When I was a little girl, I walked a few blocks to my primary school each day with a 10-cent breakfast allowance in my pocket for two plain steamed buns. I walked down a street commonly known as the ‘Poetry Book Road’. The street was renamed as the ‘Red Book Road’ during the culture revolution in honor of Chairman Mao’s red book of quotations.
At a corner across the street, there was a street hawker selling beef flank, pork tripe and meat balls. In winter, the hot steam rose from her big pot in the tiny stand, the aroma of soy, star anise and Chinese white radish lingering in the air … mouth-watering and irresistible. The stall operator was a middle age woman, short, chubby and never smiled. She had a pair of gigantic scissors that made sharp ‘chop chop chop’ noises. When she received an order, she cut some small pieces off a larger piece, skillfully threading the pieces onto a bamboo stick without touching them with her hands. A stick with 3 small piece of juicy, fatty and heart-warming meat cost 10 cents. What a difficult decision for a little girl – spending the 10 cents breakfast allowance on a meat stick and hungry for the rest of the morning, or 2 plain streamed buns. I took some deep breaths (the aroma was so good) and walked across the road to buy the buns. Now remembering, the two buns didn’t fill me up anyway. At school I sat next to a boy whose name was ‘Bin’. We enjoyed a few laughs when our stomachs rumbled at the same time.
I cooked beef flank many times over the past many years. It always brought back memories of the hawker stall on the Poetry Book Road.
Recipe is as follows:
(Serves 4 as a low FODMAP recipe)
- 500g beef flank or pork belly, cut into 1-1.5 inch chunks
- 80g carrot, cut in chunks
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 star anise
- 1/2 cinnamon sticks
- 5g ginger, cut in half
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cooking oil (I use olive oil)
- 50ml red wine
- 1 tsp corn starch
- a little water
- In a hot pan, add cooking oil, brown the beef flank; add all other ingredients except the carrot; bring to boil; then simmer at low heat for 40 minutes with a lid on; check the beef, it should be just getting slightly tender;
- Add carrots, simmer for further 30 minutes until the vegetable is tender
- Remove the cinnamon sticks & ginger; remove excess oil at the top using a oil skimmer
- Mix the corn starch with a little water; add to the stew; stir well
- Serve with hot rice