It sure doesn’t feel like spring… maybe it was an April Fool’s joke by someone or something above but there was a bit of light snow coming down in west London in the early afternoon today. Spring weather it may not be but it’s still perfect weather for braises and stews.

Braised beef and daikon is a traditional Cantonese stew and most classic recipes online call for Chee Hou sauce, a ready made sauce of soybeans, ginger and garlic used for Chinese braising. I have no experience with the stuff and didn’t have any of it to hand but I did have a tub of white miso paste in the fridge. A spoonful of it went it and didn’t hurt it one bit. Melt-in-the-mouth beef, tender daikon, lots of thick sauce that’s perfect over white rice – this will keep you warm on the inside!

Braised Beef and Daikon

Braised Beef and Daikon
serves 4 with rice.

600-800g beef for stewing (like braising steak, shin, brisket)
2 tbsps oil
4 slices ginger
3 large garlic cloves
80ml Shaoxing wine
2 tbsps oyster sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 heaped tsp miso paste
1-2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon/cassia
a sprinkle or two of white pepper
a small chunk of rock sugar
3-4 cups water
1 small to medium sized daikon
2 tbsps cornstarch

Cut up the beef into large chunks. Heat up a pot over medium heat, add the oil and then brown the beef on all sides. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a minute or two until aromatic. Add all the other ingredients except the daikon and cornstarch and stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so that everything is just at a simmer. Half cover the pot and let it do its thing for about 1.5 to 2 hours. You want that beef to be tender.

Peel and cut the daikon into large chunks. Add to the cooking beef and then continue cooking all together until everything is tender. Mix up a cornstarch slurry by combining the cornstarch with cold water and then stir as much as you desire into the sauce to thicken it to your liking.

Serve with rice and other dishes if desired. Stay warm, everyone!

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Beef noodle soup. When more than one person recommended the ones at Kau Kee to me, it became a priority visit while in Hong Kong. As befits a 90+ year old restaurant with a speciality, their menu is short – beef brisket or beef slices or curry beef tendon on your choice of noodle soup. There may have been a vegetable too.

At about 8pm on a weekday, three of us found a table with relative ease though the small restaurant was constantly packed while we were there. A bowl of Kau Kee’s special beef brisket in traditional broth (88 HKD, all beef and no noodles), another of beef brisket with e-fu noodles in broth (32 HKD), and two curry beef tendon with rice vermicelli (30 HKD each) had us bursting at the seams.

The bowls weren’t large but they were filled to the brim – lots of noodles and beef and topped up with broth. The beef brisket was just tender and very flavourful and well, beefy, as was the broth. I enjoyed the e-fu noodles though perhaps their strong flavour would pair better with the curry.

Special Beef Brisket in Traditional Broth

Beef Brisket with E-Fu Noodle in Broth

The curry beef tendon was gorgeous. This beautiful bowl opened my eyes to excellent Chinese curries – I had only had terrible yellow curry powder and cornstarch monstrosities prior to this. This was delicious and rich and complex and full of both tendon and beef brisket. I’d never had such soft beef tendon as this before; they must have simmered the mixture for ages.

Beef Tendon in Curry Sauce with Vermicelli

Dinner

We did over order by that bowl of extra beef; a single bowl of beef and noodles each would have been enough and been even more of a budget dinner. Oh, what I’d give for a bowl of the curry right now!

Kau Kee
G/F, 21 Gough Street
Central
Hong Kong

We ate quite a bit of Taiwanese beef noodle soup, growing up in Vancouver. It was one of my father’s favourite noodle soups and he’d look for it when we went out to sup and it grew on us too. I’ve not actually been to Taiwan, of course, but Vancouver does have a good reputation for its Asian food and what I ate as a teenager was all delicious. Anyway, it’s a wonderfully soothing meal-in-a-bowl and while it’s possible to have it in London (I’ve had it at Formosa in Fulham and Mr Noodles recently had a version at Mama Lan in Brixton), it turns out it’s quite easy to make at home. (I’ve since learned that its Chinese name is niu rou mian and it is made all over China.)

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

The soup itself has a phenomenally simple recipe and it only gets involved once you’re putting together the bowls of noodle soup. The list of ingredients does seem long but if you normally cook Chinese food at home, you’ll have most of it in your cupboards. They’re pretty much just dumped into a large pot and left to simmer for about 4 hours – what results is a hearty, beefy soup that’s eminently slurpable and tender, melt-in-the mouth chunks of beef. All that’s required is a bit of greenery and a tangle of wheat noodles. If you’d like it spicier, add some chilli oil.

