Cantonese Braised Beef Brisket

I hadn't come across an eatery that is ballsy enough to declare siesta during dinner time - the daily madantory six to eight pm. Nor as obscurely located on a dead end back alley street on the fringe of Hong Kong soho that consist of no other businesses but them. Kau Kee, this small, always crowded outlet has one specialty: braised beef brisket so delicate and the squelchy tendon clouds, the menu comes with the option of curried or standard. served over noodles and broth.
That was my first year in Hong Kong. In the early 2000s. Hongkong had and always been a heaven for job seekers. Especially for the young and adventurous, ready-to-see-it-all, freshly out of grad school bunch. We love the alluring vibe of this never-sleeping city. There's just too much to see, eat, drink and do. That's was me and another of my sister's friend whom had declared moving to Hong Kong. We've hang out so closely with each other because we hadn't got much to do yet, apart from sending out resumes and wait for the interviews. My sister, posted there much earlier, was already working and most days, three of us wll meet up at dinner. In the afternoon, we will exchange emails and research on where to eat. We had heard so much about this particular beef brisket noodles shop that we set forth our adventure one evening in search of this.

Afraid there will be a long line, we were there earlier waiting for them to open. As soon as the doors swing open, people rushed in occupying the tables. The dining area was set up with a few big round tables with tools under them and a stack of chopsticks in the middle of each. The room was filled up in a minute. We three were squashed into a table big enough for eight but sat ten tightly. Among us were strangers, one by one they began to shout out their orders to the embittered waiters. Not knowing what to order, we did the same, repeating the orders from the guy beside us, multiplied by three. The waiter came back glasses of complimentary Chinese tea setting so hard that half the glass of hot tea will be spilled on the table. Our neighbors would wash their chopsticks in the tea glasses, nobody actually drink them. Before long, streaming bowls where brought to our table. Everyone just dipped in.There’s something quite magical about their brisket stews: It was rumored that the massive cauldron had been rumbling for as long as they are open almost close to a century. Discarding the old and tossing new ingredient in every day. There’s an element of wizardry, stones stewing in broth until the briskets and tendons turn into fork tender magical nuggets with a light yet deeply flavorful broth. There isn't any other beef brisket noodles as life changing and sensational as them. I've fell in love.
Serves 10
1kg beef brisket, trim fat and cut into chucks
500g beef tendon, cut into chunks
500g daikon/white radish, peeled and cut into big cubes
1 liter chicken stock or enough to immerse all the ingredients
100g old ginger, cut into thick slices
5 small shallots or 2 larger shallots, finely minced
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon cardamon (about 5)
1 dried tangerine peel
1-2 cinnamon stick
3-4 star anise
½ teaspoon white pepper
3-4 bay leaf

100g Chu Hou sauce (Lee Kum Kee or Homemade)
2 pieces of red fermented bean curd
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 heap tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
100 ml yellow rice wine (can be replaced with shaoxing wine)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

Add some oil to pot, brown the chunks of beef and tendons. Transfer to a large plate or bowl and set aside. In the same pot, stir fry minced shallots, garlic and ginger slices until aromatic.

Return the beef and tendon chunks into the pot or transfer to a slow cooker, add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. Adding more when necessary.

Continue to simmer for another 3-4 hour until soften. Take one out to test. The meat should be soft but not failing apart. Add daikon cubes, and continue to simmer until brisket is fork tender (another 2 hours).

You can serve immediately over steamed rice or Hong Kong egg noodles. Likewise with all stews, the flavors will intensify overnight which is best to eat the next day.

I know it's sometimes difficult to find Chu Hou Paste in Singapore. I've got mine sent over. If you are feeling adventurous, you can make your own though I hadn't tried this method

Homemade Chu Hou Paste 自制柱候酱
175g Hoisin sauce/ sweet ferment soya bean paste
175g ground salted soybean paste
40g red fermented beancurd cubes
40g sliced garlic
40g sliced shallots
1 piece of dried tangerine peel soaked and finely chopped
1 tsp ground star anise
100g cooking oil

75g brown sugar
10g salt
2 tablespoon soya sauce
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese wine
2 tablespoon sesame oil

Gently soften garlic and shallot slices in cooking oil over a very low flame. Remove garlic and shallot slices and set aside.

Blend garlic and shallot slices, chopped dried tangerine peel and ground star anise under a coarse paste is formed.

Heat up the oil in the wok to medium flame. Add the remaining items in the “ingredients list , together with the blended ingredients until aromatic.

Add ingredients from “Seasoning” list and continue to stir gently over medium-low flame until the consistency thickens considerably.

Turn off flame, let the sauce cool down slightly before bottling up in a jar for storage.

Till next post, ss. 

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