Versatility is what the wok is all about, and here it is used to make a soup that is hearty, savoury and satisfying, using braised beef and beanthread noodles. I discovered the dish at a modest Chinese restaurant in Berkeley, California.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Put the meat in the water and blanch for 10 minutes. Skim the surface constantly; this removes all the scum and impurities. Drain the meat and discard the water.
Add the beef to a wok, then add the Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, soy sauces, star anise, pepper, salt and stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and simmer slowly over a low heat for 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
While the meat is cooking, soak the noodles in a large bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. When soft, drain and discard the water. Wash the spinach thoroughly. Remove all the stems, leaving just the leaves.
When the meat is cooked, skim off any surface fat, add the noodles and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then add the spinach leaves and cook for another 2 minutes. Ladle the soup into a large tureen or individual bowls, garnish with spring onions and serve immediately.
© 1996 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.