TAIWAN BEEF NOODLE SOUP / NIU ROU MIAN

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(简体)(繁體)  UPDATES AVAILABLE * 2013/03/11: online sources for ingredients added!

I’m gonna start this by saying something that seems completely irrelevant…  The Japanese are marketing geniuses.  No, not geniuses. Gurus!  No no, NOT gurus.  GODS!!!  It’s like their entire way of life comes with a built-in marketing system that in comparison would reduce Don Draper down to nothing but just a raging alcoholic.  I mean really, something about their culture is so mesmerizing that…  OH look! Hello Kitty! (slap! FOCUS!) …that they’ve become easily one of the biggest culture exporters in the world, and most evidently in their success in pushing their cuisine into a world domination that’s stronger than the force of nature.  Not so long ago who would’ve thought that Americans, the genetically-hardwired loyal patrons of well-done white meat chicken, would pay $200 and UP to surrender their fork’n knife, pick up the chopsticks (some awkwardly) and chew down a piece of raw fish on vinegary rice then moan, “Mmmmm… UMAAAAMI…”.  Seriously!!  Forget X-men, THIS is where human mutation takes a giant leap!

I’m telling you, it’s crazy.  Japanese can sell anything like it has a halo on top of it.

I know you’re thinking, “There better be a point in this because THAT picture looks nothing like ramen…”.  There.  My point’s exactly.  Ramen.  The Japanese bowl of noodles that has taken New York (then the rest of America) by the storm starting a few years ago.  It’s about the most highly regarded bowl of noodle soup out there, $15 high.  Think Vietnamese Pho Bo – a dim and smudgy joint tucked in the corner of Chinatown somewhere.  Think ramen – wooooh zen-like environment, streamlined dark-wood counter with a super serious chef behind it who looks like he whispers to his knives and noodles.  It even inspired a movie called “The Ramen Girl”.  It’s just noodles man!  Damn it!  They’re good!

Yeah, back to there’s a point in here somewhere.  Point is I’m saying this out of the deepest admiration for their craft, but the most mind-boggling frustration for our own.  Because not just the Japanese, when it comes to noodles, everyone else seems to be getting a bit of the spotlight but us.

I was born in this little island named, I don’t know if you’ve heard, Taiwan (beaches?… no that’s Thailand…).  The Japanese were there for awhile you know – 50 years!  One would’ve thought that we had picked up a trick or two on how to make ourselves look cool.  But no!  Taiwanese are stubborn and proud blood who likes everything wrapped up in red-stripes plastic bags, then eat it under fluorescent light.  I just don’t get it.  We deserve some buzz, too and all we lack is some serious packaging.  You know that little pork bun that David Chung is getting all the credits for?  That’s actually us.  And the worldwide phenomenon, the bubble tea?  Us again.  Yeah, we don’t say.

But perhaps Taiwan’s will to shine isn’t completely flaccid yet.  At least staring in the face of ramen’s raging success still aroused a bit emptiness inside…

So in the wake of a gradually apparent international irrelevance and the effort to resuscitate the dying will of even-trying, a few years back the government initiated a regional contest of our very own national noodle soup. Niu rou Mien (It translates into beef noodle.  If it doesn’t sound cool it’s because it’s not in Japanese… try “nyoru men”).  It successfully injected a new-found enthusiasm and energy into this almost old-school dish across the country (don’t get too excited because the buzz is still very well contained ONLY within the country) that all of a sudden niurou mien is cool again.  No, more than cool.  It is now a matter of national pride.

I assure you that I am no cultural ambassador or tourism promoter (yeah I’m not done yet).  In fact when it comes to this kinda-like-home island, I’m meaner to it than anyone else I know.  So this isn’t about nationalism.  This is about giving credits where credit’s due.  We’re not much (I aim to exaggerate) but we’re still something.  And I’m going to put this little post out there (did I mention I so happen to make a very mean niurou mien?).  And hopes that someday, someone would stumble into this little microscopic blog.  A someone who’s much better than me at making stuff look super cool, who happens to be looking for the next super big noodle idea, and coincidentally knows a somebody else who has $500k disposable cash to invest in a small-yet-super-trendy restaurant in New York that charges you $15 for a bowl.  And when ALL THAT finally… and super miraculously happened, people would start saying, “Man, Taiwan’s niurou mien is super AWESOME!”.

