Lu Flavours

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    10–12

Appears in

Classic Food of China

By Yan-Kit So

Published 1992

  • About

In Every province and region of China, there is a universal method of slowly simmering meat and offal, poultry and eggs and even some seafood, such as ink fish and octopus, in a pot of liquid known as ‘lu’ stock. Lu stock (flavour-potted stock) is always seasoned with salt, soy sauces, sugar, wine and a variety of spices consisting generally of star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cassia bark or cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel, liquorice and others. When a family wish to start a master lu stock, one person will go to a Chinese pharmacy and ask for lu stock ingredients. Depending on the price, the pharmacist may include very esoteric things such as dried lizard and sea horse, which are valued for their tonic properties. But the packets of mixed spices found in Chinese supermarkets definitely do not contain any such exotic ingredients! The master lu stock, once prepared, can go on for a long, long time, for you can add more seasoning ingredients; and the ingredients flavoured in the stock will themselves add to its richness and flavour. Initially, you should cook a strong meat such as beef in the first spread of this recipe, for it can take the full impact of the spices in the stock. Thereafter, chicken wings and drumsticks, gizzards and livers are very popular items to be flavour-potted. Alternatively, poussins or Cornish hens, quails and quail eggs (which nowadays are easily available and inexpensive) make a delicately delectable second spread. For the third spread, try ink fish or even octopus.

Ingredients

1st Spread

  • 1.35 kilos (3 lb) shin of beef in one piece
  • litres (6 pints/14 cups) cold water
  • about 50 g (2 oz/¼ cup) mixed Chinese spices in a muslin bag, tied:
  • 5 whole star anise (each 8 segments)
  • 10 g ( oz) cassia bark or cinnamon stick pieces
  • 1 caoguo (Amomum tsao-ko)
  • 2.5 ml (½ tsp) cloves
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) fennel seeds
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2.5 ml (½ tsp) black peppercorns
  • 3 pieces liquorice
  • 4 pieces dried ginger
  • 50 g (2 oz) ginger, rinsed but unpeeled and bruised
  • 3 large pieces dried tangerine peel
  • 22.5 g ( tbsp) sea salt
  • 250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) thick or dark soy sauce
  • 50 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) thin or light soy sauce
  • 115 g (4 oz/½ cup) candy or crystal sugar
  • 100 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) Shaoxing wine or medium dry sherry
  • 12 eggs
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) Mei Kuei Lu wine or gin
  • 15–30 ml (1–2 tbsp) sesame oil, or to taste
  • 5–10 ml (1–2 tsp) roasted ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 5–10 ml (1–2 tsp) chilli powder or to taste

Method

  1. Tie strings, about 3 rounds, across the shin of beef and 1 round lengthways round the centre. Put into a large, deep stockpot and add the water, ensuring the beef is well covered. Add the bag of mixed spices, tying a string between it and one handle of the stockpot for easy removal of the bag. Add also the ginger and tangerine peel and bring to a rolling boil. The scum will foam to the surface. Spoon off the scum until the liquid is relatively clear.
  2. Add the salt, soy sauces, sugar and wine or sherry and return to a simmer. The stock should be quite salty and rich. Put on the lid, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 1½–1¾ hours or until the shin of beef is tender but still firm in texture. To test, pierce through the meat with one chopstick; if it goes through easily, the meat is sufficiently tender.
  3. Meanwhile, hard-boil the eggs in a pot of water for about 8 minutes. Pour into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Peel the eggs. About 10–15 minutes before the beef is ready, add the eggs to the stockpot to simmer with the beef.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the Mei Kuei Lu wine or gin. Leave the beef and eggs as well as the bag of spices and other seasoning solids in the lu stock in a cool place for 6 hours or overnight. The lu stock has now become the master stock which can be used again and again to flavour other ingredients.
  5. Remove and discard any congealed fat on the surface of the lu sauce. Remove the beef and refrigerate for 2–3 hours to firm up the texture, and hence facilitate slicing. Remove also the eggs.
  6. To serve, untie the strings round the beef. Halve lengthways into 2 pieces. Put 1 piece back into the refrigerator for another meal. Carve 1 piece crossways into very thin slices and arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkle on the sesame oil to taste. Cut 4 eggs into slices and add to the plate. Keep the rest of the eggs for another meal with the beef or serve on their own.
  7. To serve the beef Sichuanese style, in addition to the sesame oil, sprinkle on the roasted ground Sichuan peppercorns and chilli powder.