For many years, I walked down a street commonly known as the ‘Poetry Book Road’ to go to school in the mornings. I was given ten cents allowance for breakfast, which was just enough for two plain steamed buns.
At the end of the street, there was a tiny hawker stall selling braised 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.
- 1kg beef flank or brisket, trim off excess fat, cut into 1-1.5 inch chunks
- 1 tbsp. corn starch, mix with 3 tbsp. of water
‘Lao sui’ stock
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sugar (I use Chinese rock sugar)
- 4 star anise
- 6 bay leaves
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks (approx. 10g)
- 1 tsp pepper corns, lighted crushed
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- a few cardamom pods, crushed
- fresh ginger (approx. 20g or to taste), sliced
- salt to taste
- In a large saucepan, add beef and ingredients for the stock, top with stuffiest water to submerge the beef, bring to boil; turn the heat down, simmer (a slow boil) for 1.5 to 2 hours with a lid on; check the beef, it should be tender and juicy
- Add the corn starch mixture to the saucepan, bring to a slow boil, mix well to thicken to stock
- Serve hot with rice