Monday, December 12, 2011

Chinese Beef Stew By Clements Chow

Last sunday was cold and it demanded a hearty meal.  I decided to make Chinese beef stew when i saw some nice daikon at the Farmers Market.  Chinese beef stew is my version of comfort food and requires little attention.  It’s very similar to other beef stews, except it has some classic Chinese flavors in it.  In order to make this dish, it requires a well stocked Chinese pantry.  Here are the sauces and ‘wet’ ingredients needed, all of which we always have on hand:

From left to right: peanut oil, rice vinegar, fish sauce, rich cooking wine, light soy sauce, hoisin sause, and sesame oil
These are critical ingredients to most Chinese cooking.  I think that you could pull off almost all basic dishes with these, with a few additions.  Peanut oil, I’ve learned, adds a little something to the dish.  I use peanut oil exclusively for Chinese cooking and most Chinese restaurants use it as well – it has quite a high smoking point.  Fish sauce is good for adding the umami taste (savory) to foods, as it is high in glutamate from the preserved fish used to make it.
Here are the dry ingredients needed:

On the plate: five spice, peppercorns, star anise, Chinese spiced salt, white pepper
And of course no beef stew is complete without veggies:
carrots, ginger, fingerling potatoes, garlic, daikon and onion
This was just about right.  I don’t usually make this dish with potatoes, but Candace requested and I agreed.
A word about meat.  I have no idea what cut of meat is traditionally used – I know what it is in Cantonese (ngow lam).  But it is actually pretty hard to figure out what it is called in english – likely because western butchers discard all the kinds of meat in this stew.  It usually contains beef tendon and another gelatinous type of cut, along with something similar to roast meat.  If you try to Google this you get a hundred different interpretations as to what it is in English (including brisket, which would be good).  Certainly, if you can get tendon, it would be good.  Not wanting to hunt around the city for the right kind of meat, I decided to just use a chuck roast.   After cooking for about 3 hours, here is the result:

Chinese beef stew:
3-4 lbs Beef roast
4 tablespoons peanut oil
Veggies (amount to your liking and cut into bite size pieces):
-Daikon (must-have to be authentic)
-Potatoes (if you must)
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons shaoxing wine (Chinese wine)
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon  sesame oil
1 tablespoon  rice vinegar
2 star anise
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1-2 teaspoon peppercorns
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon spice salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
dried whole red peppers (if you like it hot)
6 cups water
Cut up roast into 1 inch cubes.  Brown meat with peanut oil in large stew pot.  Remove meat after browning and add all ‘Sauce’ ingredients.  Bring to boil, add browned meat back to mix and simmer for 1.5 hrs, then add all veggies – simmer for another 30 mins.  Serve with jasmine rice and fresh scallions.
Yes, the red sauce on top is Sriracha – likely the best hot sauce ever invented.
Naturally, we had a lot left over, so the next day we made beef noodle soup.  Simply take the sauce and add some water and stock to it.  Cook up some rice vermicelli (wide ones are best) and baby bok choy.  Combine and enjoy!

I hope you give this a try on the next chilly fall day.  If you don’t already have all the ingredients, it is a minor investment in new ingredients that you can experiment with!


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