I first tried this dish at my good friend Verna's house. Verna and I go way back to when I was a freshman in college. At a ubiquitous Christian fellowship camp, we were asked to find a partner to pray with, someone whom we didn't know. Verna, then a junior, and I stumbled into each other, prayed, and then spent the next few years of our college life growing in friendship. I still remember all the lovely conversations we had, all the spiritual enlightenment we shared--some even involving drawing diagrams and talking and praying into the night...
But I digress. One of the privilege's of being Verna's friend is tasting her mom's cooking. This I have done on several occasions. I spent my sophmore Christmas at Verna's lovely house in So Cal. And then, years later, I descended upon Verna's house (yes, the same lovely house in So Cal - unlike Singaporeans, Verna's family doesn't move houses every few years, neither did their house go up for EN BLOC or get mowed down to build highways... utter horrid rubbish I say) for Christmas again - this time, married, with Husband & Daniel, and 7 months pregnant with Benjamin! Verna herself was married and we had a wonderful few days catching up and yes, of course, tasting her mom's cooking.
Verna's mom is a terrific cook and terribly unassuming about it. Her dishes are very Taiwanese in character. She once made a steamed sliced loaf dish that, she quietly explained, consisted of 7 types of egg / chicken - preserved egg, steamed egg, century egg, minced chicken meat, duck's egg etc....And for Christmas dinner last year, she cooked up a veritable Taiwanese culinary storm, including this dish: Taiwanese braised beef shin (or tendon). I was mesmerised.
Imagine my delight then when I found a recipe for this dish in "Dad & Co", a cookbook by local Pauline D Loh and her food critic father. I was also pleased that the wet market near my house sold beef shin (which the beef lady auntie called "beef tendon" in chinese) at a very reasonable price - $12 per kg! Ri-dik-cuuu-lous! The amount of beef you see in the picture cost me only $5 and fed 4 persons!
So, it was with much anticipation that I tried out Pauline D Loh's recipe and here it is, slightly adapted, as I couldn't find some of the ingredients, so I modified it:
First, you have to create a soya sauce stock. To do this, bring 2 l of water to boil and then add 1 large piece of dried orange peel, 1 packet of 5 spices (not the powder kind, but the actual spices packet - aniseed, cinnamon quill, nutmegs, cloves - which you can find at any wet market of dried goods store), 1/3 hua tiao jiu, 1/2 cup dark soya sauce and 1/2 cup's worth of rock sugar. Simmer for 1 hour and taste. Add more rock sugar if you want it sweeter. (This is up to your taste).
Then, take your beef shin and blanch it by pouring boiling water over it. After that, immerse the beef shin into the pot of soya sauce stock completely. Boil for 45 mins, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 mins. Remove from stock, drain and cool. Refrigerate until needed. Then, cut into very thin slices and serve chilled with spring onions or cut chilles.
* Don't throw away the stock after using it. Pauline recommends re-boiling it, then storing it away. The re-boiling prevents the stock from becoming rancid. Apparently, the more times you use the stock, the better it'll become.
** As for how much beef shin to buy, we bought about 400g worth (estimate) and that was enough for 4 persons. Best to ask your beef wet market auntie/uncle to estimate for you based on the number of persons you are serving...