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Serving: 6 ~ 7.  Updated on 2012/10/15:  recipe for sauteed pickled cabbage below.

* The recipe calls for a very deep and rich stock as the base/foundation of the soup.  This is why I published the golden foundation post right before this one.  The components in this stock would vary a little bit, but the technique is completely the same.  If you have homemade, UNSALTED stock at home already and aim for a quicker recipe, you could just use what you have on hand already but the flavor may be less intense.

** This dish is usually prepared in 2 parts.  There’s the pot of braised beef that should be salty and intense, and the unsalted stock that’s reserved to dilute it later when ready to serve.

Stock:  You would need a total of 10 ~ 11 cups of stock.  Details on how to make the stock/broth, please go here.

  • 2 large beef shank bones (cut into pieces), or 5~6 pieces of rib bones
  • 1 chicken scaffolds, or 1/2 a free range chicken
  • 1 pig’s trotter (cut into 4 pieces)
  • Aromatics
    • 1 medium onion
    • 1 small carrot
    • 2 jumbo scallions
    • 5 slices of ginger
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 3 star anice
    • 1/2 of cinnamon stick
    • 1 tbsp of black peppercorns
    • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
    • 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds

Make the stock according to the instructions in the previous post *.  It would take several hours but it can be made days ahead of time.

Niurou Mien Ingredients: (I warn you it’s quite long…) *Posharp Store is a good sourcing option for Chinese ingredients.

  • 1000 g of beef riblets meat, or boneless shortribs
  • 400 g of jumbo scallions, cut into sections
  • 60 g of ginger, cut into slices
  • 1 head of garlic, smashed
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 tsp of rock sugar, or raw sugar
  • 4 dried chili (optional if spicy is not your thing)
  • 2 packs of Chinese aromatic herbs packet, or assemble a simple one of your own
    • 6~7 star anise (depending on the size)
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 4 dry bay leaves
    • 1 1/2 tbsp of fennel seeds
    • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
    • 2 tbsp of whole Sichuan peppercorn
    • 1 1/2 tsp of ground Sichuan peppercorn (for extra kick and “numbness”)
    • 1 tsp of ground coriander
    • 1/4 tsp of five spice powder
    • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • Paste mix
    • 6 tbsp of tomato paste
    • 6 tbsp of douban paste (Chili bean paste.  Can be purchased here or from major Asian markets)
    • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp of shacha paste (Chinese BBQ sauce.  Can also be found on Amazon)
    • 1/3 tsp of curry powder
  • Seasonings
    • 1 cup of rice wine, or sake
    • 1 cup of soy sauce + 1/3 ~ 1/4 cup for adjusting (Every brand of soy sauce has different saltiness.  Avoid soy sauce that’s on the “sweet” side, for ex Japanese brands)
    • 2 tsp of rock sugar, or raw sugar
  • Stock: 6 cups of stock/broth * (reserve the rest for later)
  • To finish
    • 1 tsp of rice vinegar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp of unsweetened, or VERY LIGHTLY sweetened peanut butter (this is a bit weird but I really believe it adds to the depth of the flavor).  Don’t use Jippy.
    • 5 ~ 6 cups of reserved stock/broth
  • Garnish
    • Finely diced baby spring onion
    • Chinese pickled cabbage (more notes on that in the next post)
In timeline because this is in “GNBT” category.

2:00 ~ 2:30 pm:  Dice the beef into 2″ x 2″ (5 x 5 cm) cubes, and divide them into 2 batches (for easy browning).  Heat up a dutch oven or in my case, a wok on medium-high heat.  Add 2 tbsp of oil, 1 batch of beef cubes and 1 tsp of raw sugar.  Flip them occasionally and let the beef and sugar brown and caramelize on all sides.  Take the first batch out onto a plate, and repeat the same step with the second batch until all browned as well.  Then take all the beef cubes out and set aside.

