Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

李媽媽72h台式滷牛腱 Taiwanese Braised Beef Shank

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Food is such a wondrous thing. Not only does it fuel our body keeping us energised at hours’ ends, it also fills us with much euphoria and a profound sense of contentment, often after a hearty meal and not without the ceremonious burp and customary rubbing of the tummy. More importantly, food brings friends and family together, seated at the same table to have a meal.. be it to celebrate and rejoice, to pour out one’s sorrows and share one’s grief, or simply to catch up and reminiscent the “good o’ days”. What is even more amazing I thought, was how through food, strangers could become acquaintances, and acquaintances become friends…

We love Taiwan and visit the country almost every year. Beautifully scenery, 24-hour bookstores, refined patisseries, local delights…need I say more? And these are just some of the reasons which make us go back all the time. I love browsing at Eslite Bookstore in Taipei, especially the outlets at Dunhua South Road and the flagship store at Xinyi District. The former is a 24-hour bookstore which means that no matter how late it was and as long as we are up for it, we could always visit for some late night book shopping. And it is during one of these bookstore visits where I learnt how to make authentic Taiwanese Braised Beef Shank 台式滷牛腱, not from one of the books off the shelves, but through a Taiwanese “obasan” whom I only got to know as 李媽媽. So here is my story of 李媽媽72h台式滷牛腱 Mrs Li’s 72h Taiwanese Braised Beef Shank…

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I was looking for some books on local Taiwanese cuisine and she too was browsing when she saw me cross-checking different braised beef recipes, juggling between several cookbooks on Taiwanese cuisine (台式料理) sprawled in front of me. I must have looked rather strange and she could not longer contain her curiosity and asked what I was looking for. I told her that I was looking for a good recipe for making braised beef shank (滷牛腱). She finally uttered in a very colloquialized Taiwanese Mandarin (台湾國語) accent that good Taiwanese braised beef recipes are not found in cook books, but passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. Little details and specific nuances are seldom described in printed media, only learnt through observing her mother make it. I quickly jotted down the recipe on scrap paper I had with me as she narrated along in an utmost animated manner, recalling how she in turn watched her own mother made it. Gesticulations wildly with her hands and palms swiftly transformed between being the wok spatula and the cleaver, “demonstrating” in mid-air the intricacies of cutting and stirring. I had to squeeze every drop of brain juice I had to work my imagination on her every step, as if the pot of beef was braising right in front of me. This naturally attracted the attention of other bookworms around, some of them looking with much amusement! I would be lying if I say that I was not initially skeptical about the recipe. But I’m so glad that I’d tried it. After a gruelling overnight wait, I finally had a first taste of it. It was delicious! Most certainly helped in relieving all that anticipation pent up! As instructed by 李媽媽, I left the pot to sit for one more night… O M G!!! the flavours were truly amazing!
beef collage
李媽媽台式滷牛腱 Taiwanese Braised Beef Shank (serves 8-12)

Ingredients

1.5 kg beef shank (牛腱)
800g beef tendon (牛筋)
1/2 cup of good dark soya sauce (黑酱油)
1 cup of chinese yellow wine (料理黄酒)
2 fresh red chillies (辣椒) (optional)
1 thumb-length knob of old ginger (老姜)
2 bulbs of garlic (蒜)
4-5 candied honey dates (蜜枣) or 3 tbsp crushed rock sugar
water

1 sachet of braising spice mix (滷味包)
OR
2 star anise (八角)
1 tsp blackpepper corn (黑胡椒)
1 tsp fennel seeds (小茴香)
2 sticks of cassia bark aka chinese cinnamon (桂皮)
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Method
1. Trim off as much excess fat and oil from the exterior of beef shank and tendon.
2. Boil a pot of water and blanch beef shank for 2-3 min. Repeat the process for beef tendon.
3. Cut the beef shank into very large chunks. DO NOT CUT THE BEEF TENDON!
4. To a large braising pot, add all the ingredients. Pour sufficient water to barely cover all the ingredients.
5. Turn up flame to bring everything to a rolling boil. Reduce to medium low heat and simmer for at least 1h 30 min.
6. Turn off flame and let the pot contents sit overnight with lid on.
7. Turn on flame again to bring everything to a rolling boil. Reduce to medium low heat and simmer for another 30 min. Check the texture of the beef shank and tendon. It should be very soft by now. If not continue to braise for another 30 min or so.
8. For best results, let the beef shank and tendon sit and steep for overnight for one more day. Best enjoyed on the 3rd day.
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Duncha just love the “marbling” on the cuts, not from fat but carved out of tendon…

This is truly an amazing dish! The essence of very traditional and old-school chinese cooking. The beef shank was flavoured to the core, thoroughly infused thanks to the steeping method (浸). Good beef shank is not cooked but steeped. But the cut of meat is very important. Beef shank or other tough cuts like rump, cheek or brisket are used because of their tolerance to withstand prolonged cooking without disintegrating. So do choose the cut wisely. If possible use the core of beef shank (牛腱心) where the distribution of tendon and meat is rather uniform with one layer wrapping over the other (筋包肉,肉包筋). This is personally my favorite beef cut. Do not cut the beef chunks too small as they shrink during cooking. Cut into medallions around 4-5 cm thick to factor the shrinkage. Otherwise, braise the beef shanks whole and intact, and chunk the beef shank and tendon only after the first round of braising is done and left overnight to steep and cool down. With so much tendon used, the collagen enriched broth is ideal for drizzling over noodles or rice. Remove the shank and tendon and boil to reduce, or thicken with starch concoction if necessary.
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Chinese cooking yellow wine (料理黄酒) is used in the braising process and lends much flavour to the dish. Otherwise similar varieties like shaoxing (绍兴) or hua diao (花雕) can also be used. Do not scrimp on a good soya sauce as it not only adds a touch of savory but also the flavours developed from well-fermented soya beans. A little effort to use better ingredients really helps to bring the dish to a next level. Spice mix for braising (料理滷包) is commonly available in Taiwanese supermarkets. Otherwise, one can easily replace this with readily available dry spices as listed above. Another interesting inclusion in Mrs Li’s home recipe is the use of candied honey dates (蜜枣) in place of regular rock sugar. The former supposedly provides a sense of “earthy sweetness” (甘) instead of being sheer sugary (甜). But this can be substituted for regular rock or even brown sugar if necessary.
According to Mrs Li, the chilli is optional (可加也可不加). But she said that it adds an additional dimension of taste, a very subtle hint of heat to the dish which cannot be replicated with peppercorns. That I totally agree!!!
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Technically, the beef is done on the 2nd day after reboiling. But I was told to be patient and leave it for another day. The tendon became so uber soft and wobbly and the flavours intensified and matured so much on the 3rd day compared to the 2nd. I know I’d said this several times in this writing already, but believe me… the flavours are truly amazing!!!

