Chinese Beef Stew with Tendon

Stewed beef tendon has hearty flavor with a wonderful mouthfeel.

Chinese Beef and Tendon Stew

Well, I’ve been working for two weeks now and I’m beginning to feel a bit better although I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do every week. The hardest part has been coming home to cook after a long day at work. Some days, it’s really rough trying to get into cooking mode when all I want to do is lie down and veg! I have a new respect for all you working moms out there. If you have any tips for me on how to cope, I sure could use them.

Anyway, because of that, my weekends are now my major cooking days. Or at least one of the days, I try to make into a cooking day. The other day (usually Saturday), I put my foot down and insist on some rest—which means no cooking!

Yesterday, I decided I was going to make Chinese Beef Stew. It is something I’ve not made before but I remember distinctly having it at a friend’s house. She had used oxtail so it had a lovely beefy flavor along with the wonderful fragrance of cinnamon and star anise in the broth. She also told me that it was quite easy to make.

Winging It

Since I had gotten all my ingredients, I did not have time to wait for her to respond to my email for the recipe. I decided to wing it instead. And it worked out really well. It was quite easy like she said and full of wonderful Chinese spice fragrance. Also, the addition of tendon gave the stew a wonderful mouth feel.

The only problem I faced was that I started the stew much too late. I started prepping my ingredients around 4pm and realized at that point that my tendon wasn’t going to get cooked in time for dinner. Thanks to a can of Spam and some eggs, my family sat down to a simple dinner of scrambled spam and eggs and a simple veggie stirfry. The stew? It continued to simmer away till close to 9pm.

This problem turned out to be a good thing. First, stews are always better the next day anyway and secondly, I didn’t have to worry about dinner today.

If you have a chance to get some tendon for this stew, go for it. It is an ingredient that isn’t that exotic really. The texture is soft and gelatinous once it’s cooked down and the tendon absorbs a lot of the lovely flavors. I know it doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing but when tendon is cooked right, it is simply amazing! Unctuous and silky with just the right amount of sticky chewiness to delight your palate.

Beef Tendon

beef tendon

As for the beef, this is not the time to use an expensive cut. I went for a cheap cut with some fat marbling (chuck or brisket is a good cut for stews). Cut into large chunks and browned in a bit of oil before putting everything together for the long simmer, the meat breaks down and becomes tender and flavorful.

One other important ingredient would be the daikon. On its own, it adds some sweetness but more importantly, the daikon holds together really well in long braises unlike the potato which would break down to a starchy mess. It also absorbs all the flavors from the broth making it work harmoniously with all the rest of the ingredients.

As for the flavoring ingredients, the spices used in this stew are reminiscent of Asian five spice. Cinnamon, star anise, and ginger all added sweetness and heat. Some simple seasonings and a long simmer and the beef stew is done. Try this out if you’re looking for another way to cook a cheap cut of beef!

Chinese Beef Stew

1 kg (about 2.5lbs) of beef (chuck or brisket is good), cut into 1 inch cubes
500g (about 1 lb) tendon, cut into bite sized pieces (1 1/2 inches)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup Shao Hsing wine
2 cinnamon sticks
3-4 star anise
1 fat thumb ginger, peeled and sliced into thick disks
1 medium piece of rock sugar (or to taste), if you can’t find rock sugar, use regular sugar
1-2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 large or 4-5 small daikon, peeled and cut in large chunks
2 cups water

1. In a large, heavy bottomed dutch oven pot, add vegetable oil and turn heat to medium.
2. Brown beef chunks on all sides being careful not to crowd the meat. Brown in batches until all the beef is done. Remove beef and add Shao Hsing wine. Scrape the bottom of pot till all the browned bits have melted into the wine. Turn down heat a little if the wine is evaporating too quickly.

Browning Beef

browning stew beef
3. Return the beef to the pot along with the tendon.
4. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger, rock sugar, salt, soy sauce and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top.

Rock Sugar, Cinnamon and Star Anise in Beef Stew

rock sugar cinnamon star anise in beef stew
5. Turn heat to med low and let simmer for an hour.
6. Add daikon and bring to a boil again. Immediately lower the heat to low and simmer for another 3-4 hours or until tendon and beef is tender. Make sure that the water level is close to the top of the meat (otherwise, whatever pieces are sticking out might get dried out and tough—stir every hour or so to ensure all the pieces get cooked through).
7. Taste
and adjust seasonings.

