Cantonese style braised beef (萝卜炆牛腩) is super classic and popular. You can find it everywhere. In high-end restaurants, they served it as a centerpiece on the table. In fast food places, it is a popular take-out dish. It is so delicious that street food vendors even serve it as a snack. They give it to you in a paper cut. Oh, I used to get those all the time, miss it so much.
To blanch the beef
- 2.5 lb (1.13 kg) of boneless beef stew meat
- 1/4 cup of chinese cooking wine
- 2 scallions
- 2 inches of ginger, sliced thinly
- 1/2 tbsp of sichuan peppercorn
To make the sauce
- 2 tbsp of Zhu hou paste
- 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
- 1.5 tbsp of peanut butter
- 1 tbsp of sichuan dou ban jiang
- 2 pieces of Fu ru (Any fermented bean curd will do a good job. This is a cantonese dish so if you can find cantonese style bean curd we call it Nan ru, that will be better)
- 3 tbsp of sugar
To braise the beef
- 2 tbsp of cooking oil
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 inches of ginger, sliced thinly
- 1 pieces of star anise
- 2 pieces of bay leaves
- 1 of cinnamon stick
- 1 piece of orange peel
- 4 pieces of gan cao (甘草)
- A small piece of dried golango
- A couple pieces of red dried chilies
- 4 tbsp of Soy sauce
- 2 tsp of dark soy sauce
- 4-5 cups (1-1.25 liters) of water
- 1/2 tsp of salt or to taste
- 2 lbs (900 grams) of Chinese Daikon radish
- Diced scallion as garnish
Gancao (甘草), also known licorice root. It has a strong sweet after taste, which helps to gentle all the spices. If you don’t have the Gancao, you can use 1 tsp of fennel seeds as a replacement because fennel seeds also have a sweet after taste.
Cut the beef into 1 inch cubed. The boneless beef rib is the best cut for making this recipe because it has the perfect ratio between the fat and lean meat. It also has plenty of silver skin, which tastes amazing once properly cooked. You can also use beef shank, bone-in short ribs, Bottom Sirloin Flap, Fatty brisket, oxtail, even beef tendon, which is My favorite because once it is braised well, it becomes soft and gelatinous, super delicious.
Fill a big pot with water. Add your beef in, along with 1/4 cup of Chinese cooking wine. 2 scallions, 2 inches of ginger slices, and 1/2 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns.
Turn the heat to high and bring this to a boil. If you see any foamy stuff floating on the top of the water; skim it out by using a fine sieve. Mine is looking pretty so I am just taking out the spices and the aromatics. Remove the beef from the water and set it aside.
Before we get to the braising, let’s quickly make a sauce. You will need: 2 tbsp of Zhu hou paste, 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce, 1.5 tbsp of pure peanut butter, 1 tbsp of sichuan dou ban Jiang, 2 pieces of fermented bean curd, and 3 tbsp of sugar. Mix everything and set it aside.
This is a very thick sauce, and it does need to be sauteed to activate the aroma. So I am not mixing it with the soy sauce now as it will dilute the texture. Will reserve the soy sauce to add later.
I like to use a clay pot to do the braising as it retains the heat really well and redistributes it to the food slowly. You can click here to purchase it.
Turn the heat to high. Add some cooking oil (2 tbsp) along with some aromatics and the spices: 6 cloves of garlic, 2 inches of ginger, 1 piece of star anise, 2 pieces of bay leaves, 1 piece of cinnamon stick, 1 piece of orange peel, 4 pieces of Gan Cao, a small piece of dried Galangal, and a couple of pieces of red dried chilies. Stir for a couple of minutes or until the surface of the garlic is slightly golden.
Add the thick sauce, keep stirring for a few minutes to activate the flavor.
The beef goes in. Keep mixing until the every piece is well covered. Make sure you use the spatula to scrape down the bottom so nothing sticks. This smells like heaven already.
Add 4-5 cups of warm water, doesn’t need to be very hot but don’t use cold water because you don’t want to shock the beef. The amount of liquid should be able to cover the beef completely. Bring this to a boil. Give it a taste and see how much soy sauce do you need. I used 4 tbsp. Drizzle in some dark soy sauce for the color. Turn the heat to the lowest and let it simmer for 2 hours or until tender.
40 minutes before the beef is ready, we will peel the Daikon radish and cut it into big chunks. A note here – make sure you double peel the radish. I found out that the daikon radish in the USA is not as sweet as the ones that I had in China. It is more on the bitter side and it gives the soup an unbearable bitter after taste. The skin contains even more bitter elements, so it is very important to double peel the skin and blanch the radish.
If you don’t like daikon radish or you don’t have access to buy it, use potato instead.
Add the radish into a pot of boiling water. Let’s it blanch for about 5 minutes. As I mentioned before, this will remove the bitter taste. Take the radish out and transfer it into the clay pot. Give it a gentle stir and bring it back to a boil. Give it a taste to adjust the flavor because I want to be accurate after I added the daikon radish. I used about 1/2 tsp of salt here.
Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes and you are done. Let me show you how tender the beef is. I can barely pick it up. If you use a little more force, the beef will just break apart.
This goes perfectly with white rice. You can also serve it with noodles, which will be a super hearty and soul-warming dish. I am just gonna eat it on it’s own. The beef is no doubt super delicious, but I actually like the radish more, so soft and slightly sweet. It was white and now you can tell how flavorful it is by its brown color.