I am getting a little fussy when seeking out good Malaysian food these days. There is a proliferation of Malaysian eateries in Sydney recently serving the usual hawker style Malaysian food.
Having grown up in Malaysia in my early years, I love Malaysian food because it is tasty and offers a wide variety of dishes that is a culmination of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences that have made some of these flavours uniquely “Malaysian”.
I owe my culinary skills and the immense enjoyment I get from cooking to my mother, who in turn, developed her skills in the kitchen from her mother. There were no cookbooks or elaborate recipes when I began to develop a love for cooking.
Just by observing my late grandmother and my mother in the kitchen, I managed to pick up some of the most basic rudiments of cooking and through the years, I have enjoyed experimenting with beautiful ingredients, cooking techniques and having good friends as guinea pigs for my musings.
So, when it comes to Malaysian food at home, I love cooking dishes which are a little more difficult to find in Malaysian restaurants. A good yong tow foo or Ipoh hor fun is much harder to track down than a nasi lemak or curry laksa in most Malaysian restaurants. So to me, there is no point in trying to replicate a char kway teow or chai tow kway at home when the fiery commercial wok burners at restaurants will invariable do a better job, irrespective of cooking skills.
In search of something different in Sydney, my mother urged me to cook Malaysian beef brisket noodles one day.
“It’s so simple and I’m sure you’ll love it”, she tells me over the phone.
With just a handful of ingredients and some simple instructions from her, I set out to try this dish and since then, it has become one of my favourite comfort dishes at home, especially in autumn and winter.
To me, this dish is Malaysia’s answer to Italy’s spaghetti bolognaise.
Malaysian Beef brisket noodles
Beef brisket can usually be found in Asian butchers where they have been neatly rolled up and cling-wrapped.
Alternatively, request the butcher to trim off excess fat and sinew from a fresh slab of brisket.
I love cooking with brisket because it is flavoursome. Not only is it relatively cheap because it is considered an off-cut, it’s texture demands that you treat it with a little love, like slow-braising it to bring out all the flavours.
I have found that cooking these cuts of meat in a sturdy cast iron pot retains all its flavours. In addition, it requires less cooking time and it saves energy because you only need the heat to be at its lowest level as the pot does a great job in retaining heat consistently through the entire braising process.
The most important thing to remember in this recipe is to first cut the meat crosswise and against the grain (as opposed to lengthwise and with the grain).
This ensure the texture of the meat breaks-down more easily so the result is tender and succulent pieces of brisket rather than chewy strains of meat.
Once the meat is on the boil, turn down the heat to the lowest level and start enjoying the wonderful aromas of cinnamon, star anise and cloves from the stove.
I love doing my own take of artwork with a drizzle of dark caramel black sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil on the serving plates.
This step is a Malaysian style of serving short soup noodles where the flavours from these sauces are absorbed by the hot steaming noodles that are placed on top of the sauces.
I can never resist chowing down on a few piece of tender and succulent beef brisket after about an hour or braising.
The flavours of star anise, cinnamon and cloves, together with fresh ginger, white pepper, oyster sauce and a dash of Shao Xing wine makes this dish truly remarkable.
- 1.5 – 2.0 kg of beef brisket, excess fat trimmed and cut into thick 4 – 5cm strips
- 4 – 5 star anise
- 5 -6 cloves
- 6cm stick of cinnamon
- 4 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoon white pepper
- 15 – 20 slices of ginger
- 5 garlic cloves
- 8 tablespoon Shao Xing wine
- 3 – 4 cups of water
- 1 bunch of choy sum or Chinese mustard greens, chopped and blanched
- 1 small bunch shallots, finely diced for garnish
- 6 tablespoon deep fried onions for garnish
- 2 packets of fresh Chinese wonton noodles
- Fresh red chillies and soy sauce for dipping
- Marinate the beef brisket in the cast iron pot with the star anise, cloves, cinnamon, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper, ginger and garlic for approximately 1 hour.
- Put the pot on the stove and turn on the heat to high and when the meat starts to sizzle, gently toss the meat in the pot to brown the pieces until they harden.
- When the meat is sizzling hot, add in the Shao Xing wine so that the heat burns off the alcohol.
- When the meat is simmering, add in the water until it gently covers all the meat in the pot. Cover and let simmer on the lowest heat for approximately 1 hour or until meat is tender and succulent to the bite.
- Add salt and white pepper to adjust taste.
- When the meat is cooked, drizzle a dollop of oyster sauce, dark caramel black sauce (not kicap manis), sesame oil and soy sauce onto dinner plates.
- Blanch the noodles in boiling hot water for about 5 minutes then drain in cold water to ensure the noodles remain firm and not overcooked, then drain and set aside.
- Blanch the vegetables in boiling hot water for a minute until tender, then drain and set aside.
- To serve, ladle the beef brisket over the noodles, garnish with diced shallots and sprinkle deep fried onions and some white pepper.
- Always cut the meat crosswise and against the grain (as opposed to lengthwise) or the meat will become chewy.
- Make sure the pot is very hot and the meat is sizzling before adding the Shao Xing wine.
- Cooking times will vary with the size of the cast iron pot and heat level. Ensure the meat is gently tender. If you have to chew on the meat, it is not tender enough.
- Drain of excess fat with a spoon as it gather at the top of the pot during the braising process.
Serves 6 -8 people
This is one Malaysian dish that has eluded many Malaysian restaurants in Australia. To me, it is simple to cook and beef brisket is relatively cheap and tasty. When slow braised with beautiful herbs and spices, it will taste even better the next day.
One can get a variation of this dish in Hong Kong style noodles restaurants but I am surprised that most Malaysian restaurants have not offered this dish and are still trying to outdo each other with their own take of the usual suspects of nasi lemak and laksa.
In many ways, this dish is all about textures. I love the succulent and stringy pieces of beef with its slightly chewy slice of brisket.
The wonton noodles do a great job in soaking up all the braised sauce to make this one of my favourite winter dishes.
So Malaysian restaurants, why have you not considered serving this beautiful dish to your customers?
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