STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS WITH PICTURES
You can use any cuts of the beef as long as it is good for braising. I am using sirloin tip, beef ribs, beef femur bone, and honeycomb trip. If you don’t like to eat animal organs, you don’t have to use this but do your best to collect multiple cuts of beef so you can have different textures and flavors in one pot.
Next, we are going to blanch the beef. Fill a big pot with lots of water. Add all the beef. Partially cover the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring this to a boil.
Once it comes to a boil, skim off all the scum by using a fine sieve. Blanching is completely optional, I am doing this just to get rid of the gamey beefy flavor so my soup will come out with a clean look and taste. You don’t have to if you like the strong flavor.
Transfer the beef into a clay pot. Fill the clay pot with 2-3 liters of water. Turn the heat to high. Don’t put on the lid otherwise, it will overflow when it comes to a boil.
While waiting, we can put the following aromatics and spices into a spicy bag: 1 inch of ginger, 2 scallions, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 4 bay leaves, and 2 tsp of white peppercorns.
The pot has come back to a boil now. If there is more scum floating on the top, you can fish that out by using a fine sieve. The name of this soup is called Niu Pahu (牛扒烀) in Yunnan dialect. Niu is beef. Pahu means braised until tender. So it is pretty straightforward. Add the spice bag and switch the heat to the lowest. Simmer this for 1.5 hours.
Another spirit of this soup is that it is loaded with a lethal amount of herbs. I have got here: garlic, ginger, scallion, shallot, celery, Thai bird-eye chili, mint, Culantro, and cilantro
All these ingredients need to be finely diced. If you can not collect all these herbs, it is ok to skip one or 2. Or you can use other kinds of herbs that you love. Shallot looks like mini red onion. If you don’t have it, you can use red onion; Thai bird eye chili is very spicy, you can adjust the amount base on your tolerance. I was going to use Chinese celery but I couldn’t find it today so I am using regular celery. The mint is very important, it makes the soup refreshing. Culantro smells and tastes like cilantro but 10 times stronger. I am using both because i have both. You can use one of them, if you don’t like cilantro, you can use basil or other herbs.
Cut a few large-size limes and squeeze the juice out of them.
The soup has been simmered for 2 hours now, the broth became slightly milky white, which is the way how I like. You could use an instant pot or a pressure cooker but then the broth will come out clear instead of creamy. It is your choice.
Remove all the beef and leave the broth behind. Take the meat off the bones, which is really easy as it is so tender. The femur bone usually has some cartilage at the end of the joint, I like to eat those too. Discard the bones and the spice bag.
Cut all the beef into bite-size pieces. Be careful. It is very hot. I should have waited until the meat cools down.
Put all the beef meat back into the clay pot. Bring it to a boil again. Add all the aromatics, along with some Sichuan peppercorn powder and some salt to taste. The lime juice should be the last. Add it in gradually and you should turn off the heat right after. Not all the limes are equally sour so you should taste and adjust until it is perfect.
I can’t wait to enjoy this soup. It is so good. What surprises me is that although we use so many herbs, they mainly tropicalized the broth. There are lots of fragrances going on - very garlicky, spicy, and refreshing but it doesn’t overpower the natural taste of the beef. You know what, if you cook some noodles in this soup, em, it will be amazing.