Feeling a little restless while the soup was on the simmer, I put my hand to making hand pulled noodles. The idea had been on my mind after I read a recent blog post on Pulled Noodles, Lady Style on Life on Nanchang Lu (I also found this very good explanation of the technique.) This method takes up less space and less mess than the regular hand pulled noodles (lamian or laghman in Uygher) you see made by men pulling the dough to an arm aching degree and dusting flour all over the place and I believe is made at home in Xinjiang by women. I can’t say I was incredibly proficient on my first go but as you can see, I did manage to produce enough to feed the two of us!

Lamian

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
adapted from a recipe from The Newlywed Cookbook (on Gapey’s Grub)
serves 4.

500g beef shin
500g oxtail
2 tbsps sunflower oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed
4 slices ginger, bruised
4 spring onions, cut in half crosswise
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
2 star anise
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 dried red chilies
1 fresh red chili
2 tbsps Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsps light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 heaped tbsps chili bean paste
2 tbsps sugar
7 cups water (2.25l)

To serve:
wheat noodles for four
spinach or pak choy
chopped spring onions
chopped coriander

This first step is optional but makes things a little easier at the end. Take a square of muslin/cheesecloth and bundle up the star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies and fresh chili.

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat and add the sunflower oil. Brown the oxtail and beef shin on all sides before adding the garlic, ginger and spring onions. Stir and fry until fragrant. Add the five spice powder, the spice bundle, the chili bean paste, the Shaoxing rice wine, the light and dark soy sauces and the sugar and pour over the water. Bring it to a boil and then turn down the heat and leave to simmer, half covered, for 4 hours.

At the end of the simmering time, take the meat out and separate it from any bones and cut into large chunks. Set it aside. Strain the soup (I used a Chinese spider), skim any fat if there looks to be too much, and keep hot.

Boil water in another pot and boil your noodles until cooked. Drain and place in a bowl. Top with some beef. Bring the broth to a simmer and add the vegetables. When cooked, drain the vegetables and place on top of the noodles also. Pour some broth over the noodles and sprinkle it all with the chopped spring onions and coriander. Serve immediately.

I was going to put to good use my beautiful new bag of fresh Viennese (read: Hungarian-style) paprika from our trip. We were both very taken with the delicious gulasch we had tasted in Vienna and I knew from that first taste that this was something I wanted to recreate at home. I didn’t have to wait long – this miserable summer and its chilly nights was encouragement rather than a barrier to the making of a warm stew. Specifically, what I wanted was fiakergulasch, a specialty of Vienna where their beef gulasch (rindsgulasch) is topped with a frankfurter, a fried egg and sliced gherkins. I have no idea why it’s named for the horse carriages.

Fiakergulasch

But to make fiakergulasch, one must first start with rindsgulasch (beef gulasch). Rich, flavourful and just a little bit spicy, this stew is extremely comforting and strangely familiar. There’s an awe inspiring amount of chopped onions that naturally thicken the stew as well as an unfamiliar herb and spice – marjoram and caraway seeds – used; all combined to make something that I’ll definitely cook again. We ate the gulasch with its fork tender beef as it was the first day and used the leftovers on the second day to have fiakergulasch.

Wiener Rindsgulasch

In Vienna, a massive bread dumpling was served on the side; we chose to have our gulasch with boiled potatoes (tossed with butter and chives) one day and bread the next. As with the paprikash, try to use a Hungarian style paprika here; a Spanish pimenton would be all wrong.

Wiener Rindsgulasch
adapted from thepassionatecook.
serves 4.

1 kg stewing beef, cut into large chunks
1 kg onions, finely chopped
5-6 tbsp oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp Hungarian-style sweet paprika
1 tsp Hungarian-style hot or hot/sweet paprika
1.5 tsp dried marjoram
1.5 tsp caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
1 strip of lemon peel
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pot/saute pan over medium heat, add the oil and all the onions and fry until golden (it’s a large quantity of onion and this takes quite a while).

Add the garlic and tomato paste and fry for a few minutes. Throw in the paprika, stir well to combine (make sure it doesn’t burn) and then add in the white wine vinegar and stir up anything that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the meat and stir to combine and add the marjoram, caraway seeds, bay leaves and lemon peel and a little salt. Pour in 500ml of water.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the temperature until the mixture is at a simmer and let simmer, half covered, for 2 hours (stir occasionally). At the end of the 2 hours, the gulasch should be thick and much darker than it was at the beginning. Season to taste. Serve or to make fiakergulasch, follow the instructions below.

Like all stews, this gulasch keeps very well. There were only two of us and we saved half for the next day.

