The city of Lanzhou (pronounced Laan-joh) in China’s Gansu Province is known for its beef noodle soup, made all the more special with hand-pulled noodles. As the weather here in Seattle gets chilly, the skies shift to gray, and the rain becomes a familiar sound, a steaming bowl of soup can be just the thing to warm body and soul. Oxtail soup, with warm, Chinese-inspired flavors and plenty of noodles to slurp, is the perfect comfort food for fall and winter.
There are several great noodle factories right here in Seattle, so it’s easy to get that authentic flavor without learning this skill (though it could be a fun family activity!).
One of these local noodle producers, Wan Hua, is the source of the pan mee noodles Jack Wynne, chef de cuisine at Snoqualmie Casino, uses in this version of this Chinese classic, oxtail soup, served at 12 Moons Asian Bistro.
Wynne’s affinity for soups goes back to his childhood. “Soups are the first things I cooked by myself as a kid. I was developing my own soup recipes when I was 11 years old.” Now, at 12 Moons Bistro, his experience with Japanese cuisine (he attended the Tokyo Sushi Academy in 2015) helps guide his work with the restaurant’s Asian- and Southeast Asian-inspired menu.
Recipe for Lanzhou-style oxtail soup
The ingredient list might be long but don’t let that intimidate you.
Time involved — 4 hours
Makes four servings.
- 2 quarts beef stock (use reduced-sodium or unsalted)
- 2 ounces celery, large dice
- 4 ounces yellow onion, large dice
- ½ ounce (4-5 cloves) fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
- ½ ounce (about a 2-inch piece) fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
- ½ cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 1 tablespoon Knorr Chicken Base Powder
- 4 pounds beef oxtail
- 1 pound beef brisket (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Peel of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 cup green onion, sliced
- ½ cup tightly packed chopped cilantro
- 4 ounces daikon radish, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
- 1 pound fresh Asian noodles (pan mee noodles or ramen noodles work great if you can’t find hand-pulled noodles)
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons Chinese hot red chili oil (recipe below)
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Dry the outside of the meat. Add oil to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot with a tightfitting lid and place over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil starts to smoke, turn down the heat to medium.
Season the meat with salt and ground pepper and add to the hot pot. Brown well on all sides, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the celery and onion to the pot and cook until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, black peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and star anise, turn the heat back up to medium-high, and cook until very fragrant but not more browned. Add the mirin and bring to a rapid boil.
Place the meat back in the pot, add the beef stock, then cover with the lid. Place pot in the oven and braise for 3 hours, checking after 2 1/2 hours. The meat should be fork tender.
Once the meat is done, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
Remove the cooked meats from the braising pan with tongs and set aside or keep warm in a low-heat oven. Strain the braising liquid into a fresh pot, add the orange peel and bring back to a low simmer. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt as needed. Keep in mind that the noodles will need a fair amount of salt so the broth should taste slightly over-salted or the whole dish will taste bland once the noodles are added.
Drop the noodles in the boiling water until cooked. With fresh noodles this should take one minute or less. Divide the noodles and oxtail among four large bowls (slice the brisket, if used, and add as well). Top this all with the shaved daikon radish and ladle the broth into the bowls, straining out the orange peel. Garnish each bowl with chopped green onion, cilantro and 1 tablespoon of the Chinese chili oil.
Making your own chili oil is extremely easy. It keeps for a month at room temperature in a container with a tightfitting lid, and is a great condiment to have around all the time.
- 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 4 tablespoons dried red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Add the canola or vegetable oil, star anise, cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorns to a pot and place over medium-low heat until the spices are bubbling. Once their color has noticeably darkened, turn off the heat.
Add the chili flakes, salt, sugar and sesame oil to a ceramic container with a lid. Place ceramic container under a vented stovetop and turn on the fan. Once the oil has cooled for 5 minutes pour it through a strainer into the container with the chili flakes. Caution: the oil will bubble rapidly and the smell of chili flakes will fill the air so it’s important to do this under ventilation. The bubbling should stop fairly quickly.
Allow to come to room temperature and cover. Keeps for 1 month.
If you don’t have the time to make this delicious soup, visit 12 Moons at Snoqualmie Casino. With a variety of Asian-inspired dishes, 12 Moons has something for everyone, including a spectacular view of the Snoqualmie Valley.