July 22, 2013

Chinese Spiced Beef Shin Shank 滷牛腱

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We were thinking about roast beef sandwiches and naturally, this being Hong Kong, could not find any roasting type of meat cuts available. Though it does appear off and on on the supermarket shelves.  Just never when you actually want to buy it.  

So, being frustrated, I had a 'light bulb' and thought of my Mom's delicious Chinese Spiced Beef Shin Shank, or 滷牛腱, that she always makes for us on our visits home.  It is a slow cooked soy and spices flavored shin of beef that becomes deliciously tender and fragrant with beautiful stripes of translucent melty tendons patterning the sliced beef.  Ah, the pleasures of the Chinese kitchen!!

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Usually this Chinese Spiced Beef is presented as one dish out of many at a Chinese family style meal.  (Rice served individually and two to four veg or meat dishes that are shared.) Or you could serve this as an excellent tea time snack.  It also is most delicious as a topper for Chinese noodles.  

But since I was longing for some roast beef sandwiches originally, I switched it up and had Chinese Spiced Beef Sandwiches instead.  Some bread spread with mayo, piled up with yummy beef slices dripping with sauce, and topped with some Chinese Hua Gua Pickles.  What can I say?  It was absolutely fabulous!  And probably better than my originally longed for roast beef sandwich to boot.  Forgot to take of picture of my sandwich, it was so good I just wolfed it down!

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The particular cut of beef used for this recipe is the cut known as the Golden Coin Muscle 牛腱 and sometimes as Heel Muscle.  It actually looks like a big ol' muscle with a thick tendon at one end.  The meat inside striated: thin strips of tendons alternating with the meat.  

These tendons require a long long time to cook down but its well worth it to end up with the resulting amazingly melty and contrasting texture and the wonderful beefy flavor.  There's no other cut quite like it!  The Golden Coin Muscle is often found in the frozen section of grocery markets.  It is boneless as well so that after cooking and cooling it can be sliced into elegant thin round slices. 

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For the spices I used some spice bags that my mom got me.  It says on the packet that it contains cinnamon, fennel, zingiber and clove.  You can look for these spice bags or you could just use the loose spices that you have on hand.  I think these spice bags are probably easier to find in Chinatowns overseas or in Taiwan.  I've never seen these in Hong Kong.  Don't worry too much if you don't have one spice or the other.  

Oh, and I think zingiber is just ginger.  Zingiber...what a lovely word, don't you think?

beef, beef shin, chinese, cold cuts, cold dish, recipe, soy sauce, spiced, 滷牛腱, shank
Mom's Chinese Spiced Beef Shin Shank 滷牛腱
(Prep time: 2 mins  Cook time: 1 hour)



Blanch the beef shin in boiling water for 1 minute.  Pour out water and add enough fresh water to cover shins when added.  

Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add the beef shins and cover.  Boil at medium for 1 hour, lower heat to shimmer and cook for another 1 to 1 1/2 hour until tender.  Be sure to remember to add water to cover as you cook.  To check tenderness stab a knife through the shin.  If it goes through quite easily you are done.  Let cool.

Separate beef shins from liquid and chill both separately in refrigerator.  The beef needs to be cold in order to cut properly in thin slices.  When ready to serve slice the beef shins thinly, arranging nicely on a plate.  

Spoon out appropriate amount of sauce (just enough to cover the beef shin slices on the plate) from your saved sauce and heat up in a small pan.  Pour over the chinese spiced beef shins and serve.

You may keep the beef shins for up to a week in your fridge.

Tip: You can make your own tangerine peel!  Check out our homemade Tangerine Peel Chen Pi recipe



  1. Is the anise seed you are referring to the same with star anise(八角) and do I need five of them or just five of the eight sections of the star???Thanks.

    1. Five star anise 八角 (whole stars, not sections) is what the recipe calls for. This will result in stronger anise flavor overall which complements the beef well. Hope that you enjoy the spiced beef!

    2. If I use 5 spice powder instead of the individual spices. How much of the 5 spice powder do I use in this recipe? I have a bottle of 5 spice powder at home that I got from the Asian market.

    3. Hi Sally - you can use 2-3 tsp of 5 spice powder to substitute the spices; but if you do, I recommend to at least add star anise and fresh ginger as well per the recipe. ~ellen

  2. In college, I used to visit this hole in the wall dumpling place and they had this sesame pancake with beef and veggies and I'm almost certain this is the beef. I'm gonna bookmark this so I can try recreating that sandwich.

  3. Hi Sherry - You're right, it is the beef used for the Shao Bing Jia Rou 燒餅夾肉. It looks so yummy (my tummy's growling), I think I'm going to try making it. Thanks for the inspiration! ~ellen