You know the guy who orders the same thing at every restaurant? That’s my dad. But it’s not like he orders a burger. He goes to every Chinese restaurant and orders a Niu Lan Bao, or a Beef Tendon Casserole. It’s quite an involved dish, and that’s how he judges if the chef is legit.
This means that I spent a good part of my life sampling Niu Nan Bao from across the country, and sometimes I miss it. Just a little. Okay a lot. I called Eataly while I was at work and asked them to order some beef tendon. Orders come in 8 pounds. I explained to the butcher that I was just trying to feed myself, and he agreed to only sell me only a portion.
I settled for 2 pounds of tendon and 2 pounds of boneless short rib. I figured between my boyfriend, his ravenous stomach, my ravenous stomach, and me, we can polish it off.
Those of you who don’t want to go around looking for beef tendon, this is also a great recipe for just a beef stew. It would make the cooking process about 2 hours faster, and will taste delicious!
2lbs beef tendon
2lbs boneless short rib
Big piece of ginger
5 cloves of garlic
4 star anise
4 bay leaves
2 sticks of cinnamon
soy sauce (light or dark) about 4 tablespoons
1/2 cup rice wine or mirin… or if you don’t have it white wine
Carrots and turnips or whatever else you want to add to your stew.
A lot of time.. about 4 hours, most of which is inactive.
First, you boil The whole pieces of beef tendon and cubes of short rib. This extracts the blood and weird flat blood flavor.
The crap will float to the top. Wait until you get a rumbling boil, stir the meat to make sure all of the loose blood is cooked into the nasty looking foam, and then you dump all this out and rinse the meat with clean water. This gets rid of the weird flat taste.
This is beef tendon. It’s hard as a motherf’er to cut. But after cleaning your meat, you want to cut this into little 1 inch pieces like the ones on the right. Next time, I’m just going to ask the butcher to do it. It’s either that, or you boil it for about an hour first, but then it get slippery, and actually lengthens the cooking time, because it takes longer to cook massive chunks – lower surface area to heat ratio.
In a big pot, heat up some oil, and cook the ginger, star anise, and garlic to release the aromatics.
Then dump in the rice wine and enough water to cover the meat, and in particular, the tendons. Next time I cook this, I will cook the tendons just by themselves for 1.5 hours first, because in the end, I fished out all the meat and cooked the tendons for an extra 1.5 hours just to get them extra extra soft.
So please do as I say and not as I do, and just cook the tendons in rice wine and water. Take that to a rumbling boil and simmer for 1.5 hours. Add the meat later and continue to cook for 1 hour.
1 hour after adding the short rib, the meat should be easily shreddable with a fork. At this point, I added the 4 bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and soy sauce, and cooked for another hour. You add the salty ingredients after the meat is tender because the salt causes the meat to seize up (you should know this, bio majors!) but if you have already broken down all the protein and it’s all nice and soft, the flavor can permeate more easily.
An hour later, I decided that the meat and flavoring was perfect, (this is where I fished the meat out because the tendons were still stringy. But if you cooked the tendons first like I instructed above, then you can skip to the step below)
Skim the fat! Check the flavoring! When you taste that everything is to the perfect tenderness of your liking and the tendons should be super soft like an overcooked carrot, add the carrots and turnips or whatever veggies you like. Carrots and turnips cook for about 25 minutes. At this point, I also fished out the star anise, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, none of which are edible. This is already an unusually long time to leave the star anise in. When cooked for a long time, it often gives off a bitter flavor. This time it seems to be balanced by the cinnamon.
The soup should be extremely gelatinous at this point. Even after I diluted this soup 16x, it still turned into gelatin at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you let this stock cool to room temperature, it should start forming a film. I would ladle out some of the soup and freeze it, because it would make a great soup base later. boiling tendons and such is actually how gelatin and glue are made. All that stickiness is protein.
The tendon should be translucent like this!
I had this hearty meal over rice.
Don’t be concerned that the tendon tastes like butter, because the calories are 97% protein. NINETY SEVEN PERCENT. If I had known I would have gotten the 8 lbs!. The high collagen content of the beef tendon is also good for your skin!