Red-cooked dishes are popular Chinese dishes although they are not often found in restaurants in the US. Most commonly featuring chicken or pork, the "red" stock they are cooked in is often a master stock that has been used and refreshed numerous times, becoming ever more flavorful and nuanced. Unlike those dishes, this red-braised beef is a simpler affair, with its flavors similar to those of beef semur.
Although Tjing doesn't much care for beef, her cousins are big meat eaters. As their kitchen is currently undergoing a major renovation, I've been asked to cook some dinners for them. With a recent cool down and light showers bringing an end to our summer, it seemed like a good time to make some stew. This is a stew any meat and mushroom lover would appreciate. The recipe is adapted from Terrific Pacific Cookbook, a cookbook with many delicious recipes influenced or inspired by Asian cuisines.
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 TBS roasted sesame oil
3 to 4 pounds meaty beef shanks
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup shao hsing rice wine
6 TBS kecap manis
1 TBS dark soy sauce
3 slices ginger, crushed
10 dried shitake mushrooms, stems removed, rinsed to remove any grit
1/3 cup tamarind water (from 1 TBS tamarind pulp dissolved in boiling water, strained)
1 stick of cinnamon
4 1/2 cups beef stock or canned broth
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 TBS cold water
Tie in a piece of cheesecloth or place in a spice bag:
2 star anise, crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
5 cloves, lightly crushed
3 pieces tangerine peel
In a dutch oven or large pan heat the oils over medium-high heat until almost smoking. In batches, brown the beef shanks. Remove the beef from the pan and fry the mushrooms until browned. Remove the mushrooms and place with the browned beef.
Pour off the fat from the pan and add the rice wine, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to get up all those good brown bits. At this point I pour all of this liquid into a Chinese claypot and cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by about half, but you can simply continue cooking in the same pot if you like. Add the soy sauces, tamarind water, ginger, shitakes, cinnamon, spices in the cheesecloth or spice bag, along with the stock, and bring this to a boil. Add the beef and sliced mushrooms, cover the pot, and simmer for 1 1/2 to two hours, until the beef is tender and falling from the bones.
Uncover the pot and simmer on low until the liquid is reduced and thickened to your liking. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook for several minutes. You don't want a gravy-like sauce, but something approaching that of a good beef bourguignon.