fine newspaper prints dating back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. For me, those were fine artwork. By the late eighties, the number of writers and masters publishing books exploded. Unfortunately, I was not able to keep up anymore and became selective on what I buy. It was only in the start of the millennium when I began writing with RAPID Journal that I re-started my small library. The magazine’s editor-in-chief carried a book collection which was overwhelmingly large (about 3 bookshelves), and that triggered my appetite for more books; used or otherwise. It was also that year I discovered the power of Tai Chi in relation to the fighting arts.

Before coming to Toronto, I trained with a British National who had been based in Hongkong for almost 20 years. He learned the system with a reputable master who wrote books in the early eighties and all the ‘secrets’ kept to me from the previous school were all taught to me in a shorter period time. Unfortunately, due to the length of learning required of the fighting system, I only sort of knew a few of the fist sets. That window of opportunity of learning from an experienced teacher was more than enough for me see beyond the art itself. My trips to Hongkong became more prevalent, and by 2002, I was teaching a small group of students. It did not pay well, sometimes not at all, but the satisfaction from studying and teaching the martial art was immeasurable. I also gained very good friends along the way; through this venture and through RAPID.

I envisioned myself as a martial art fighter, as a master of the style I learned from a highly traditional school which kept fighting techniques as secretive as possible within the brotherhood they themselves created. Newbies and ‘locals’ were generally sidelined, no matter how eager they wanted to learn or how passionately they were enthralled into the system. Most good schools at that period were all located at Manila’s Chinatown, and branches were never opened specifically to keep the traditions alive within boundaries. It was a cycle which was eventually broken by new technology and the internet. I was so ecstatic this had happened. Those schools who kept their doors closed benefited late while others eventually regretted that they were not able to prosper with the coming of the new age. Time just flew by after.

That was my short story in the fighting arts. Where does food come in? In the bustling city of Hong kong. Every penny I earned during that time was solely reserved for my Hong kong trips to learn from my teacher. I didn’t earn as much as a banker, and I struggled even just to sustain myself. I really couldn’t afford eating out in some fine Chinese restaurants in Hong kong and taste those savoury dishes one would normally see imprinted in many Chinese magazines found in airline jackets. I’d settle for noodles or BBQ, like many locals do, and for some change, already had a very hearty meal I can feast on without setting me aback; noodles, specifically Braised Beef Noodle Soup (Tendons) was my fave-still is. In Manila, whenever there was a ‘lunch-out’ announcement by the group I worked with in the bank, we would decide on either KFC or North Park, both were only a short distance from the office and they were dirt cheap.

Due to the high fat content associated with this meal, I had to cut back a little. Although, once in a while, I would eat and indulge myself a bowl in Toronto’s Chinatown or make my own. For me, it’s like Tomato Sauce or Kaldereta which you can store in the freezer for weeks. It’s a very comforting meal especially when the weather is gray and dark or when I feel under the weather.

Ingredients: Beef Broth (Soy Based)
½ to 1 lb. of Beef Shank
Beef Stock
Dried egg noodles

1 Small White Onion
A stalk of Green Onion
2-3 Slices of Ginger
1 stalk Celery
2-3 cloves of Garlic
1-2 Birds’ Eye Chilis

Star Aniseed
Black Peppercorns
White Peppercorns
Cinnamon Stick
Cinnamon Powder
Five-Spice Powder
Brown Sugar

Sauces & Spirits:
Light Soy Sauce
Dark Soy Sauce
Oyster Flavoured Sauce
Shoaxing Cooking Wine
Sesame Oil

1. Cut the Beef Shoulder in large pieces, and pat dry.

2. Heat a stockpot and pan-fry the meat. Do them in batches to avoid overcrowding.

3. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.

4. Turn the stovetop to low-medium and start sweating the white onions.

5. As soon as the onion caramelizes, start adding the stock and the sauces.

6. Let it boil to simmer. Add all the aromatics followed by spices except for the Five-Spice powder, Cinnamon powder and brown sugar.

7. Let the pot boil for 45 minutes to an hour and place it in a 300’C preheated oven. Check the meat for doneness every now and then.

8. When cooked, pick and remove all the meat from the stockpot and strain the broth into another pot.

9. Let the pot boil to simmer again on the stovetop. Add more stock or water if necessary and adjust the seasoning using the sauces. Start adding the five-spice powder, cinnamon powder and brown sugar when doing this step.

