Chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, mac n' cheese. All these come to mind when searching for the perfect comfort food...in America. It's all what was comforting to you as a child, I suppose. Consequently, cuisines that top my comfort menu would include: rice porridge with preserved duck egg, egg and oyster omelettes, jiaozi, and Chinese beef and carrots stew. Somewhere between my middle school social crises and current homeschooling-parenting-ministering-houseworking-crafting-wifery fatigue, I've altered this childhood meal to reflect my love for Vietnamese cuisine as well. The best way to learn how to make this dish is to come over for an afternoon visit of simmering, savoring, and soaking in the warming vapors of ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and cloves....comfort. But, if you can't make it by, here are the basics...roughly: 1 pound beef stewmeat, cubed 1 pound carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks 1/2 cup soy sauce 1/8 cup fish sauce, or nam pla 4 cups beef broth 1 huge chunk of ginger, cut into 1/2 inch pieces 4 cinnamon sticks 4-5 whole cloves 4-5 whole pieces of star anise 2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
Chinese wide flour noodles, or Vietnamese rice noodles if you prefer sesame oil, chopped fresh cilantro, sriracha hot sauce for garnish
*Update: I now enjoy putting all the ingredients minus the carrots, in a slow cooker for 4 hours on high, then four hours on low. I add the carrots at the halfway point. I'm finding that large pieces of stewmeat and all day in the crockpot makes for super tender stew. (I also often skip the beef broth and fill up the pot with water and add a tsp or so of Better Thank Bouillon.)
Throw the beef, soy sauce, and broth into heavy stockpot. Cook on med-high until meat is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Add all other ingredients, except for brown sugar, plus enough water to cover beef and carrots and still have broth. Cook on medium-low heat until carrots are tender, another 30-40 minutes. Add sugar if desired, to taste. When ready to serve, remove spices and ginger. Cook noodles as instructed. Ladle stew over cooked noodles, and garnish if desired.