Sous vide “Chinese” short ribs with rice noodles

Let me preface this post by saying that this is NOT a Chinese recipe. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But there’s also nothing in this recipe that is identifiably Italian, French, Korean, or anything else. Most people, at least those cooking in the traditions of the “Western” world, expect certain things of a short rib recipe. It will probably have wine, some herbs, maybe carrots, and will likely need to be braised for a few hours.

This recipe is none of those things and I wanted the title of the recipe to warn any poor soul who happened upon my blog that this is a special recipe. I decided to create a special recipe because I have made the braised short ribs with wine, herbs, and carrots many, many times.

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I love cooking short ribs** because they’re basically a miracle in the form of meat. They tend to be cheap, easy to find, hard to screw up, and with the right cooking approach will end up so tender you could eat them with a spoon.

** A quick digression: There are two main cuts of short ribs, “English” and “flanken.” The English cut is basically a large chunk of meat hugging one rib bone. The flanken style is cut across several rib bones and the slices tend to be thinner. Flanken short ribs can be harder to find unless you go to an Asian grocery store. They are quite common in Chinese and Korean cooking (e.g. galbi).

But if I was going to do something special with these ribs, what was I going to do? I love the kind of heavily spiced, tangy sweetness often found in Cantonese dishes and decided to incorporate those flavors into this meal.

I also didn’t want to braise the short ribs, not exactly. As discussed in a previous post, almost anything that does well being braised, or cooked using other “low and slow” methods, will do well in a sous-vide. There is a lot of freedom with the timing and temperature of sous vide, depending on the texture that you want to get from the meat. I wanted something closer to steak, rather than the shredded texture. To accomplish this, I set the sous-vide to “medium” temperature and increased the cook time, using this excellent guide for determining the best cook time and temperature.

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Given that I was straying from traditional western flavors, I didn’t want to use common accompaniments to short ribs such as polenta, potatoes, or pasta, which were not in the same spirit as my Chinese-inspired rib. I settled on serving the short rib with rice noodles. But such a hearty dish requires noodles with a more substantial texture, like those found in Pad See Ew or Chow Fun.

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A normal person, especially one that lives in what is ostensibly the food capital of the world, would have gone to an Asian market and bought rice noodles there. But I convinced myself that .7 miles to the nearest Asian market was too far to go. So the real miracle of this meal ended up not being the short ribs, but rather the rice noodles that I decided to make, from scratch, like a crazy person.

I found incredible guidance on the internet for making these noodles, mostly using this video for a how-to guide and for the recipe. I also referenced this recipe for some technical tips.

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Rice Noodles

serves                  2-3
difficulty             moderate
cook time           30-40 minutes

The big variable for rice noodles is how much tapioca flour to use. I wanted something with chew, but not enough to be bouncy. In the end I went with a ratio of 3:1 rice flour to tapioca – 120 grams rice flour and 40 grams tapioca, but this is quite flexible. If I were doing it again I might replace some of the tapioca with rice flour.

These noodles can be prepared a few hours in advance. Just make sure to brush some oil over them to prevent them from sticking together. Also lightly cover to prevent from drying out.

Though many kitchen equipped for Asian cooking will have a large steamer, I made do with my large stock pot which has an insert for steaming. I then used two 9 inch cake pans for the noodles. While one pan was in the steamer, the other was cooling for a few minutes before I removed the rice noodles. Just confirm before starting that the pans that you pour the noodle mixture into can be accommodated in the steamer.

Ingredients

120 grams / rice flour
40 grams / tapioca flour
3 grams / ½ tsp salt
1½ tbsp neutral oil, such as canola oil, plus extra
1¼ cup water


  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the rice flour, tapioca flour, and salt. Use a spoon or a whisk to gradually incorporate the water. Stir slowly to minimize the amount of air being incorporated into the mixture. Stir in the oil. Let stand for 10-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare a steamer than can accommodate the pans that you will use to make the noodles by boiling about 1-2 inches of water in the bottom chamber.
  3. Brush on a very think layer of oil onto two 9-inch cake pans for the noodles using a pastry brush. You can also use a paper towel dabbed with oil to distribute the oil in the pans. Pour an even, thin layer of the rice flour batter into the pan, lifting and gently swirling the pan as necessary to ensure the pan is evenly coated.
  4. Place pan into the steamer and steam until the mixture is set, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool until you can handle the pan, about 2 minutes. Using a small knife or small offset spatula, lift the rice noodle rounds out of the pan and reserve on a plate. Brush rounds with a thin layer of oil. Repeat until you have used all of the batter, periodically re-oiling the pans. I was able to get about 7 pans worth from the batter.
  5. Let cool for 10-20 minutes, until the rice noodles are close to room temperature. Using a very sharp knife, cut the rounds into strips about ½ inch / 1 cm thick. Loosely cover and set aside until ready to serve.