10. Soak the dry egg noodles in hot tap water and set aside.

11. Blanch or sauté some baby bokchoy, and chop some green onions.

12. In a bowl, place the noodles first and ladle the soup accordingly. Add some of the beef followed by the baby bokchoy and chopped green onions. Drizzle with sesame oil.

I really haven’t completely stopped training in the martial arts, however, my training is not as intense as before. My training is more inclined to personal improvement in relation to my age and schedule. My goal, through Tai Chi, is to look as young as possible through regular training. I do visit my new teacher every now and then for correction and train the fist sets I learned in Hongkong on my days-off at the park-weather permitting.

I still vividly remember my Binondo training about a decade or so ago. After an excruciating training with my tai chi teacher, the group would usually head to a Noodle House for some chow. That was a fun weekly gathering. I was with good company, and we always had a laugh. I wouldn’t usually leave until I had the chance to visit RAPID’s editor-in-chief’s house and gawk on his collection; searching for inspiration to write along the way for the next quarterly edition. That was my door to a dream I’ve always had as a child growing up far and away from civilization.


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When I was growing up, my parents and I used to eat out and try different restaurants after celebrating the Sunday Mass. Moreover, during the course of the summer break, I had the opportunity to see some places which, when looking back, I had never realized how lucky I was as a teen to be able to travel. My family and I went to Europe and some parts of the United States, and what I saw along that path of my life inspired me to become a 'Chef.' The 'whites' they wore for me, during those growing-up and finding 'myself' years, portrayed a sort of fascinating and powerful figure in an extremely sophisticated, higly inviting and invigorating work place; and still maintain an unblemished and clean uniform after a very busy service. That picture of a 'Chef' stuck to my head for so many years.

True enough, with meager resources left to spend for the youngest, that dream never happened. Life went on. I went to university and studied an insignificant course, Business Management, and after graduating, I ended up working as a Credit and Financial Analyst in the banking industry in Manila; slugging it out in the corporate arena in Makati. It was the first taste of being called a 'yuppie' and was almost always looking forward to an after-office eating and drinking extravaganza in the expanding and growing Makati Business District; and, of course, the weekend.

Anyway, forging ahead to my life today, that dream as 'Chef' stayed in the back of my mind all the time that when I left the Philippines for Toronto in 2003; and after finally settling down on my own in 2005, I had started studying Professional Culinary Arts Courses in the City College to get that almost long-forgotten 'dream' going again. It was a Continuing Education Course, and more or less, students who have also shifted careers or who were trying to find work (like myself) as a newly landed found ourselves working with pots, knives and fire which I believe and I felt, everyone in class have never, ever touched during their past, professional lives.

Since then, I have been working in and out of different kitchens; flipping eggs and hamburgers, grilling steaks, shoving bread and chicken in a 500'C oven, and almost anything that can be either deep-fried or toasted just to serve hungry, sometimes pesky, customers. I became a 'grease' cook; a short-order cook with no definite place of employment, and definitely not a 'Chef.'

My articles are based on the after-thoughts of my past and present day experiences in this fast-paced, starkling, and sometimes disheveling kitchen environment. I never imagined that a kitchen 'worklife' turned that way as against the 'Ideal' environment I had thought about for years. No regrets. During this journey, I've discovered food which I've never thought I'd be able to taste. I learned to appreciate wine and travel more; now that I have understood the culture of food to society. That was non-existent when I was growing up.

This journey has not ended. I'm still discovering and still learning. It's a tough industry to be in and for what's next or for where I'll finally end up in remain a sordid mystery.

12 thoughts on “Braised Beef Noodle Soup (Tendons)

  1. I have tried this last night and it’s a really great-tasting noodle dish! I don’t normally use five-spice in cooking but the dish is just amazing. Even the boys love it! My son said, “I knew it! It’s something like the one we have at the Malaysian restaurant.” :-)

    By the way, I didn’t use tendons (didn’t find it in the nearest meat store I went to) but shin instead.

  2. wow..comfort food!!! never thought that it would take that much work…but am so sure it’s well worth it!

    thanks for sharing over at Food Friday, Erwin and Iska
    maiylah recently posted Food Friday

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