Beef and tomato noodles

Beef and tomato noodles

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

If there’s one ingredient that’s a revelation to the food tourist in China, it’s vinegar. There are a few notable centres of production: in Zhenjiang (previously spelled ‘Chinkiang’), in Jiangsu Province, and in the northern city of Taiyuan, in Shanxi. Made from rice, water and salt and according to processes of natural fermentation, the best Chinese vinegars are worthy of any Italian balsamic, with mellow, full and complex flavours and a slightly sweet edge. In Shanxi, people routinely drink a little for medicinal purposes, and it’s not unheard of to take a bottle with them when they travel. We love it in cooked dishes too, as in this meaty braise for noodles.


Quantity Ingredient
10 dried wood ear fungus
2 boneless beef shins, trimmed
100ml vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, finely shredded
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons sichuan peppercorns
1 black cardamom
1 piece cassia bark
600g tomatoes, chopped
80ml black rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 litre Beef stock
large pinch ground fennel
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
500g fresh, flat wheat noodles
chilli flakes, to serve
coriander leaves, to serve


  1. Put the wood ear fungus in a small heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes, or until softened, then drain. Remove any hard bits from the wood ears and tear into large pieces. Set aside.
  2. Trim the beef and cut into 5 mm thick slices. Heat about one-third of the oil in a wok over a medium–high heat, then add half the beef and stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until browned. Transfer to a large saucepan. Repeat with another one-third of the oil and the remaining beef.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the wok, then add the onion and ginger and stir-fry for 3–4 minutes, or until starting to brown. Add the cumin seeds and Sichuan peppercorns and cook for another minute, or until fragrant. Add the mixture to the beef in the pan, along with the cardamom, cassia, tomatoes, vinegar, soy sauce, stock and fennel. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, skimming any fat off the surface as necessary. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hour, then add the wood ears and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is very tender. Remove the cardamom and cassia and season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for 2–3 minutes (or according to the packet instructions), or until softened, then drain well. Divide the noodles among bowls, ladle the meat mixture over the top, then sprinkle with some chilli flakes, garnish with coriander and serve.
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