Sous vide “Chinese” short rib

serves                  2
difficulty             moderate
cook time           24-36 hours, 45 minutes active cook time

A note on sous vide: There is always an alternative to sous vide, but I really appreciate the ease of using sous-vide as well as the results. I have approximated the alternative cook methods, though haven’t tested them myself. Also, don’t be afraid to cook these ribs for as long as you can. I stopped a bit early at the 24 hour mark, and really would have like to give them an extra 8-12 hours.

Ingredients
Spice rub

2 tsp black peppercorns
1 star anise pod
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic
1½ lb English short rib, about large ribs

Marinade

1 tbsp miso
3 tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup Sapporo beer or similar
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
2 tbsp aji amarillo paste (this is a Peruvian spice) or ½ Thai chili pepper, sliced (not deseeded)
½ oz ginger, peeled and cut into ½ inch / 1 cm cubes grams / tapioca flour

FOR SERVING

1 green onion thinly sliced
4 green onions, whole
1 tsp oil

  1. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the peppercorns and anise into a chunky pieces. Add the ground cinnamon and garlic and mash until the mixture is a kind of dry paste. Using a small spatula or your hands, spread this over all surfaces of the short rib. Place seasoned ribs into a large bag (I use gallon sized zip-locs).
  2. Is a medium sized bowl, combine the remaining ingredients for the marinade, whisking until the brown sugar is mostly dissolved. Pour the liquid into the bag over the short ribs.
  3. Note: skip steps 4 and 5 if using the crockpot or oven method and follow the directions for one of the sous vide alternatives-
    • Crockpot method: Marinate in the fridge at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Note: you can skip the marinating step and drop directly in the sous vide if pressed for time. Pour the contents of the bag into the crockpot. Add an extra ½ cup beer and ½ cup water. The short ribs should be barely covered with liquid. Cook on the low setting for 8 hours.
    • Oven method: Marinate in the frige at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Note: you can skip the marinating step and drop directly in the sous vide if pressed for time. pour the contents of the bag into a heavy bottomed baking dish with a lid. Add an extra ½ cup beer and ½ cup water. Cook covered at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius) for 4 hours, or until fork tender, turning the ribs every hour. Add a a bit of water if you notice the meat is getting dry.
  4. Prepare the water bath for the sous vide. Set the sous vide to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (62 degrees Celsius). When the water reaches 145 degrees, add the bag of the short ribs. Ensure no air is left in the bag. I use the water displacement method for this: Open the bag a bit (about 1-2 inches of opening) and slowly lower the bag into the water. The water will push out remaining air as you lower it. Lower until very close to the zipper of the bag, the close the bag.
  5. Sous vide the short rib at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for 24-36 hours.
  6. Remove short ribs from sous vide / crockpot / oven. Reduce the marinade by cooking in a medium heavy-bottomed pan on high heat until liquid reduces by roughly half (about 5-10 minutes).
  7. Brush the whole green onions with oil and place until the broiler for 3-5 minutes, turning once, until tender and just starting to blacken.
  8. Using tongs, dip the rice into the reduced sauce. This both reheats the noodles a bit and distributes some of the flavor form the sauce and meat into the noodles. Place the rice noodles onto serving dishes. Place the ribs on top of the noodles, spoon some of the sauce over the rib, and then top with the sliced green onions. Serve with broiled green onions.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Chong says:

    Making rice noodle from scratch is absolutely brilliant! I grew up with rice noodles (they are more prevalent than wheat noodles or rice in my hometown) and have never thought about making them on my own! I’d love to follow this recipe and give it a try!

    1. If you do try them let me know how it works out! They’re very easy to make, just takes a bit of time.

  2. Kimberly Stringer-Taylor says:

    Have to try it! Sounds yummy!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kimberly! Let me know if you try it or have any questions 🙂

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