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HK Style Beef Curry

HK style curry beef (咖喱牛腩) is one of the most popular take out dishes in Cha Can Ting restaurants (茶餐厅). This is a mild curry with a subtle sweetness, but super savory. It is surprisingly easy to make at home.

Cut the beef brisket into 1-inch cubes. Any stew meat will work well here, such as shank, chuck roast, short ribs.

I am using a clay pot to do the braising because it retains the heat very well and distributes it to the food slowly. Other cookware that has a good heat capacity such as duct oven or slow cooker will also work well.

Add a couple of tbsp of vegetable oil to the clay pot along with the diced onion, shallot, garlic, and ginger. Stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the aromatics are soft and translucent. This is not a spicy, invasive type of curry recipe so I am not adding any hot chilies. Of course, you can if you want. HK is a very interesting place. You can find all kinds of cuisines from all over the world that are adapted to the local taste then exist as a unique cultural culinary combination.

When you feel that the onion is getting a little bit sticky at the bottom, that is the time to add the spices: 2 bay leaves, 1 cinnamon stick, and 1 piece of orange peel, the one I am using is preserved and aged, so the aroma is complex and pungent. If you don’t have it, you can use fresh orange peel without the white bitter layer.

Next, we will add the following seasonings.

  • 1 tbsp of Zhuhou paste, this is what makes this curry recipe Cantonese because Zhuhou paste is primarily meant to be used in Cantonese-style braised dishes.
  • 1 tbsp of satay sauce. This is another hint that shows you HK is just a cuisine melting pot. I find it does make the curry creamier, and thicker because it contains quite a lot of peanut. If you don’t have it, you can combine 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter, and 1/2 tbsp of shrimp paste as a replacement. If you are allergic to peanuts, use almond butter;
  • 1 tbsp of curry powder, any brand will work;
  • 1 tsp of turmeric powder, this is optional because curry powder already contains turmeric. But the brand that I am using is not giving the dish that yellow color so I like to add a little extra. You may not need it depending on what you use;
  • 1 tbsp of palm sugar, if you don’t have it, use brown sugar;
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce.

Stir until all the sugar is melted and everything combined into a thick paste. Add the beef along with 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine to deglaze whatever that is stuck at the bottom of the clay pot. Keep mixing until all the meat is coated nicely.

I actually simplified this recipe by adding the raw beef into the curry directly. In Cantonese cuisine, we like to blanch our meat before braising it to get a clean taste. But the curry is so flavorful, blanching is not going to make a big difference in taste, that is why I skip it to make it into an easy one-pot recipe. However, you can always blanch it if you want, or even sear the meat in a skillet first to get some extra flavor.

Now we are going to pour in 1-2 cups of hot water, just enough to cover all the meat. Follow up with 1/2 of a can of coconut milk, about 200 ml, to gentle all the spices. As I mentioned before, HK-style curry suppose to be mild.

Bring this to a boil. And add some salt (I used 1 tbsp) to adjust the flavor. We will let this simmer on low heat for 2 hours. Make sure you check the liquid level once in a while. Add hot water as needed because everybody’s stove is different, you don’t want it to evaporate too much.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Add it to the clay pot and let it cook for another 30 minutes. You can also use carrot, or daikon radish instead.

Before serving, check the consistency of the curry. If yours is too thin, you can crank up the heat to reduce it. If it is too thick, add a little more water.  Top a bunch of cilantro. You can bring the whole clay pot to the table and serve.


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