Chinese Beef Stew with Tendon

chinese beef stew with tendon

Plate up and enjoy this hearty stew with some rice. Leftovers would also be good with dry-tossed wonton noodles.


Cheers, Annie

19 thoughts on “Chinese Beef Stew with Tendon”

  1. Boy, does that bring back memories! My mom used to give me the beef tendon to chew on, so I'd get out of her hair! She left it on the beef during cooking and then would give it to me. I loved the chew texture of it — much like having some beefy chewing gum. I'd forgotten all about that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. We are really lucky in Sydney Australia everything is easily available and tendon is so so good I love its texture and it look. Well done lovely work. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia. And thanks for leaving a comment on my blog!

  3. Hey Annie, try using a crocpot. I do that all the time. I would prep all the ingredients the night before and in the morning, put everything into the crockpot.

    When I get home in the evening, everything is ready.

    I do that for soups, Oxtail Stews (shortcut using Garlic Pasta Sauce, Red wine and chicken broth … I made this on Monday), falling off the bone bbq beer ribs. The list is endless.

    Good luck!!!

  4. Lately I've been cooking after dinner for the next night's dinner. Then there's no time pressure to get it on the table, and I can have a more relaxing interval between work and dinner-time instead of feeling like I've just left one job to come home home to another.

  5. Whoa.. "Ngau Lam"! I love adding this to my noodles.

    P/s: Regarding the cooking after work, try some dishes using slow cooker or even turbo boiler. Pressure cooker might be a good choice too to shorten the period of cooking. A pot of Dark Soy Sauce Pork (Tau Ewe Bak) would take about 15 minutes cooking time. Normally I do the lazy way… cook more portion and freeze them up. All you need would be a few minutes of microwave. 😛

    Criz Lai

  6. @all – thanks for your comments!

    @Sharlene – speaking of memories of beefy chewing gum, my dad used to make beef tripe stew. I hated it because it was always so chewy. Anyone else out there were/are tripe haters?

    @Janet – you'd figure that cows in Switzerland have tendons, same as cows in Australia. So where do those tendons go, I wonder?

    @Audax – welcome to our blog!

    @Tigger mum – we'd love to use a crockpot, but we sold ours when we moved to Malaysia.

    @Melissa – great idea!

    @Criz – wow, 15-minute tau yu bak! That would be nice, except we don't have a pressure cooker either… Everything has to cook in our Dutch oven.

  7. I made this dish today and it came out very good. The only problem I have is getting the beef and tendons. The butcher suggested that I use drop flank. It has a tough piece of membrane like leather. It was so hard to cut a piece out. I used the scissors. Then comes the tendons. They do not look like the ones you cut up at all. I cut the membrance attached to the tendons to separate each tendons. That’s a lot of work! I did not cut up the tendons into small piece because I couldn’t. I put the whole length in the pot. Fortunately they turned into small pieces. No cutting is necessary. After four hours, the tendons are edible but it can be cooked a little longer. All and all, I like this recipe. Any tips on how to deal with the tendons?

  8. Stumbled on your blog last week while looking for a recipe with tendons. I don’t eat it myself but my hubby and 11 year old LOVE it. Thank you for your recipe and tips on cooking time, it turned out great! My husband was soooo happy (he thought I was joking when I told him earlier in the day that I was cooking tendons). I am looking forward to trying your other recipes!

  9. My late-Dad LOVED this dish. As a kid, I used to remember wondering how someone could love that chewy mass of stuff. LOL But as an adult now, I can see the appeal. No wonder my Dad craved this satisfying, hearty dish so often.

    1. My grandfather loved to eat “ngau gun mein” – beef tendon with noodles. It killed him – he choked on a piece one day while eating it for lunch. I couldn’t eat tendon for a very long time after that.

      I’ve since gotten over my aversion to it and enjoy it quite a bit now. I think I should eat it more now that I’m older and the joints could use some of that gelatin. ;od

  10. Dear Annie,

    This is one of my fave dish and I’m going to try and cook this for the first time today.

    I’ve read a few other recipes which seem to specify using Chu Hou sauce which I’ve never used before and too lazy to go hunt for. I believe oyster sauce might also be a good substitute.

  11. It’s so hard to break up rock sugar. I wonder why they don’t make it into smaller pieces for measuring. A coarse or granulate version would be ideal.

  12. Great recipe- thanks for sharing. I substituted chicken broth for some of the water and mirin for the rock salt, and added mushrooms, but otherwise followed this closely. Thanks.

    Boston Massachusetts USA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *