I’ve been playing around with cinnamon a lot lately – simmering two types of cinnamon into a rich, warming tea, heaping it into oatmeal with dates or a touch of brown sugar – but my favorite new use is savory. Cinnamon plays a starring role in an Asian influenced broth and noodle dish I’ve adapted from Nina Simonds’ Simple Asian Meals. The beauty of this particular meal is that it’s really easy to make, but it does take advance planning. The beef needs to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours before you can serve this.
The cinnamon makes the broth really warming, so this was great for the sudden cold weather that’s hit our area late week. I like just the broth, partially because the cinnamon flavor is strongest that way, but by adding the noodles and spinach it makes a great complete meal. I used about 2 ounces of cooked noodles per person. At these amounts you can get about eight servings out of this meal.
Cinnamon Beef Noodle Soup
- 1 teaspoon olive or grapeseed oil
- 1 head of garlic, cloves cleaned and smashed
- 1 bunch of scallions, white parts trimmed and smashed (reserve greens to chop for garnish)
- 1 large thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and smashed
- 2 star anise pods
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 1/3 cup mirin
- 2 lbs beef stew meat cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 5 ounces shiitaki mushrooms, sliced
- 6-8 ounces soba or whole wheat spaghetti noodles
- 6-8 ounces baby spinach
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or casserole dish over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the next 6 ingredients and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water, soy sauce, and rice wines, cover, and bring to a boil. Add the beef pieces and mushrooms, cover, and bring back to a boil. Partially cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is very tender. Skim the surface of the liquid to remove any impurities and discard while the soup simmers.
When the beef is nearly done cooking, heat a large pot of water to boil. Add the soba or other noodles and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under warm water. Drain again and divide evenly among the soup bowls.
Add the spinach to the soup, stir, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it wilts. Ladle some of the meat, spinach, and broth over the noodles, sprinkle with the chopped scallions, if using, and serve immediately.