Beef and sotanghon (vermicelli noodles)

Minor renovations in the house started today. Since we’re far from the center of the town, my husband suggested that I cook extra for lunch to include the workers. It turned out that they brought packed lunches but the half kilo of sotanghon (vermicelli noodles) that I cooked was gone by 4.00 p.m anyway. More than half was consumed over lunch and the remainder for merienda (mid-afternoon snack).

Actually, a lot more food was consumed during the day. My older daughter and her classmates gave a surprise bash for their class adviser last schoolyear and I prepared baked spaghetti as her contribution to the pot luck party. That’s 400 g. of uncooked pasta. She brought most of it but I made sure that there was enough “leftover” for her sister. I started cooking the spaghetti as soon as I woke up because it had to be ready by 10.00 a.m. I cooked the sotanghon right after that so you can just imagine the kind of morning I had. With the pounding, grinding and welding all day, and my study table displaced while renovations are ongoing, well… it’s been quite a day. beef and sotanghon (vermicelli noodles)

Sotanghon is a variety of rice noodles. Thin and transparent, it is more pricey than the cheap bihon. While bihon is good for dry noodle dishes, sotanghon is more versatile–it can be cooked as a dry noodle dish or as a soup dish. Actually, if one considers how much liquid the sotanghon absorbs, it doesn’t turn our to be so expensive because the half kilo of dry sotanghon yields more after cooking.

The most common way of cooking sotanghon in the Philippines is with chicken meat and wood ears (recipe here). The dish is colored with atsuwete (annatto) to give it a reddish tinge.

Sotanghon is also an important ingredient in Japanese cuisine–it is what you find in sukiyaki, for instance. The beef and sotanghon dish that I cooked earlier was actually a dry version of the Japanese sukiyaki–salty and sweet with a hint of spiciness.

Ingredients :

To cook the beef :

500 g. of uncut beef brisket
some beef bones
a whole garlic
2 whole onions
a bay leaf
some peppercorns
a bunch of leeks

To complete the dish :

500 g. of sotanghon
1 head of garlic, peeled and minced
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
half a head of cabbage, shredded
12 shiitake mushrooms, stems cut off and the caps sliced thinly
a bunch of wansuy (cilantro or coriander leaves), leaves and stalks cut into 1-inch lengths
a bunch of onion leaves, cut into 1-inch lengths
about 6 c. of beef broth
about half a cup of light soy sauce (more if the beef broth is bland)
about 3 tbsps. of sugar
about 4 tbsps. of cooking oil

Cooking procedure :

Place the beef in a casserole. If you have beef bones, add them in–they will improve the flavor and the texture of the broth tremendously. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove the scum as it rises. Add the rest of the ingredients, season with patis, and simmer until the beef is tender. Remove the beef from the broth and cool for about 10 minutes (longer if possible–cooling the meat makes slicing easier) before slicing thinly. Strain the broth and set aside.

Soak the sotanghon in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Heat the cooking oil in a large shallow pan. Saute the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the beef slices and pan fry for a few seconds. Pour in the soy sauce, add the sugar and stir. Add the vegetables, including the mushrooms, then the drained sotanghon. Pour in about 4 cups of beef broth. Stir to distribute the vegetables evenly. Simmer until the broth has been absorbed by the noodles. If the sotanghon is not tender enough, add another cup of broth, then simmer as before.

And that’s it. Simple, huh? Well, less is more. The flavorful beef broth, the spices and the mixture of light soy sauce and sugar are all you need to make this wonderful dish.

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