Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beef - different parts in English, Japanese and Chinese

After having the Chinese hotpot dinner last week in Him Kee Hot Pot 謙記 and getting stumped on what all the different choices you get in selecting beef, the number one ingredient of Chinese hotpot; dad decided  to do a bit of research on the subject.

It all started with 牛頸脊, which broadly translates to chuck and neck. And the confusion starts straightaway. Basically, where exactly these cuts are depends on who you talk to and where you are, that is even if you speak only English, because the primal cuts, the basic sections from which steaks and other subdivisions are cut, vary from the US to the UK and they are different again in Australia. ref wikipedia entry on beef

On the whole when you order 牛頸脊 (or 手切肥牛) in a hotpot restaurant in Hong Kong, you will get a plate of thinly-sliced-across-grain chuck, unless you go to one of the shops where you get them in further subdivided cuts of three (ref weekend hongkong)
牛頸 - neck
牛邊 - blade (word of warning, 牛鞭 which is pronounced the same way and a much better known term is cow's penis)
牛翼 - chuck

In Him Kee, the second beef dish on offer is 牛肋肉, equally pricey as 牛頸脊. This one is much less confusing, it's just rib loin.

So which one is better for hotpot? It really depends on how long you want to leave it in the broth. As a general rule, the further you move away from the horn towards the mid section of the cow, the more tender the texture gets and the shorter the cooking time. So the rib loin is more tender and require less cooking time than chuck, hence the rib loin should be cooked shabu-shabu style (fast), whereas the chuck slices should be cooked sukiyaki style (slower).

What should you order if you are with a big group of people who couldn't care less about how long they leave the beef to cook? Then you should order beef brisket, 牛腩. Basically, brisket comes from the same shoulder part of the forequarter of a slaughtered cow as chuck, chuck being the "top" cut and brisket being the "bottom" cut. Referring to the Chinese wiki entry, the three main edible subdivisions of the beef brisket are:
坑腩 - the "bottom" cut of the first 8 ribs of the cow, tough and full flavor since it supports a large part of the cow's weight.
爽腩 - the "bottom" cut of the 9th to 12th ribs of the cow, softer in texture with plenty of collagen, smaller in quantity makes this the pricier cut of the brisket. Arguably the most famous beef brisket restaurant in Hong Kong, Kau Kee 九記, is famous for offering 爽腩 in a rich broth.
腩角 - the tiny portion between 8th and 9th, only seen those sold in local butchers, surrounded by collagen.

The equivalent English distinction between such cuts are the point-cut {腩角 where the point is 角 and 爽腩} which is the superficial pectoral muscle of the shoulder responsible for pulling and leaner, flat-cut {坑腩} which is the deep pectoral muscle of the shoulder responsible for pushing. ref wikipedia entry on brisket The flat cut brisket is traditionally more widely available in the western butchers mainly for cooking corned beef (known in the UK as salt beef) and pastrami. The point-cut was often discarded. But this might no longer be true as Chinese cuisine becomes more prevalent. The equivalent phenomenon is chicken feet, where the sale of chicken feet is the margin which is keeping the US chicken industry afloat. ref freakonomics.com

The following picture is from a Japanese website but somehow we have lost its origin. Please let us know if you know where it's from.

1. 肩ロース肉 - chuck roll, blade {牛邊}
すじっぽい(筋っぽい)sinewy therefore cut thin to use.
Best for yakiniku, sukiyaki, stir-fry
Steak = flat iron steak

2. 肩肉 – shoulder / chuck tender / clod {牛翼, 黃瓜條, taiwan 腱胛里肌}
the part that exercise a lot, so it is tougher but full flavor
Best for curry, stew or thin cut for yakiniku
Steak = teres major steak

3.  すね肉 – shank / shin {腱子}
sinewy but full flavor
Best for pot au feu, traditional French beef stew

4. リブロース肉 – spencer roll / rib loin {牛肋肉, taiwan 里肌}
tender, the uppermost part of the cow
Best for roast beef, shabu shabu
Steak = rib eye steak, entrecôte
カルビ - Galbi, Korean bbq short ribs

5. サーロイン – Sirloin {西冷牛排,牛外脊, taiwan 沙郎牛排}
Good texture + marbling
Best for steak, sukiyaki
Steak = Sirloin, New York Strip

6.ランプ肉 – Rump {外條}
Not fatty, fine texture
Best for steak, roast
Steak = round steak, rump steak

7. 外もも - Silverside, bottom round
Exercise makes it sinewy and a bit tough
Cut into cubes for stewing, thin cut for anything

8. 内もも - Topside, top round
Tender with great taste
Best for sukiyaki, tataki

9. ヒレ肉 – Fillet / Tenderloin {taiwan 小里肌}
Next to the back bone with no exercise, tender but not fatty. The Best!!
Best for steak and tataki
Steak = T-bone steak (front part less tenderloin), porterhouse (rear part more tenderloin) [Bistecca alla Fiorentina]

10. バラ肉 – Flank {巴掌肉}
Layer of fat separated by layer of red meat. Tough
Best for curry, stew. Thin cut Korean bbq
Steak = Hanger steak, skirt steak (the meat of the diaphragm)

11. シンタマ肉 – Thick flank
Non fatty
Best for steak, sukiyaki

ネック – neck {牛頸}
red meat with elongated strip of fat

肩バラ – brisket {牛腩}

ホルモン - offal, it's always good to know what you order and what you about to eat. This Japanese word, pronounced as ho-ru-mo-n, sounds exactly like hormone (in fact the Japanese for hormone is exactly the same). So it's easy, if someone is offering you hormone to eat, your reaction might be similar to being offered offal. In Gyukaku 牛角,  the Japanese BBQ chain, there's a menu item called, ホルモン三種盛り which is simply translated as assorted 3 kinds. If you think assorted 3 kinds are just 3 different types of meat without checking the picture, you might be in for a shocker. The 3 kinds are:
コロホル - pork intestines
レバ - beef liver
センマイ - beef tripe

If you like this entry, you might also like the most popular entry on our blog, all about beef offal.
As we gather more information, we shall do more updates on this entry. Let us know if you see anything incorrect.

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