2:30 ~ 2:40 pm:  Add 3 tbsp of oil into the same pot, and add the jumbo scallions, ginger and 1 tsp of raw sugar.  Leave them toasting in the pot on medium-high heat until they become very caramelized (almost seem a bit burnt).  During this time, cut the onion in half and toast them over open fire on the stove until charred, then set a side.  Once the scallions and gingers are caramelized, add the onion and garlics.  Saute for a couple minutes more.

2:40 ~ 2:50 pm:  Add the paste mix and saute until fragrant and the paste has darken in color, approx 2~3 min.  Add the aromatic herbs now if you are assembling your own (add them later if you are using store-bought packets).  Saute for another couple of minutes, then transfer EVERYTHING including the beef cubes into a pressure cooker or a large stock pot (or if you started with a big enough dutch oven then just stay with it).  If there’s brown bits on the bottom of the pot, deglaze with 1/4 cup of water and add to the pot as well.

2:50 ~ 3:00 pm:  Add the seasonings and let it boil for a couple of seconds, then add 5 1/2 cup of stock (add the store-bought herbs packets now if that’s what you are using).  UPDATES 2013/05/08: oops I forgot but you should add the tomato (cut in half) at this point.  It is now crucial to taste-test the seasonings.  Different brands of soy sauce differs in saltiness and sweetness, so much that it is impossible to standardize by saying “however-many-cups of soy sauce”.  I would STRONGLY recommend using a LESS sweet version of soy sauce (you can see the one I’m using from the picture).  Taste the soup now.  It should be fairly salty (too salty to drink as a soup) with a SLIGHTEST (almost untraceable) hint of sweetness just to balance it off.  If the saltiness seems too “sharp” and unrefined, add more rock sugar.  If it’s a bit too bland (in this case “drinkable” as a soup), add more soy sauce.  I ended up adding 1/8 cup more of soy sauce to my pot (but with a less salty brand of soy sauce, it could be more).

3:00 ~ 4:00 pm (or 5:30 pm without pressure cooker):  Put the pressure cooker lid on and bring to a “hiss” on high heat, then turn it down to medium-low and cook for 1 hour (reduce the cooking time to 45 min if using shortribs).  If you are doing it on the stove-top, simmer for 2~2:30 hours.

4: 20 ~ 4:50 pm (or 5:30 ~ 6:00 pm):  Open the lid once the pressure’s completely release and check the done-ness of the beef.  If they are still tough, keep cooking (lid on) for another 30 min.  Prepare another large pot and rest a sieve on top of the pot.  Strain everything through the sieve into another pot.  Carefully pick out the beef cubes without breaking them, then use a wooden spoon to press VERY HARD on the scraps to extract every drop of juice left in them.  You’d be surprise how much it is.  Discard the scraps.  Return the beef cubes back into the soup and add 1 tsp of rice vinegar, then dissolve the unsweetened peanut butter into the pot (or through a strainer if the peanut butter is chunky).  UPDATES: 2013/06/24:  I find that an extra 1 tbsp of uncooked tomato paste, dissolved in the end, adds a good layer of depth.

There.  We are done.

To serve it, cook your favorite noodles (I like the fat ones) and dilute the soup with 1 : 1/2 as the ratio of braised beef soup: unsalted stock.  So with 1 cup of braised beef soup, add 1/2 cup of unsalted stock.  This would still yield a slightly salty soup but that’s how I like it.  Or you could simply use the braised beef soup only as a sauce in the “dry noodle” version.

MUST ADD spring onions and pickled cabbage.  That’s not even negotiable.

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Saute Chinese Pickled Cabbage:

  • 430 g of pickled Chinese cabbage (“Suan-cai”.  An olive-green pickled cabbage that’s usually vacuum-packed, and is sold at major Asian markets)
  • 6 dried chili
  • 2 tbsp of sake
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 3 tsp of rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 5 tbsp of oil
  • 1 tbsp of sesame oil

Rinse the cabbage clean and squeeze dry.  Remove the tough fibers at the head of the cabbage, then separate the stalks and the leaves.  Finely chop or slice the stalks and soak in water for 4~5 min.  Then chop the leaves finely and add to the stems (which has been soaking for 5 min), and soak for another 2 min.  Take the cabbage out of the water and squeeze it completely dry.