Thank you 李媽媽 for your wonderful recipe! Your generosity in sharing will not be forgotten. If you are reading this, please get in touch with us!

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #29 – Heirloom and Local Dialect Recipes 家传菜/ 籍贯菜 (March 2013) hosted by FHL

Related Posts
柱侯萝卜焖牛腩 Braised Beef Brisket with Daikon
潮式卤水鸭 Teochew-styled Braised Duck

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23 responses

  1. teo ai li

    Hi Alan, my family is a lover of beef and we have always used beef shank in all my cooking as the tendons and meat literally melt in the mouth. Can I do this dish in a slow cooker? If yes, do I have to reboil on the 2nd day and let it rest for 1 more night? By the way, where to buy yellow wine in Singapore? Thanks for your help!

    March 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi Ai Li, yes I think you can cook this in a slow cooker but time wise I’m not sure exactly how long it would take. Perhaps you experiment with it and let us know? About yellow wine, you can try the sundry stores at the basement of Chinatown wet market. But I think the market is under renovations now. Otherwise, you can always use shaoxing or huadiao.

      March 12, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      • teo ai li

        Thanks! So do I still leave them in the slow cooker for 2 nights?

        March 12, 2013 at 7:03 pm

  2. Oh boy! Oh boy! Slurrrp. Just when I am swearing off red meat….

    March 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha thanks Teck Poh!

      March 12, 2013 at 5:41 pm

  3. Sarah

    What an awesome dish! I don’t even know where to get uncooked beef tendons in KL so that I can duplicate your dish.

    March 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      hmm.. I’m not sure where you can get beef tendon in KL. Perhaps you can check with the Malay or Indian Muslim beef sellers at the pasar pagi?

      March 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm

  4. Chef and Sommelier

    Wow Alan! I’m so so so so so sold! Definitely going to make this at home!

    Where do you get your shank and tendon?

    March 12, 2013 at 10:14 pm

  5. Very useful recipe.Definitely going to taste this.Thanks for sharing.

    April 4, 2013 at 3:21 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks! Let me know if the recipe works for you!

      April 4, 2013 at 11:13 pm

  6. vio

    Hi Alan
    Thank you for the mouth watering recipe.
    I just cooked the beef shank following exactly how you did yours.
    I have a question, do I add salt or light soya sauce and when should I add them.
    My pot of beef shank n tendons is ready for 1st day of steeping.
    Hope to hear from you soon
    Thank you

    April 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi vio, the dark soy sauce I’d used was quite briny already so I didn’t add any salt. But feel free to adjust to your liking with salt or soya sauce 🙂 Let me know how your beef turned out!

      April 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      • vio

        Mine didn’t have the nice colour like yours. Guess it’s the dark soya sauce I used. Next time I will use the same dark soya sauce as you did;)
        Today I m going to cook your zhu hou beef brisket with daikon, another mouth watering recipe.

        April 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

      • Alan (travellingfoodies)

        get a good soy sauce.. It makes a world of difference! Let me know how the beef brisket works out for you!

        April 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm

  7. Angie

    Hi there, just wondering – do you just leave the pot at room temperature overnight or in the refrigerator? Thanks!

    September 24, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      I left it outside for the first night. And subsequently, I left it in the fridge. 🙂

      September 25, 2013 at 8:35 am

      • Angie

        Thanks! Shall try it this weekend!

        September 25, 2013 at 10:05 am

  8. Rob

    Thanks for the post Alan, this looks delicious. Can you elaborate on your steeping method? Are you just letting the braised beef rest in the cooking juices in the refrigerator?

    November 9, 2013 at 4:32 am

  9. Kathy

    what brand of dark soy sauce you used?

    November 23, 2013 at 1:42 am

  10. Pingback: 鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung @ Yong Kang, Taipei | travellingfoodies

  11. Leagh

    hIKL
    Hi, Alan

    Thanks a bunch for sharing the recipe. Using this method to cook beef shank is perfect. The meat turns out chewy and soft not dry and tough like before. My husband and my son like it too. I’m so happy I found this recipe. AlsoThank you 李媽媽 for your wonderful recipe.

    July 5, 2014 at 2:07 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks Leagh, for trying the recipe. Yeah this recipe is definitely a keeper for me. I wish I could thanks 李媽媽 as well for her wonderful recipe but I didn’t get her contact at all! But her kindness to share so generously the recipe will never be forgotten 🙂

      July 5, 2014 at 11:10 pm

  12. Eleen Tan

    Hi may I know where can I buy beef shank, shin and tendon in Spore?

    August 4, 2017 at 6:33 pm

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