Fiakergulasch

Fiakergulasch

For each portion of rindsgulasch above:
1 egg
1 frankfurter
1 gherkin

Cut the gherkin in half lengthwise and then cut each half into a fan (slice lengthwise, keeping one end unsliced to hold the fan together). Keeping the middle part of the sausage intact, slice it into quarters lengthwise (see the photo). Throw it into boiling water for a few minutes, until it’s fully cooked and the sliced parts have curled up. (Optional: you could fry your sausage instead.) Fry the egg to your liking.

Plate your gulasch and top with the frankfurter, fried egg and fanned gherkin. Serve.

One dish that I saw quite a bit in Beijing (and is actually associated with the city) is jiang niu rou, or a soy sauce braised beef (I don’t know the exact translation!). Unlike most braises here in the west, the meat is still relatively hard due to the choice of cut (it does not cook to a melting softness) and it is served cold, as a starter or appetiser. However, I only took one opportunity to try the dish, at Shun Yi Fu; I’d really seen the dish a lot on other people’s tables!

Jiang Niu Rou

Luckily, it’s extremely simple to put together at home, though a little time consuming; there are many recipes online but I’ve come up with this combination of spices that make me happy. You want to use a large piece of beef shin or beef shank (terminology and cut will depend on where you are), which you’ll then simmer for about three hours in dark soy sauce and spices. When the time is up, the whole piece of meat must be chilled thoroughly before being sliced against the grain; this results in tender, chewable slices that are incredibly savoury and moreish and full of the flavour of the spices and soy without any compromise in the beefiness.

Jiang Niu Rou
serves quite a few as a cold starter as part of a Chinese meal.

1 kg beef shin, in one or two large pieces
250 ml dark soy sauce
500 ml water
2 lumps rock sugar
3 tsp Shaoxing wine
6 slices ginger
1 cinnamon stick
6 star anise
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cloves
1 dried chili

sesame oil, for serving

Set a large pot of water to boil and when it does, put in the beef and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Drain and set aside the meat.

In the same pot, mix together the soy sauce, 500ml water, sugar, wine and all the spices. Bring the mixture to a boil and let boil together for 5 minutes.

Add the beef and bring it back to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for 3 hours, turning the beef every 30 minutes. Add a little water during the simmering if you find that the liquid is becoming too thick and salty.

At the end of the 3 hours, take the beef out of the soy mixture and refrigerate it until fully cold (at least a few hours or overnight is even better). If it’s not cold, it will The soy sauce mixture can be saved for the next time you boil beef. Or you could use it as I did below.

To serve, slice the beef shin thinly against the grain. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with sesame oil.

Jiang Niu Rou

I ended up making quite a bit of beef for two people; we ate it for three days straight! I tried using it up in a number of ways which were all good but still the best way was the original – cold, sliced and drizzled with sesame oil.

For dinner that night, I fried some spring onion pancakes from frozen (or you could make them fresh) and used them to wrap slices of the beef along with spring onion and a light smear of hoisin sauce. They were lovely rolls to eat in front of the telly but I should have stuffed more beef in there.

Beef Rolls

At lunch the next day, I sliced the beef up and used it to top a noodle soup where the soup was made by diluting the braising liquid; the liquid is very flavourful and it would have been a shame for it to go to waste as I’ve got a minuscule fridge. This was extremely comforting as you can imagine a beef noodle soup to be but in the future, I’d still serve the beef cold on the side.

Beef Noodle Soup

Finally, on the last day, I diluted more of the cooking liquid again and used it to braise rice vermicelli with sliced garlic and spring onions and ate that with the final sliced cold beef alongside. As you can see, jiang niu rou is a dish that goes a long way!

Braised Rice Vermicelli

My tummy has been upset. I could only look at the photos of the Thai beef salad I made and feel my stomach gurgle. Babies should gurgle, not stomachs. I’m feeling better but I’m sipping on some ginger ale right now.

Thai Beef Salad

Anyway, this was a dinner I put together after a craving for both steak and Thai food hit on the same day. The temperature was also hot hot hot and I had a rare wish for a salad. This Thai beef salad is light on both the stomach (though not upset ones) and the wallet as a little steak can stretch to feed a couple people.

Do adjust the dressing to your liking – the amounts of lime juice, fish sauce and sugar should be modified to your tastes. This ratio is what makes me happy.

Thai Beef Salad
serves 2.

200-250g sirloin steak
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small smashed garlic clove
chopped chillies
1 head little gem lettuce (or any other mixed leaves or lettuce)
2 tomatoes or a good handful of cherry tomatoes
half a cucumber
mint
coriander

Grill or fry the sirloin steak to your preferred doneness – I kept mine to be medium-rare. Sprinkle with a little salt and set aside to rest.

