Today we make Braised Beef In Chinese Master Sauce (or what we call 卤牛腱子). Chinese master sauce is called Lushui (卤水), which is a savory brine that is infused with abundant Chinese spices and aromatics, seasoned with soy sauce, salt, sugar, rice wine, and other seasonings. It can last 100s of years if you take care of it correctly. If you have never heard of it, you click here to watch my previous video for more details.
Today’s recipe is a follow-up to show you how to use this brine to braise any meat you want so you can understand how delicious the food will come out and how the flavor develops over time.
To Braise the meat
- 2 slices of sand ginger
- 1 star anise
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 white cardamom
- 1 piece of gardenia pod
- 2 cloves
- 1/2 tsp of white peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp of sichuan peppercorn
- 1/4 cup red dried chilies.
- 2 inches of ginger, smashed
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 scallions
- 2 liters of Chinese Master Sauce
- 3 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp of dark soy sauce for the color
- 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine
- 2 tbsp cup of rock sugar
- 1/2 tbsp of salt
To make the dipping sauce
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp of the seasoned sweet soy sauce (check this video to learn how to make it)
- 1/3 cup of braising liquid
- 4-5 tbsp of homemade Sichuan hot chili oil
- Cilantro as garnish
I have got here two pieces of boneless beef shank. Each of them is a full muscle group. This is a little bit hard to find. In the western supermarkets, they usually slice the shank with the bone into 1 inch thick round pieces. That doesn’t work for this recipe because you are not able to slice the meat thinly at the end. You can get these shank muscles in Asian markets. Sometimes Spanish meat markets and muslin meat markets will carry it too. Just take a look and see if you got lucky.
Besides beef shank, we often braise beef tripe, beef or pork trotters, pork hock, chicken, and duck leg, oh, beef tendon, don’t get confused with the beef tender because they are completely different. Beef tender is not supposed to be braised... Basically, any tough cut is good to be put into the Chinese master brine.
We are going to blanch the meat first. Fill a big pot with water and add the meat. Turn the heat to high. Partially cover the pot. It takes about 10-15 minutes to come to a boil.
During this time, gather tons of spices and aromatics that are listed in the ingredients. Don’t worry, you can use a few less or more depending on what you have on hand.
Get a clay pot and turn the heat to medium. Clay pot works excellent for braising because it has a high heat capacity. Of course, other heavy-duty stock pots will work well too.
Drizzle in a couple of tbsp of oil. Toss in all the spices and aromatics. Stir for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Pour in 2 liters of the Chinese master brine and bring it to a boil.
By now, the beef pot should come to a boil. Turn off the heat and transfer the beef directly into the clay pot.
The master brine is already salty and has lots of flavors, so you will have to taste it every time to adjust the sodium level. It should be a lot saltier compared to your normal taste, so it can infuse the flavor into the meat. In my case, I used 1.5 tbsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tbsp of dark soy sauce for the color, 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine, and 2 tbsp of rock sugar. Turn the heat to the lowest and simmer for 2 hours.
Let’s take the beef out of the clay pot. It is super tender now. We can not slice it thinly. Otherwise, it will just break apart. Set it in the fridge to chill overnight.
Reserve 1/3 cup of brine for tomorrow to make the dipping sauce. Then save the rest of the brine for the next use. You can click here to learn how to properly store the brine. By using this liquid to braise meat, the beef released it’s own flavor into the broth, that’s how the lushui accumulates and develops the taste. You just keep reusing it; over time, it becomes valuable. For more details, please check my previous video.
The next day, let’s make the dipping sauce. Grate 5 cloves of garlic finely, then add the braising liquid that we reserved, a few tbsp of Sichuan hot chili oil, and 2 tbsp of the seasoned sweet soy sauce, which is Sichuan special, very hard to find outside of China. If you don’t have it, you can mix 2.5 tbsp of regular soy sauce + 1 tbsp of sugar as a replacement. Mine is homemade; the recipe is in this video. You can check it out later.
Take the beef out of the fridge and slice it thinly. This is a cold dish, and it is usually served as a starter because you can make it ahead of time and it is effortless to assemble. Line up the slices on the plate. Put a little bit of cilantro for extra flavor. Then serve with the dipping sauce.
I want to show the marble patterns. The translucent part is the silver skin. It is usually very tough, but we braised it for a long time, and we sliced it thinly so now it is tender and it has slight bounce, which is very delicious and interesting to eat.
Let’s give it a try. Em, this is so right. The flavor of the Chinese master brine is the soul, very complex and hard to describe as well. The texture of the beef is fantastic, with the dipping sauce. This is mind-blowing.
It reminds me of my childhood. In my hometown, next to where I live, we have a specialty store that sells all kinds of Luwei (卤味), which is a category word to describe all the food that are braised in the Chinese master brine. Lu niujianzi (卤牛腱子) is my number one craving dish in my childhood. My family doesn’t have the condition to develop our own Lushui because, without a freezer, the broth goes bad. The beef was very pricy back then, so we only buy it occasionally.