We've never cooked this at home when I was growing up. I assumed as a young boy that this was difficult to make. It was a special dish we could only get at Chinese restaurants. It tasted delicious and exotic I was very sure my convictions were nothing but correct. I was wrong, of course, and I'm glad I was...
What I did not realise about this dish is the fact that it has long been "Filipinised." It has an unmistakably Chinese origin but Filipinos have adopted it as their own. "Pares" (literally means "pair") eateries found all over Manila pair this rich beef stew with either rice or noodles for a satisfying meal any time of the day.
Some affectionately refer to this as Chinese adobo. It is easy to see why. It looks like adobo but a slight whiff of this dish tells you it is anything but. What sets it apart is the use of spices not commonly found in Filipino cuisine. Star anise is literally the star here. Leave it out and you'll be left with nothing but chunks of bland boiled beef.
One other very important consideration when cooking this is the right cut of meat. Beef brisket braises the best, I find. But you could probably get away with any highly marbled cut of beef. So, if you feel queasy at the thought of "fat" just do a stir fry. This is why it also makes for the perfect winter meal.
Braised Beef Brisket (Beef Pares/Chinese Adobo)
2kg beef brisket cut in large chunks
1 cup light soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
6 garlic cloves
6 slices ginger
4 stalks spring onion
3 tbsp Chinese wine
3-4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Black pepper corns
A bit of oil for sauteing
1. Blanch the beef in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pot heat up a bit of oil. Saute the ginger, spring onion and garlic for about a minute.
3. Add the meat in the pot and fry for a few minutes.
4. Add the sugar, soy sauce, wine and all the spices. Add water just enough to cover the meat and bring to the boil.
5. Simmer for an hour or so or until the meat is tender.
6. Serve hot with some greens and steamed rice.