Beef flank stew (牛腩) with Asian spices and soy sauce, my memory of the hawker stall on the ‘Poetry Book Road’ ( FODMAP friendly)

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Beef flank stew
When I was a little girl, I walked to the primary school each day.  I ate breakfast along the way. I had a ten cents allowance for two plain steamed buns each morning.

I walked down a street commonly known as the ‘Poetry Book Road’. For many years, the street was renamed as the  ‘Red Book Road’ in honor of Chairman Mao’s red book of quotations.

Translation of the road sign:  Poetry Book Road; to the north, ‘Paper Factory Road’; to the south, ‘Heavenly Successful Road’.  September 2017, GuangZhou, China
A street vendor selling beef flank stew and pig intestines near Poetry Street, September 2017, GuangZhou, China

At the end of the street, there was a tiny hawker stall selling beef flank and pig intestines. In winters, the hot steam rose from her big pots. The aroma of soy, star anise and clove lingered 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 loud ‘chop chop chop’ sound. When she received an order, she cut some small pieces off a larger piece, skillfully threading them to a bamboo stick without touching them with her hands.  A stick with 3 pieces of juicy, fatty and heart-warming meat cost 10 cents. It was a difficult decision for a little girl – spending the 10 cents on a meat stick and be hungry for the rest of the morning, or two plain buns. I took some deep breaths (the aroma was so good) and nibbled on the tasteless buns.

Now I remembered, the two buns never filled me up anyway. At school I sat next to a boy whose name was ‘Bin’. We enjoyed a few laughs as our stomachs rumbled at the exact same moment.

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:


  • 1kg beef flank, trim off excess fat, cut into 1-1.5 inch chunks
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce – dark soy sauce is not very salty, you can add more for favor and color
  • a few star anise
  • a few bay leafs
  • 1 cinnamon sticks
  • a few black pepper corn
  • a few cloves
  • a pinch of fennel
  • a few cardamon pods
  • a little (say 5g) fresh ginger, sliced
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp corn starch, mix well with water


  • In a pot sufficient to hold all the beef,  add all ingredients except for the corn flour mixture; bring to boil; simmer at low heat for 2 hour with a lid on; check the beef, it should be tender and juicy.
  • Add the corn starch mixture to the stew, mix well.
  • Serve hot with rice.
Beef flank, diced
Beef flank, diced
Asian spices – cinnamon, star anise, clove, cardamon, fennel, pepper corn
Beef flank ready to be cooked
Beef flank ready to be cooked




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