For a time in my childhood instant ramen was my favorite food. I would gladly eat it for breakfast if my mom would let me. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I experienced pho, and from-scratch ramen here in Portland. They are truly magical. Soups have always held a special place in my heart, or should I say belly, but Asian noodle soups have their own special level of glory. They are comforting, restorative, soothing, and filling, all in one delicious bowl.
This soup combines pho flavors with a succulent short rib braise, and noodles that can stand up to the thicker bites of hearty meat. It is time consuming, but very simple. I let the broth simmer about 8 hours, but if you own an Instant Pot, you can cut the time down. You can also make the broth in advance on a rainy day when you have time to kill and want your house to smell heavenly, and then store it in the freezer. Pull some out on another gloomy day, perhaps when short ribs go on sale, which is what I would recommend.
The recipe below makes three very hearty portions, but here’s the catch. The broth recipe actually makes more than you need for the three portions. I like to make extra to stick in the freezer or to help reheat leftovers. If you wanted you could easily use it to serve more people. Just get some extra short ribs to braise, and more noodles. Or use the leftovers to make a quick bowl of pho.
For the broth:
- 3# beef bones
- 3 leeks
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 garlic bulb
- Scant 1/4 cup star anise
- about two thumbs of ginger root, washed
- 8 quarts of water
For the soup:
- 6 short ribs
- 1.5-2 quarts broth
- approximately 3 servings of ramen or 1/4 inch rice noodles, prepared by package directions. I used Umi Organic ramen noodles here. (Go ahead and make 4 servings if that’s how your noodles come, or more, if you just want extra noodles. You have that extra broth to give you options.)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Garnishes of choice (Cilantro, green onion, thinly sliced fennel, basil, and crunchy garlic chili oil are my top suggestions, but as you wish.)
- To make the broth, first roast the beef bones at 400 degrees for about an hour. Drain off any fat, and reserve for later use. Put bones in your largest stock pot.
- Trim roots off the leeks. Cut the leeks in half horizontally and lengthwise, and rinse very well. Remove outermost layer of onion. Cut in half. Trim bottom off of the head of garlic, and rinse. Add all vegetables to the pot, along with the star anise.
- Cover with 8 quarts of cold water. (If your pot doesn’t hold that much, add what you can, and add more later!)
- Over medium-high heat, bring broth to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.
- Simmer for approximately 8 hours until the broth reduces to a little less than half. If the broth reduces too quickly, or you started with less water to begin with, add more water a couple hours in. Time is what makes the collagen and gelatin break down into a beautiful, sexy soup base.
To make the soup:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Season short ribs liberally with salt and pepper.
- Warm dutch oven over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of reserved beef fat when the pan is warm.
- When the dutch oven is hot add the short ribs, spacing them out to sear. If the pan is smoking remove from heat, and then put back on the heat when it cools off a bit.
- Sear the short ribs for about 2 minutes on each side, until they are nicely browned. (If you are doing more than six short ribs or if you have a smaller dutch oven you’ll want to sear them in batches, otherwise the short ribs will steam more than they’ll brown, and browning equals flavor!)
- Carefully drain off any excess fat.
- Add the 1.5-2 quarts of stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, and put in the oven.
- Cook for about 2:15 until fork tender, and falling of the bone. Taste broth, and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- Prepare noodles according to package. Place a serving of noodles into each bowl, along with a couple short ribs. Carefully ladle in broth. One cup of broth was enough the last time I made it, but sometimes I like more. The choice is yours.
- Garnish as you wish. Then get slurping.
- Add veggies! The first time I made this, I added quartered baby bok choy the last five minutes the short ribs were cooking. It was delicious. You could also add leftover roasted vegetables at the end. Brussel sprouts and carrots would be especially fantastic. Alternatively, add diced vegetables to your braise.
- Braise a little longer, and shred the meat. Two short ribs are usually a bit too much for me in one sitting. So if you cooked the meat bit longer, you could shred it, and feed four people.
- Use a different cut of beef. Stew meat or cut up chuck roast would be fantastic. I would plan on 4-5 oz per person.