Heat up the oil plus the sesame oil in a wok or skillet, toast the dried chili in the oil until the color has darken.  Add the cabbage, sake, sugar, rice vinegar and Dijon mustard and stir frequently until the moisture from the cabbage has mostly evaporated, and the volume has shrunken down to almost 1/2.  This will take several minutes.  Finish by dusting with a pinch of white pepper.

This should keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

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45 Comments

  • Tracy says:

    Hi Mandy,
    I wanted to complement you on the excellent job you’ve done with this blog. I find your comments and directions incredibly informative. I especially love your Taiwanese dishes. I was born in Taipei, but have lived in US almost all my life (LA, SF, NYC). I love Taiwanese food but have not come across many great recipes. Your Niu Rou Mien recipe is the best I’ve found, and I also look forward to trying the other asian dishes that you’ve featured on this blog. Keep up your awesome work, and I look forward to coming back to this website frequently!

    • Mandy L. says:

      Tracy, thanks so much! That means a lot and I will keep it up!

    • Amy Wu says:

      Hey Mandy! I loved this recipe last time and want to make it again. Do you think I can use store bought stock? If so, any recommendation on what kind? Thanks!

      Amy

  • I love your photography. I am also excited to explore your blog because I love learning more about different cuisines.

  • JLo says:

    Awesomeness~~~ Thanks Mandy

  • rooth says:

    This is one of my favourite dishes and it looks like you’ve made it perfectly. My dad makes this at home for me and I can’t get enough

  • annisa says:

    Decided awhile ago this looked like my dream bowl of noodles and since I live nowhere near Taiwan I need to figure this out myself. This looks awesome. I guess some restaurants add Chile oil? But yea…Ty bunches. Love from Alaska :)

    • Mandy L. says:

      Annisa, I have added online sources for ingredients that are harder to find in grocery stores. I hope it help!! And of course you could add chili oil for heat. Check out my post for a great chili oil recipe :)

  • Rolandachow says:

    After drooling over your pictures of this noodle soup, I finally had a day when I had nothing but time. I made this for my picky Taiwanese husband and he was speechless! He loved it! Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe.

    • Mandy L. says:

      omg I can’t believe someone actually braved this recipe!! I’m so glad you guys liked it. It’s a great trick to freeze each portion individually (since it’s such a large portion) and when the craving strikes, INSTANT Taiwanese beef noodles!

  • Rolandachow says:

    Great minds think alike, I actually froze the leftovers into individual portions. It does take time to make, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

  • Mmk says:

    Hi,
    I’m from Taiwan.
    This blog is the most diligent one in all blogs I ever viewed.
    The content is great & rich.
    I never saw a blog with the Taiwanese Beef Noodle recipe so clear & in detail.
    Also with the fine photos.
    Just like to read a professional recipe.
    Thanks for you to share this great recipe & blog.
    這是目前看過最用心經營,內文最棒最豐富的中英文對照牛肉麵食譜部落格!
    而且照片超精美,有種在看專業食譜書的質感。
    無論如果,不推薦一下對不起自己!
    台灣美食需要這種用心的人發揚!
    可惜我沒50萬美金在紐約開一間牛肉麵店!

  • Dave B says:

    I’m an American who lived in Taiwan for 27 yrs, most of it in and around Hsin Chu where they have a street that is famous for this (it used to be an alley). I’ve made it before from other on-line recipes but it was always a simpler, and consequently, lesser version. I can’t wait to make this – TOMORROW. Now we need the recipe for Dau Syau Mien.

    • Mandy L. says:

      Dave, that takes some skillz! I will need time to practice ha. I hope you like this recipe.

