There are many styles of beef noodle soup including Vietnamese pho and Cantonese beef brisket noodles (牛腩麵). However, the most iconic beef noodle soup is, arguably, the one known in Chinese as 牛肉麵 niu rou mian. This dish is widely thought of as being Taiwanese, but in actual fact, it has its origins in Chinese Muslim cuisine. The Taiwanese connection only came about because it was introduced to the island by the retreating Nationalist KMT army following their defeat in the Chinese Civil War.
History lesson over, beef noodle soup (£7.50) is the newest dish on the menu at Mama Lan, and I was kindly invited by the owner, Ning, to give it a Masterchef-style appraisal. I accepted on the basis that I didn't actually have to pretend to be either John Torode or Gregg Wallace.
As with any soup noodle dish, I started with a slurp of the soup. And it didn't disappoint, as it was made with stock that was chock full of aromatics, with the reassuring scent of star anise taking centre-stage. The beef shin was slow-cooked to tender perfection, and being sourced from The Ginger Pig, it was of excellent quality. This dish isn't meant to be super-spicy, but a few chopped chillies and a touch of chilli oil did lend it some heat.
Negatives? The noodles were ever so slightly overcooked and they lacked the QQ bounce that is so important in soup noodle dishes. However, this is forgivable given that this dish was being sold for the first time that night. Moreover, the team at Mama Lan have taken this on board, and intend to reduce the cooking time of the noodles.
Hardcore beef noodle aficionados may also be disappointed that there's no tendon or cartilage option. That said, Mama Lan is located in Brixton, not Beijing, and it's a bit much to expect them to convert the locals to these textural delights.
Overall, this dish showed promise, and I think it's a welcome addition to the menu at Mama Lan. After all, every Chinese joint should serve noodles in my opinion. Especially somewhere that specialises in the food of Beijing and the north of China.
I was a guest of Mama Lan. For a review of my first visit to this eatery, please click here.
Mama Lan, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PR
Nearest station: Brixton