Chinese red-cooked beef with noodles

Shu's Chinese red cooked beef recipe is the perfect winter warmer, with tender braised beef shin braised in soy sauce, star anise, rice wine and sugar for an intense finish. Pop the bones from the beef shin into the stew along with the diced meat – the bone marrow will lend the dish a deliciously rich finish.

First published in 2017

In the bitterly cold months of winter, there is nothing more comforting than having a pot of stew bubbling away in the background while you go about your to-do list. One of my favourite one-pot dishes is red cooked beef, which I slurp up happily over rice or noodles. Red cooking (红烧) is a classic Chinese technique of braising meat, or even tofu, in soy sauce, rice wine and rock sugar. The soy sauce thickens while the sugar caramelises, creating a beautiful glossy sauce that’s a deep mahogany colour – the reason behind its intriguing name. Aromatics and spices like ginger and star anise are added to the braise; I also like adding mandarin peel to mine for a citrusy fragrance.

Tougher cuts like beef shin are perfect for this dish, as the long cooking process breaks down the tough fibres, resulting in meat so tender it almost melts in your mouth. Make sure to keep the bones; they create a stock as they simmer away with the meat, imparting the braising sauce with even more body and flavour. Bonus: these (unjustifiably) less popular cuts are also cheaper, making it a great one for the budget-conscious family.

* This is a dish that really benefits from being cooked in advance, as the flavours really develop You can even do this up to 3 days in advance, making this a perfect make-ahead dish.




Red cooked beef noodles

To serve


Pat the beef dry then season all over with salt. In a large pan, heat the oil over a high heat. Spread the beef out and sear on both sides until lightly browned. Be patient and do this in batches to ensure the beef browns nicely and doesn't stew in the pan
Add the reserved beef bones, water, soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar, ginger, spring onions, garlic, mandarin peel, star anise, and chilli flakes. Bring to the boil
Cover, reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer gently until the meat is very tender, for about 3 hours. After this time, turn off the heat and let the meat stand in cooking liquid, for at least 1 hour*. When ready to serve, bring it back up to the boil
Meanwhile, cook the noodles in boiling water until tender, for about 7 to 10 minutes depending on packet instructions. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water to stop them cooking – this also gives the noodles a nice springy texture. Divide between bowls
Blanch the pak choi in salted boiling water until bright green and just wilted. This will only take seconds! Drain and divide between the bowls, arranging them over the noodles
Ladle the hot broth over the noodles, topping with plenty of beef. Finish by sprinkling with the spring onions and coriander

Shu grew up in Singapore and continues her nation's obsession with food in London, where she writes about food that's seasonal, British, yet Singaporean at the same time.

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