Well, I’ve been working for two weeks now and I’m beginning to feel a bit better although I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do every week. The hardest part has been coming home to cook after a long day at work. Some days, it’s really rough trying to get into cooking mode when all I want to do is lie down and veg! I have a new respect for all you working moms out there. If you have any tips for me on how to cope, I sure could use them.
Anyway, because of that, my weekends are now my major cooking days. Or at least one of the days, I try to make into a cooking day. The other day (usually Saturday), I put my foot down and insist on some rest—which means no cooking!
Yesterday, I decided I was going to make Chinese Beef Stew. It is something I’ve not made before but I remember distinctly having it at a friend’s house. She had used oxtail so it had a lovely beefy flavor along with the wonderful fragrance of cinnamon and star anise in the broth. She also told me that it was quite easy to make.
Since I had gotten all my ingredients, I did not have time to wait for her to respond to my email for the recipe. I decided to wing it instead. And it worked out really well. It was quite easy like she said and full of wonderful Chinese spice fragrance. Also, the addition of tendon gave the stew a wonderful mouth feel.
The only problem I faced was that I started the stew much too late. I started prepping my ingredients around 4pm and realized at that point that my tendon wasn’t going to get cooked in time for dinner. Thanks to a can of Spam and some eggs, my family sat down to a simple dinner of scrambled spam and eggs and a simple veggie stirfry. The stew? It continued to simmer away till close to 9pm.
This problem turned out to be a good thing. First, stews are always better the next day anyway and secondly, I didn’t have to worry about dinner today.
If you have a chance to get some tendon for this stew, go for it. It is an ingredient that isn’t that exotic really. The texture is soft and gelatinous once it’s cooked down and the tendon absorbs a lot of the lovely flavors. I know it doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing but when tendon is cooked right, it is simply amazing! Unctuous and silky with just the right amount of sticky chewiness to delight your palate.
As for the beef, this is not the time to use an expensive cut. I went for a cheap cut with some fat marbling (chuck or brisket is a good cut for stews). Cut into large chunks and browned in a bit of oil before putting everything together for the long simmer, the meat breaks down and becomes tender and flavorful.
One other important ingredient would be the daikon. On its own, it adds some sweetness but more importantly, the daikon holds together really well in long braises unlike the potato which would break down to a starchy mess. It also absorbs all the flavors from the broth making it work harmoniously with all the rest of the ingredients.
As for the flavoring ingredients, the spices used in this stew are reminiscent of Asian five spice. Cinnamon, star anise, and ginger all added sweetness and heat. Some simple seasonings and a long simmer and the beef stew is done. Try this out if you’re looking for another way to cook a cheap cut of beef!
Chinese Beef Stew
1 kg (about 2.5lbs) of beef (chuck or brisket is good), cut into 1 inch cubes
500g (about 1 lb) tendon, cut into bite sized pieces (1 1/2 inches)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup Shao Hsing wine
2 cinnamon sticks
3-4 star anise
1 fat thumb ginger, peeled and sliced into thick disks
1 medium piece of rock sugar (or to taste), if you can’t find rock sugar, use regular sugar
1-2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 large or 4-5 small daikon, peeled and cut in large chunks
2 cups water
1. In a large, heavy bottomed dutch oven pot, add vegetable oil and turn heat to medium.
2. Brown beef chunks on all sides being careful not to crowd the meat. Brown in batches until all the beef is done. Remove beef and add Shao Hsing wine. Scrape the bottom of pot till all the browned bits have melted into the wine. Turn down heat a little if the wine is evaporating too quickly.
3. Return the beef to the pot along with the tendon.
4. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger, rock sugar, salt, soy sauce and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top.
Rock Sugar, Cinnamon and Star Anise in Beef Stew
5. Turn heat to med low and let simmer for an hour.
6. Add daikon and bring to a boil again. Immediately lower the heat to low and simmer for another 3-4 hours or until tendon and beef is tender. Make sure that the water level is close to the top of the meat (otherwise, whatever pieces are sticking out might get dried out and tough—stir every hour or so to ensure all the pieces get cooked through).
and adjust seasonings.
Chinese Beef Stew with Tendon
Plate up and enjoy this hearty stew with some rice. Leftovers would also be good with dry-tossed wonton noodles.