My family likes to eat at a local Chinese restaurant owned by a man nicknamed Homer (Homer, as in the ancient Greek author). He got this nickname decades ago by a family friend of ours (who happened to be Greek) who was Homer’s sponsor when Homer immigrated here from China. I have no idea what his real name is, but even the other people at the restaurant call him Homer, too.
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Regardless of Homer’s real name, he has successfully run his restaurant for several decades now and my family has been a loyal patron all this time. The food is good, the service is, too, so why go elsewhere? We all have our favorite dishes and seldom deviate from them when we decide to eat there. Usually our selection will include the Special Chow Mein, as well as the Special Fried Rice, Cashew Chicken (my mom’s favorite), possibly Woh Wonton Soup (my dad’s favorite for a cold day), something that will have sweet and sour sauce in it (the choices vary), and either Ginger or Broccoli Beef. There’s plenty of options to choose from and they’re all good.
It was those last two dishes I mentioned that became the inspiration for this soup. As I tend to do, I had purchased an overabundance of my favorite brassicas- broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower– and they were languishing in the refrigerator. I had been telling myself for far too long that they needed to be used up and not just go straight to the compost pile. It just so happened that I also had an even more neglected chunk of fresh ginger root sitting in there, too. What a happy coincidence!
In a not-long-at-all amount of time, dinner was served. Only a few other ingredients were needed to transform the vegetables into a hearty soup full of flavor, and dare I say healthy, too. The fact that no one turned down additional helpings would suggest that it went over well with them, also. Thanks for the inspiration, Homer! (By the way, if you live in the Fresno/Clovis area, the restaurant is China Restaurant on the corner of Blackstone and Nees Avenues. And no, this is not a solicited promo, this is really a place we love to eat!)
Some quick notes before you begin:
This soup was made using fresh vegetables, but by all means, frozen would work perfectly fine. Just keep in mind that frozen veggies will tend to soften sooner when cooked so be mindful of how long you simmer your soup.
I really prefer mung bean noodles for this dish, but rice noodles or even ramen noodles will work just as well. The mung bean noodles are also known as cellophane or glass noodles because of their clear appearance after cooking. You may also see them labeled as Saifun noodles, or bean thread noodles.
Mung bean noodles are not brittle in the same way as other pasta noodles are, so it is almost impossible to break it up into smaller pieces prior to being cooked. I like to break it up to make it easier to serve because otherwise you will be pulling out a massive wad of noodles all at once. All it takes is a quick soak in the hot broth and a pair of clean kitchen scissors to take care of that problem. I do this in a separate bowl, then add them to the soup for the final cooking.
Fresh ginger is really going to be your best bet for flavor, rather than dried or powdered. However, it’s not always easy to find depending on where you are. If your only option is ground ginger, start with a teaspoon and add more to your taste. Word of warning, powdered ginger doesn’t dissolve easily so put the ginger powder into a small bowl and stir in just enough broth to make a slurry (a wet paste), then add this to the soup. It will blend in much better.
Leeks are another item that’s not always readily available depending on your location. You can substitute shallots or onions if you can’t find them. Feel free to throw in some green onions, too!
I use a combination of beef and vegetable broth that I make from scratch. It’s a great way to make the most of vegetable scraps and leftover bones. You can get the recipes for both by clicking the links here: vegetable scrap broth or bone broth.
The recipe below calls for sesame oil, but any kind of cooking oil is fine, including olive oil.
There are various types of soy sauce available, but do yourself a favor and get one that’s made by fermentation. Some types are just colored water with a lot of salt and fake flavoring added. They just don’t have the kind of flavor that a better quality soy sauce will provide. There are also low sodium options if you are wanting to watch your sodium intake.
Ginger Beef Noodle Soup
- 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
- 2 – 3 Tbsp. sesame oil (or other vegetable oil)
- 1 large leek, sliced, trim only the toughest green tips (about 1/4 lb)
- 1 lb. broccoli, cut into smaller pieces
- 1 lb. cauliflower, cut into smaller pieces
- 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, chopped
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 1/2 Tbsp.)
- 3 to 4 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
- 12 cups beef or vegetable broth, or a combination of both
- 4 ounces Saifun mung bean noodles (aka bean thread or cellophane noodles)
- soy sauce to taste
- salt and pepper to taste (be mindful of the salt already present in the soy sauce and broth you use!)
Put the oil in a large pot and set on the stove on high heat. Once the oil has started to shimmer, add the ground beef, lower the heat to medium and cook until the meat is beginning to brown. Add the leeks and continue to cook until they are bright green. Add all the remaining ingredients except the soy sauce and salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to maintain a simmer and cover the pot.
Continue to simmer until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the soy sauce to the soup. I suggest adding a couple of tablespoons at a time, stirring in completely, then giving the broth a taste to see if it is to your liking. It is quite easy to go overboard and have it be too salty, so be cautious of that. The flavor will also intensify over time, too. Once you have the desired flavor, add any salt and pepper you wish to have.
Place the noodles into a separate heat proof bowl and ladle some of the hot broth over them until they are nearly submerged. Try not to get other items from the soup, just broth. Let the noodles soak for a few minutes, then using clean kitchen scissors make several cuts in the noodles to chop them into smaller strands. This step is optional, but I prefer to do this to make it easier to serve the noodles and distribute them more evenly. Add the cut noodles and broth from the bowl back into the soup.
Allow the soup to simmer a few more minutes to let the noodles fully absorb the broth. You can also adjust seasonings as desired.
I find it helpful to serve this with both a spoon and a fork to help with eating the noodles. If the noodles absorb too much of the broth, you can add more to thin it as desired. You could also add more noodles if you prefer something thicker, it’s up to you! Enjoy!