What’s All This Beef?

Few of us know what goes on under the butcher’s blade, but most of us will chew on what they serve up. Next time, order with a little more confidence.

0815_shopping_1Vegetarians, look away now! If you are one of many people that doesn’t understand the differences between types of beef or what the various cuts are, then fear not! Today we get down to the bare bones of the matter; with a little help from some pro advisers.

Our first expert, Vianei Rodrigues is best known as the head chef at BB Brazilian in the Tangla Hotel, but he also runs a butcher shop in Shenzhen and was a featured chef in the June issue of HERE! He recommends buying flat rump for ease of cooking, but he says, “If you really want to indulge yourself, push the boat out and opt for the skirt cut on the inside of the rib. It can be tricky to cook, but well worth it when you get it right.”

At Vianei’s restaurant, the most popular cuts ordered are ribs, rump and shoulder (also known as the hump) and they go through up to two and a half tons of beef per month. Vianei went on to say that industry cuts of beef are quite standardized and the only real difference you notice in other countries is the size rather than the shape.

Vianei also mentioned that buying beef in bulk from the source is very different from buying from a small butcher or a supermarket, but ultimately the color and smell should indicate the quality; even to the novices among us.

With regards to dining on beef in restaurants as a whole, the first thing most foreigners usually need to master is how to order their steak. We are all familiar with terms like ‘medium rare’ or ‘well done,’ but in Mandarin, customers usually just state what percent they would like their steak cooked, so we have provided a user guide for your knowledge.

Many will have heard of popular types of beef such as Aberdeen Angus or Wagyu/Kobe beef from Japan, but some of you may not be so familiar with a fairly new and in-vogue meat.

0815_shopping_2Snow Dragon beef is the clever result of cross breeding specially nurtured Australian and Japanese cattle. It’s fast becoming one of China’s most successful meat products. “It makes for a versatile juicy steak that has a strong beef flavor,” said Tim Goddard, an executive chef who has worked in the catering industry in seven countries. “It would be unfair to say just Japan and Australia [can take credit], as Angus Beef is originally credited to the American farming industry. Australia is actually just lucky as almost anything can be farmed there and its proximity to Asia allows for easier trade routes, especially when dealing with livestock.”

Tim regards Snow Dragon as one of the best value meats in terms of quality, even though it is relatively expensive. His wealth of experience leads him to believe that if the consumer is not getting the real deal, it’s “monkey business” in the supply chain. “Basically, it’s the restaurant playing games or a chef getting fooled by a local supplier or even a combination of chef and supplier cheating the boss,” he said.

Getting back to the beef, Tim concluded, “It is important to look for meat with a nice marbling effect,” a trait that endears itself to Snow Dragon, which generally has a noticeable mottled texture, similar to about a 6-score in comparison with Wagyu/Kobe. In the meantime however, beef lovers will probably only see Snow Dragon in mid to high-end restaurants, as most smaller outlets tend to serve lower-end, cost effective meat. Nonetheless, more and more restaurants are catching on, with the current average price sitting around RMB 350 for a 200-gram tenderloin with trimmings. Our advice; get out there and try this new culinary delight before the price rises higher.