Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mian)

This soup has many layers of flavor! The broth has spice, sweetness, and umami. The beef is tender and the noodles are chewy! You will love it!

Photo by Allison of culinarycupcake.com

Niu Rou Mian or Beef Noodle Soup is a very popular Taiwanese dish. According to legend, the soup was created during the mid twentieth century in the military villages to accommodate with the large amount of mainland people moving to the Taiwan. The dish has influences from the Sichuan province with its incorporation of Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean sauce. It is up for debate whether this soup is Taiwan’s “national dish”, but it is still a favorite amongst Taiwanese citizens and visitors as well.

I was inspired to make this dish after re-watching one of my favorite movies Eat Drink Man Woman. The movie is set in Taipei, Taiwan and tells the story of a widower, his three grown up daughters, and how food connects them all to each other. The movie has a ton of iconic scenes with people cooking and eating food. There is one scene in particular that always makes me feel all warm inside. It is a sweet scene where the youngest daughter takes a heart-broken friend to lunch to cheer him up. They order bowls of noodle soup from a street vendor. Even though he is sad, she tries to persuade him to eat because the food is delicious and will make him feel better. After he takes a bite, his eyes start to brighten and his mood begins to be less bleak.

As much as I love that movie, and as much as I love eating Taiwanese food, I had not cooked a lot of it in my past. Thus, I went to the library and found a book on Taiwanese cooking. I looked at noodle soup recipes and saw one that appeared particularly delectable. I got the ingredients from a local Taiwanese grocery store by me and started cooking. I really enjoyed how the broth was made with water and spices versus using just beef broth. I felt that the process helped me build a lot of complex flavors. When the soup was finished I fell in love. The Sichuan peppercorns gave the soup a lovely bouquet. The beef was nearly melt in my mouth tender, and the broth had so many layers of flavor. First, I was hit with sweetness, then the spices came into play, and at the end the umami came into effect. I had a lot of fun making and eating this soup, I hope you enjoy it just as much!

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mian) Recipe

Serves 3-4

Specialty Tool: Heavy bottomed soup pot with a lid or a Dutch oven

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours and 20 minutes

Beer Pairing Suggestion: Lager

Drink Pairing Suggestion: Black tea


1 pound beef, chuck or boneless shank, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 inches peeled fresh ginger

2 whole scallions, chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 small fresh red chilies (preferably Thai chilies)

1 large plum tomato

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons chili bean sauce

1/2 cup rice wine

5 cups water

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1/4 cup dark soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns

2 star anise

Oil for searing

To Serve:

1 lb Asian wheat noodles of any width

3 to 4 heads baby Bok Choy

1 scallion, chopped


Heat the heavy bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven to medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. Sear the beef until both sides are browned, about 5 minutes.

Work in batches to not overcrowd the pot. Repeat until all the beef is browned.

Set aside the beef to a separate dish.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the same pot over medium heat. Add the ginger, scallion, garlic, chilies, and tomato.

Cook for 3 minutes, until vegetables are soft.

Throw in the sugar and let it dissolve in the juices for 1 minute.

Toss in the beef and the chili bean sauce.

Pour in the rice wine. Scrape the bottom of the pot of the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to boil and boil for 1 minute.

Pour in the water and the soy sauces.

Add the five spice powder, peppercorns, and star anise.

Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Cover and cook for 3 hours.

Occasionally during the cooking process, skim the scum off the top of the soup.

While the broth is cooking prepare the wheat noodles and Bok Choy.

Cook the wheat noodles to package directions. (Typically you will boil the noodles for 3-5 min). Then place the noodles into individual serving bowls.

Blanch the Bok Choy by boiling the vegetables in a pot for 1 to 2 minutes and then immediately place the Bok Choy into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and keep the leaves green.

Place the Bok Choy on top off the noodles. Sprinkle chopped scallions into each bowl.

When the broth is flavorful and the chunks of beef are tender the soup is ready. Remove the ginger. Ladle the broth and the beef over the noodles and vegetables.

Serve hot.

Want more flavorful beef soup recipes? Try my recipe for Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue!


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