  • Jake says:

    OK, made the stock 2 days ago and now my soup is brewing…2 hours to go.
    Just wondering where the tomato (in the ingredients list) fits in?
    Also, i couldnt source the “boneless” shortribs so i substituted flank at the recommendation of the asian butcher.
    I couldnt find the exact sauces either (Shacha and Douban) but used “soybean and chilli paste” (looks like sambal) and a Korean BBQ marinade. Cant be that far off as the taste test (and smell) takes me straight back to Taiwan 1997/98 when i spent 8 months working and eating Niu Rou Mien every chance i had.
    If i pull this off, i will be eternally gratefull. Easily the best meal on the planet…even better than tea eggs!.. which now i have cracked the code to the sauce i sometimes got on them i feel i have mastered the recipe… be nice to see how you make them (with a sauce to accompany them).
    Will hopefully post the results of my Niu Rou Mien attempt #1…its looking good so far, cant wait…but it will be worth it.
    TYVM

    • Mandy L. says:

      Jake, wait did I not say where to put the tomato?? It should be added to the stew in the beginning.. (oops I will certainly correct that…). Flank tends to be lean and tougher and more fibrous. I personally wouldn’t think it’s a good substitute because I like fattier cuts (leaner option includes shank-meat which is very common in niu-rou-mien as well). I have never tried Korean BBQ sauce in this before so I can’t say for sure… (it would probably add a considerable sweetness to the soup). The exact brands of “douban” and “sacha” paste is included in the post as links (an online asian grocery shop). You should really try them because they are kind of irreplacable (sorry being a bit of a control freak on my niu-rou-mien which I take WAY TOO seriously BUT ONLY BECAUSE I really really want you to have the best recipe!!!!).

      Oh tea eggs is definitely something I haven’t mastered yet. Will crack it at some point in my life..hahaa

      pls do let me know the result!

      • Jake says:

        Well…first batch was pretty spicy as the douban alternative i used was like a chilli paste with a little bean paste. Also i use packet spices which resulted in alot more star anise than specified. Having said that it was still a very tasty recipe.
        So i had 1/2 stock left from first batch and cooked up a second attempt. Having got the right sacha and a different alternative for the douban (cant seem to find it anywhere so i will have to search the net), this time i used exact spices and it turned out much better…amazing recipe. Didnt realize how much 400g of scallions was so the 100g bunch i got was not nearly enough, so i added another brown onion. Tasted even better after a couple of days in the fridge.
        Definately worth the effort and cant wait to cook up the third batch. Seems like a fair amount of soup left once all the meat is gone. Is it ok to get some more beef and brown it and then slow cook in left over stock/soup?

  • Lisa Izaguirre says:

    well done

  • Lisa Izaguirre says:

    well done It looks extremely yummy

  • Shirley says:

    Oh…my…goodness! I can’t believe I have found this amazing blog! I am from Taiwan as well by the way. I thought it was just another “American version of Chinese food” when I found one of the cold noodle recipe from Foodgawker. But I was so wrong. It is so authentic…so in depth…so decent… Absolutely LOVE your photos! I am a mom who love cooking and photography. Your blog is just way beyond regular! Thank you for sharing our Taiwanese gourmet food with your talent!
    你的部落格真的是太太太太太強了!真的….在foodgawker裡面找的其中的一道四川涼麵食譜,只是在想…可能是哪個美國的美食雜誌的字以為中式的美式食譜…因為那相片看起來很厲害,想應該是什麼大間的雜誌出的專門的一個食譜專欄吧!結果…看到這個台灣牛肉麵!讚!真的是National Pride as you said!
    支持你!很棒!超欣賞你的部落格尤其是照片!
    你隨便回台灣出個中英文對照的食譜,應該很容易打敗其他人喔!讚

  • vivianlicullen@yahoo.com says:

    Dear Mandy

    How can Niu rou Mien not be the national treasure with the way you make it? I am so glad I found your blog. As a proud fellow Taiwanese living in the US, I miss very authentic and tasty Niu rou Mien. I do try to make it from time to time but I never make the real Niu rou Mien like this. I am going to give it a try this long weekend and hopefully I won’t disappoint you or myself. Keep up the good work. So enjoy reading your blog.

  • Amy says:

    Hi Mandy,

    I am so excited to try making this recipe this weekend! I am going to assemble my own aromatic herbs packet. After I gather all the ingredients, should I find a little pouch to put it in or can the ingredients be directly put in at the specified step? Please advise.

    Thanks!

