First up, his video of Yong Kang and two other places. The Yong Kang soup is well known for its quality and affordability.
He has two other related videos. A beef noodle tour in two parts and a video recipe for how he makes this at home. His recipe seems influenced by the Saveur recipe I used and discuss below, but he does a number of things differently. He also includes potato because he likes potato.
The Yong Kang style appealed to me and looked to be worth trying. I'm following the Saveur recipe for this blog post, which makes a lot of soup. Well, followed it as much as I could. I had some sourcing difficulties with the beef shank.
My local asian grocer had boneless beef shank, but it seemed to me that bones were an important part of the flavor. So I ended up mixing the marrow bones with the boneless shank.
As with Strictly Dumpling's recipe, it starts with bringing the beef parts to a boil to help remove extra scum from the stock.
While that was coming to the boil, I filled a larger pot with the onion, garlic, pepper corns, tomato, star anise and chiles and ginger. Then topped with the "rinsed" beef.
The pot is very full. Soon, a really interesting aroma of ginger and spiced tomato came from the pot. It was quite appealing. The tomato gave up color to the stock fairly quickly.
Simmering now. Savuer instructs to use a sort of poaching method I've usually seen for chicken in Chinese cuisine. After an hour at a simmer, take the pot off the heat, cover and let stand for an hour. Jeff Smith does this for his poached chicken, though in that case you only bring the water and chicken to a boil, then let stand covered for an hour.
Well, it wasn't enough. The shank was still quite tough. Now collagen (gristle) breaks down into flavorful juice at 180 degrees. This is the secret of the plateau when smoking pork shoulder or when you're making a pot roast. At 160, that meat is tough and hard and dry. But you get up into the 185 range and the meat is tender and moist when you use tough cuts. I took the shank's temperature, and it was 186. But this is more than regular gristle. It borders on cartilage or tendon.
Now it could also be that my simmer isn't hot enough for the recipe as tested at Saveur. I'm cooking at 5000 feet elevation so my boiling point is only 202 F. It needed more cooking time. I gave it another hour at the simmer. You'll see I've got better fat rendering as well.
Remove the solids, reserve the meat, strain the stock. Saveur's instructions on seasoning the stock are weak. Between sugar, soy sauce and black vinegar, you can tilt this a lot of different ways.
Break up the meat into your desired chunks. Shank has a lot of interior tendon/gristle that gives that slippery but chewy mouth feel that Chinese love. Meanwhile, boil up your noodles and blanch some baby bok choy. Assemble your bowl. I'm using a lot less noodle than is traditional judging by the videos and photos. But that's just too much noodle for me.
Add the broth and enjoy. Have some extra soy, vinegar and sriracha at the table. I added four drops of sriracha.
Yes, this is pretty good soup. I'm tempted to compare it pho but it's a rather different approach and result. This is richer and heartier than pho. I like the stronger flavored vegetable accompaniment in this soup too to give you some contrast to the richness.
But there are some other variations and instructions to consider. At the second place in the opening video, they offer a chile bean paste at the table as a condiment. Cathy Erway uses chile bean paste in her stock for her version of this soup in her book The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island. She changes some other things as well in ways that I think are worth considering besides recommending three hours of cooking. Saveur went with a lot of black pepper corns, probably because it was an ingredient their readership could readily source. Cathy uses sichuan pepper corns in a lesser amount. And more rice wine and the bean paste as noted.
Having made Savuer's recipe, I'm now more interested in Cathy's version. As a compromise, I added some bean paste to the leftover broth I still have from Savuer's recipe as that's the biggest difference I think. Simmer that for a bit for the flavors to work. Visibly there was little difference beyond some floating chile flakes. But the flavor was more full as well and better balanced. Do use the bean paste.