We Chinese (as a race) love noodles, maybe because we invented it. While noodles come in all shapes and sizes, served in a multitude of ways, beef noodles is the quintessential noodle dish; That’s noodles with beef, not made out of beef.
This is still my favourite beef noodles, although still mildly inconsistent, the soup is still packed with flavour. Beef quality has improved since my last update in 2015.
2 years later, seems like standards have dropped. While I still enjoyed the tasty broth, the quality and consistency of the beef used has fluctuated comparably. Take this dated review with a pinch of salt, your moment may vary.
For some reason, beef just pairs superbly with noodles. Practically every culture I’ve come across has some sort of beef noodle dish. One of the most memorable I have had was Taiwan’s braised beef noodle (红烧牛肉面), crudely translated into english as Red-braised beef noodle. This is a soup noodle dish with slow-braised beef brisket in a wonderful rich full bodied broth that can be slightly spicy. You will find this in any restaurant that claims to serve Taiwanese cuisine. I’ve had several versions of this across Shanghai, and one of the best while I was in Taipei several years back. Most Taiwanese will probably have their own die-hard favourite restaurant serving this dish.
To-date, the best beef noodle that I have tasted in Shanghai, is at the taiwanese restaurant chain, Chu Chu Yuan (楚楚圆馅饼粥). They have several stores in Shanghai, I have only been to the one near Xin Tian Di and frequent the one at Sun Moon Light shopping mall.
Costing only ¥25, you are presented with a bloody big bowl of noodles, with at least 5-6 big chunks of beef and generous serving of a luxurious broth that has been cooked for hours. When we used to visit the shop at Xin Tian Di, the dish was often sold out at as early as 2pm, because they ran out of the broth, and they said they can only cook two batches a day, one for the afternoon service and evening service.
The broth is fragrant and has a complex composition of spices, yet is so perfectly balanced that you just can’t stop slurping it.
That said, the beef quality can be a little inconsistant. Sometimes you get lean cuts that perhaps need another hour in the stew, but more often than not, you get a very tender brisket that has a little bit of fat paired with muscle, and packed with alot of beefy flavours.
They serve 2 variations of the dish, one with knife-cut noodles, Dao1 Xiao1 Mian4 (刀削面) which is very roughly cut noodles, and the other with traditional noodles, Jia1 Chang2 Mian4 (家常面) which is the standard thin noodles. You need to order the Jia Chang Mian, because that soaks up the soup better and I find it more pleasant on the whole, as compared to the knife-cut noodles which have more bite and just doesn’t seem to come across as a noodle. If you don’t state your preference, they will by default serve you the knife-cut noodles.
This is my go-to place for a good beef noodle and comfort on a cold, rainy day. Surprisingly, beef noodle isn’t their signature featured dish, they have a magnificent beef pastry (牛肉馅饼) that is pack full of beef juices and a delicious filling. Their pot-stickers are also very good, paired with their sweet plum sauce.
But whatever it is, give the beef noodles a try, and you will thank me for it.