How to make Hong Kong-style Curry with Beef Brisket?
Today, we wanted to show you how to make a classic at Hong Kong chachaanteng, curry beef brisket.
Now, know that it’s not like there’s one master recipe for Hong Kong curry – different restaurants will have their own versions.
That said, Hong Kong curry could kind of be conceptualized as a mix between British and Thai curries – the historical starting point
does seem to be the British sort, but over the years more Chinese spices were tossed in the mix, and a bit of Southeast Asian flair was added in the form of Hong Kong curry’s distinctive hit of lemongrass and coconut cream.
To get started with Hong Kong-style curry, you’ll need Hong Kong-style curry paste.
This stuff, or a brand like it, is generally what most Chachaantengs start off with, so if you’ve got some handy your life’s easy.
But something tells me that this stuff wouldn’t exactly available at most local supermarkets in the West, so, unfortunately, we gotta take the long route and reverse engineer this stuff from scratch.
How To Make Hong Kong-style Curry With Beef Brisket?
Our homemade version here is basically a mix of this bottle and a couple of other brands – no guarantee that this’s exactly how it’s
done in the factory, but the taste is on point in our opinion.
So this was the spice mix that we ended up settling on,20 grams turmeric powder, 10 grams cumin powder, 4 grams chili powder, 2 grams star anise – ground til fine in a coffee or spice grinder, 2 grams licorice root, also ground in a coffee or spice grinder but this stuff can be a pain so just do the best you can and a gram each of ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, and clove powder.
Then, of course, our requisite weird, tough to source thing – two grams Chen pi dried and aged tangerine peel powder.
This ingredient is actually not even that common here in China as you can see, this is, for restaurant use – but the curry paste we were mimicking definitely had a kick of the stuff.
If you can’t find it, feel free to sub in orange peel powder or lemongrass powder instead.
And with the powders prepped, we can fry them.
So first add eight tablespoons of peanut or vegetable oil to a pan and get that up until a smoke point – about 220 centigrade.
Now shut off the heat and let that cool down a bit once you’re looking at roughly 175 Celcius or so, toss in your powdered spices.
Give that a nice mix, and once that’s cool enough to handle – after about thirty minutes or so – jar it up.
And with that, you’ve got yourself some Hong Kong-style curry paste.
Now for the beef.
I called this stuff brisket before because that’s how it’s usually translated, but this is actually 650 grams of kengnan, or
We tested this with brisket though too, so feel free to go that route as well.
Before you do anything though, first take your plate (or brisket) and toss in some cool water to soak for one hour.
After an hour of soaking, you should see that the water’s extracted a lot of myoglobin.
So drain that out, and add in two inches of smashed ginger, a sprig or two of scallion tied in a knot, a solid glug, or about two
tablespoons of liaojiu a.k.a. Shaoxing wine, and an optional sprinkle or about a half tablespoon of coriander seed.
Lastly, toss in a teabag if you feel like it – like, bog-standard Lipton’s would be completely fine.
Tea contains tannins that help tenderize the meat, but the effect’s kinda subtle so totally not obligatory.
Pour in enough water to submerge the beef, cover, and bring to a light boil.
Once it’s at a boil, take a look to see how much scum you’re looking at.
There’s no need to be paranoid here because we won’t be using this liquid, but if you’ve got a lot of gunk like us there’s no harm
in a quick skim so it won’t cling to the beef when you take it out.
Then cover, turn your flame to the lowest heat your stove go, and let that simmer away for at least two hours.
Two hours later now, we’ll shut off the heat and let that sit in the hot water for at least 30 minutes.
Now, if you don’t mind in the mid-afternoon our new balcony here apparently has the same lighting as the surface of Mercury…
and we stupidly haven’t bought a curtain yet, so forgive us for finishing the job inside.
Take out the beef, and it should be tender enough that a chopstick can easily poke through.
Now just cut that into about inch and a half chunks something about this size is more or less perfect.
Then in a wok over a medium-low flame, toss in your beef cubes and give those an oil-less toast for about two minutes.
That’ll tighten up the exterior of the beef chunks as well as imparting a bit of browning, and set that aside.
Now for our curry base.
So to a pot with about a tablespoon of oil first toss in a half a red onion cut into chunks and fry for about four minutes over
medium-low flame until translucent like so.
Then add in two shallots and about four cloves of garlic, both also roughly chopped, and fry for another minute.
Lastly, add in two inches of chopped ginger and two stalks of sliced lemongrass.
Quick aside that when working with lemongrass we’re really only looking for the bottom white portion, don’t waste the top bit though you can save it for tea or alternatively infuse it into gin.
But after a minute of frying those, we can go in with two tablespoons of our Hong Kong curry paste giving it a quick mix before
pouring and an optional teaspoon of turmeric for extra color.
Fry those all together for another minute, then go in with 500 milliliters of hot, boiled water.
Quick mix, then go in with two dried bay leaves, cover, and bring to a boil.
Then once it’s at a boil, swap your flame to low, and let that simmer covered for ten minutes.
At this point, this curry does the very British-feeling thing of blending everything together.
We’ve heard that some Hong Kong restaurants use immersion blenders these days, and obviously, feel free to do the Southeast Asian thing of just thoroughly pounding your aromatics first if you’re so inclined.
We tested that too and it’s also tasty, it’s just that blending got us to that classic Chachaanteng consistency.
So remove the bay leaves, blend on low for about a minute, then on high for another, and pour it back in the pot.
And with that, we’ve got our curry base.
So, now go back in with your beef chunks and bay leaves, but know that at this point you could really toss in whatever you want in
there… this could be the base for a lot of dishes.
Bring that all to a light boil, then season with two teaspoons of salt and four teaspoons of sugar, turn that down to a simmer, and
let that cook covered for twenty minutes.
And finally, after that time, toss in two tablespoons of coconut cream, and let that simmer uncovered until thickened to your liking
– for reference, we went about five minutes more because we like ours a bit on a thick side.
Then just take that out, and serve alongside some white rice and a bit of blanched broccoli for that classic Chachaanteng vibe.
So Hong Kong Curry, besides pork chop [sic] you’ll also see chicken cutlet and if you’ve been on the streets of Hong Kong
fishball simmering in curry.