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Chinese Red-Braising Pork vs. Beef

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I would like to modify the NYTimes Red-Braised Belly Pork Shanghainese Style recipe to use boneless beef short rib meat. The recipe works fine with pork butt, so the remaining problem is spice changes, if any. The recipe uses 4 T crystal sugar, 6 slices ginger, 10 stalks spring onion, 2 t dark soya sauce, 2 T light soy sauce, 1 t chicken powder, 1/8 t salt, 2 T Shaoxing wine, 1 star anise, 1 t red fermented bean curd, and 1 black cardamom.

Would you change the ingredients in any way for beef?

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  1. While your recipe is different from any I've seen (e.g.fermented bean curd, chicken powder?), my impression is that the protein is interchangeable. That is, a similar sauce is used with chicken, beef, pork, and tongue. I just eyeball a mix of water, soy sauce, star anise (I like this a lot), spring onions, maybe a few dried mushrooms, and some ginger. Sugar, wine and black cardamom sound ok, though I've never used them in a red-cooked dish. Sometimes I've used the left over sauce from one meat with a different.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      The fermented red bean curd and black cardamom really put a fine finish on the dish. They definitely are worth seeking out and experimenting with.

    2. I reuse my master stock for different meats without changing seasonings. Each subsequent braise imparts its own character to the existing stock without detracting. The black cardamom is an interesting addition, not something I ever thought to combine with pork.

      1. I think you could probably interchange the meat, the key will be to use a really fatty beef cut that stands up well to long cooking- boneless beef ribs are probably a good choice.

        1. You can swap out pork for beef, but it won't taste the same. Rejiggering the spices won't matter too much either because, well, pork tastes like pig and beef tastes like cow.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I was hoping you would chime in ipse. You know, just to generate a little friction and light. Surely, one can marinate and braise long enough to strongly impart the flavor of the marinade into the meat. So, what changes would you make?

          2. I've never used the NYT recipe you mention, but a "standard" red dou fu braise often includes cassia bark. And for a "standard" all beef braise it is common to use: dried orange peel, cassia bark, clove, star anise, anise seed or fennel seed, sichuan peppercorns, licorice root, usually no chicken powder or scallion or red bean curd, but the rest of the ingredients similar to what you list above, but with a heavier dose of soy and a dried red chili.

            1. Well, obviously red braised pork and red braised beef are different. There is one difference I like to point out. While it is completely acceptable to have sweet red-braising pork, I don't think that is normal for beef to be very sweet. You will probably have to significantly decrease the amount of sugar for red braising beef. Also, I am not sure if I like beef short-rib as the cut, but that is completely a personal choice.

              In short, I would recommend to cut the sugar down for beef and increase the amount of salt. There seems to be a lot of green onion too, so I will cut that as well. Star anise is a good choice, not so sure if black cadamom is necessary.

              1. i'd be a little bit careful about reducing the sugar if you are using the red doufu ( the sweetness balances the bitterness from the red rice yeast and the pungency of the fermented dou fu), but it is certainly an open question how much you need.

                true the beef ribs aren't all that typical/traditional in red simmer, but i've used both short ribs and beef back ribs in red simmers and really liked them (i usually use bone-in cuts, but it doesn't matter much, and boneless will make for a nicer presentation). anyway, the traditional Chinese beef cuts to use, one from the chuck and the other from the brisket, or beef tendons, can be hard to find unless you have good access to a chinese grocer/butcher, as in the US the butchers cut those muscles quite differently from the Chinese method.