  • chutoro28 says:

    Thank you for the recipe!! I have had NRM in Taiwan a few years ago and although I live in an area with a large Taiwanese community the restaurants did not compare. I tried this recipe last night and it tasted just like the NRM I had in a small restaurant off a tiny alleyway in Taipei. This knocked the socks off my Taiwanese-American husband, who said that this NRM was better than his dad’s X_X !!

    I am so grateful for an authentic NRM recipe!! Keep up the excellent work! I Look forward to trying more Taiwanese recipes!

  • Michael says:

    I’ve been searching a good beef noodle soup recipe for a long time. Your blog looks amazing by the way! At the “stock” section on this page you’ve got “•2 large beef shank bones (cut into pieces), or 5~6 pieces of rib bones •1 chicken scaffolds, or 1/2 a free range chicken •1 pig’s trotter (cut into 4 pieces) •Aromatics
    “. But you also wrote “You would need a total of 10 ~ 11 cups of stock (which is the golden foundations)”. I’m a bit confused how to make the broth now. Do you need both the golden foundation plus all the ingridients under the stock section on this page? Thanks :)

    • Mandy L. says:

      Michael, sorry for not being specific. You should make the base-stock for this beef noodle soup with the ingredients listed on THIS POST. The Golden Foundation post just shows you HOW TO make the stock (the technique and process).

      So, make the stock according the “Golden Foundation’s” INSTRUCTION, but WITH THE INGREDIENTS LISTED ON THIS POST. You will need 10 ~ 11 cups in total.

      I hope this is more clear?

  • Angie says:

    This recipe looks complex, time consuming and absolutely wonderful. That’s all good. I enjoy making an entire recipe with no help – stock, seasonings, roasting, etc. I really like your timeline too. I’m going to make this next weekend. Thanks for the post!

  • Joyce says:

    I was noticing your comment about Taiwan needed to market its amazing food more: “We deserve some buzz, too and all we lack is some serious packaging. You know that little pork bun that David Chung is getting all the credits for? That’s actually us. And the worldwide phenomenon, the bubble tea? Us again. Yeah, we don’t say.”

    Given the great job you’re already doing as an ambassador, maybe you have an official future in this. “Cuisine Internationalization” is part of the “Six Key Emerging Industries” that the government is set to promote in the coming years: http://www.cepd.gov.tw/att/0015330/0015330_1.pdf. They’re looking for entrepreneurial people to take hold of this idea of promoting Taiwanese food the way it should be promoted. Take a look!

  • Robert says:

    I am Taiwanese, and I’ve been itchin’ for some NIU ROU MIEN. Gonna try this when I get a chance.

    Great website! Your photography really draws peeps in. Keep up the great work.

  • Jasmine says:

    Oh my god, I am going to tackle this someday. Possibly soon. I feel nervous.

  • Joyce says:

    You wrote:
    “hopes that someday, someone would stumble into this little microscopic blog. A someone who’s much better than me at making stuff look super cool, who happens to be looking for the next super big noodle idea, and coincidentally knows a somebody else who has $500k disposable cash to invest in a small-yet-super-trendy restaurant in New York that charges you $15 for a bowl. And when ALL THAT finally… and super miraculously happened, people would start saying, “Man, Taiwan’s niurou mien is super AWESOME!”.”

    My little contribution toward nudging people to stumble into this blog was to write it into a book for entrepreneurs in Taiwan (see link above — yay, it’s written and out now!). So, any of you globetrotting entrepreneurial readers here, I encourage you to take Mandy’s challenge seriously!

  • Rose says:

    OMG you rock!

  • steph says:

    This is definitely the most comprehensive NRM recipe I have ever found, with the most delicious photos! What is the yummy-looking root vege in the pictures? I don’t remember reading about them in the instructions.

    • Steph, OH hahaa that was daikon! I didn’t put it in the recipe because it isn’t exactly “proper” beef noodle. You can add it if you are a daikon person like me :)

  • Liam says:

    Hi Mandy! This is a great recipe for such a great meal. Thank you so much for posting such a comprehensive recipe.

    After finding your blog just now, and flipping across some of your recipies, I am really impressed with your creativity and attention to detail. It’s given me a lot of inspiration! Please keep up the great work! :)

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