Prepare your dressing: mix together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and chilies and dilute with water to taste.

Prepare the vegetable part of the salad. Separate the leaves of the little gem, tearing up any large pieces, slice the tomatoes in any way, shape or form that pleases you, ditto the cucumber and finally tear up some mint and coriander. Arrange all this pleasingly on a platter.

Slice the steak across the grain and arrange on top of the salad. Drizzle over the dressing and serve the salad with some white rice (sticky is even better!) on the side as a light dinner.

Well, I said I was going to make beef rendang and I did! This dish originated in Indonesia but spread to Malaysia and is considered a traditional dish in both countries – you can find it at the Malaysian restaurants in London. It’s like a very dry curry – there’s hardly any gravy to speak of but still it’s moist. The most common rendang in Malaysia is made with beef, though chicken versions are also popular. It’s utterly delicious with the richness of coconut milk and the complex layers of aromatics that have had time to blend over a cooking time of about 3 hours. Yes, you heard me right – 3 hours. Weekday food, this is not. At first when I’d finally got everything in the pan ready for its long simmer time, I thought the combination of ingredients seemed off: the galangal was coming through too strongly and the colour was just yellow. Oh, time was a very important ingredient in this recipe! After the alloted time, the mixture was thick, dark and very very rich. Rendang.

Beef Rendang and Rice

Thank goodness I now have a mini chopper – the amount of pounding with a mortar and pestle needed to produce the amount of paste required for the recipe would have had us thrown out from our flat, I reckon. While a chopper isn’t ideal (the pounding brings out the most from the ingredients), it’s good enough for me. Likewise, normally, toasted coconut is pounded to make a paste (at which point it is kerisek) but the rendang results were fine with just the toasted coconut. Call this a pounding-free rendang!

I actually didn’t have any kaffir lime leaves that day and so left them out. The rendang was still fine without it but I’ll add them next time! Oh, and one more thing, I read that the oil that’s skimmed off is delicious on rice and so we tried it a little… and oh my goodness, it’s amazingly good. However, don’t overdo it – you’ll regret it when you see the oil congeal the next day.

Beef Rendang and Rice

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang
serves 6 as part of a meal with rice and a vegetable dish.

1 kg beef for stewing, cut in approximately 1.5″ cubes
3 tbsps peanut oil (or sunflower oil)
1.5 inch long cinnamon stick
4 cloves
4 cardamom pods
4 star anise
1 400mL tin coconut milk
1/2 tin of water
2 tsps tamarind pulp, soaked in about 1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
7 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly sliced
7 tbsps dessicated coconut (not sweetened)
salt to taste

for the spice paste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
6 small shallots (I used the Asian purple ones), peeled and chopped roughly
2 stalks lemongrass, tough layers removed and softer inner layers chopped roughly
1.5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
1.5 inch piece of galangal, cleaned and chopped roughly
6 large dried chilies, soaked in warm water, seeded, and chopped roughly
0.5 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt

First toast the dessicated coconut to make kerisek. In a dry frying pan, add the dessicated coconut and then gently heat it over medium heat. Stir the coconut often until it is a uniform golden brown. Set the toasted coconut aside.

Now make the spice paste. Toss all the prepared spice paste ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until a paste is formed. Add a little water at a time if it’s not blending properly. It will never be perfectly smooth but you don’t want any large pieces. I used the mini chopper part of my hand blender, processing the paste in two batches.

In a large deep saute pan or a large wok or a large heavy casserole, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the spice paste. You’ll find the paste will “soak up” all the oil during frying and when it’s done frying and fully aromatic, the oil will be released again. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, and star anise and stir thoroughly. Add the beef and stir again – the beef should just be coated with the paste, not left to brown. Pour in the coconut milk and the tamarind water and enough of the plain water to cover the meat – you might need to add more. Add the sliced kaffir lime leaves too. Stir thoroughly and bring the liquid to a boil.

When the mixture is bubbling, turn down the heat to a simmer. Sprinkle over the sugar and toasted coconut, stir that through and leave the coconutty mixture to simmer slowly (use a diffuser if you need to) uncovered, stirring occasionally. After about 2 hours, the water should have all evaporated, leaving the beef in a thick paste and with lots of oil floating on top. Now you’ll have to stir much more often, allowing the beef mixture to fry in the oil. The rendang will darken and will be done when it’s a dark brown (as in the photo), which will occur in about 20-30 minutes. Turn the heat to the lowest temperature and proceed to spoon out the oil that’s been floating on top. Try to remove as much as possible; some will still be left but that will add to the overall flavour. Salt the rendang to taste, turn off the heat, and serve.