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Introducing a Chinese beef shank recipe that features tender juicy braised beef in a rich and savory broth that’s full of aroma. The recipe requires very little hands-on time and is super easy to put together. Once done, you can enjoy the beef by itself, use it to make salad, top noodles with it, and more. The braising broth, also known as “master sauce” in China, can be used again and again for marinating and braising meat, tofu, and vegetables. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Chinese braised beef shank

Chinese braised beef shank, or Jiang Niu Rou, is a popular cold-cut dish that you can get either at a restaurant or from the deli counter of a regular grocery store. The beef shank is slowly cooked in a master sauce with a soy sauce base and various spices, until tender and infused with a decadent savory aroma. You can simply slice the beef and eat it by itself – paired with cold beer as an appetizer if you like to follow custom. You can also make a quick beef salad with a spoonful of the braising broth and chili oil. Personally, I love to use the braising liquid to make a 20-minute noodle bowl, topped with chunks of the braised beef shank.

Chinese beef noodle soup

Why this recipe

Traditionally, Chinese braised beef shank is prepared in a very delicate way to maximize the flavor. For example, the beef is often soaked in cold water for hours to get rid of the blood and give the meat a cleaner taste. Many restaurants also marinate the meat before braising to enhance the flavor. The beef is often braised until just cooked through, so it’s easy to slice very thinly. 

In my home cooked version:

  1. The prep time is shortened a lot by skipping the soaking and marinating. Yes, the extra steps do help with the flavor, but I found them less important than using a very balanced and seasoned braising broth.
  2. The braising liquid spices are curated and shortened, so you can easily source all the ingredients from a grocery store. The traditional Chinese beef shank braising spices often include Chinese herbs such as tsao guo and sand ginger. Sometimes it’s a challenge to source those fresh high quality ingredients in the US to actually make an impact on the dish. That’s why I replaced them with black cardamom and ginger, which have very similar flavor profiles and are easy to find. 
  3. I cut up the meat and braised it for a longer time for a more tender result. Back in China, I often found the beef shank a bit too tough for my taste. When I made it at home for this recipe, I accidentally cooked it too long and the meat almost fell apart. I LOVED the result. So I decided to share this version because I think the texture is superior to the traditional one. If you prefer the chewy texture, simply chill the beef in the fridge and the meat will toughen up so you can serve it as a cold dish. 
Jiang Niu Rou (Chinese braised beef shank)

Ingredients

Why beef shank

Beef shank (or beef shin) is the leg portion of a cow. The cut is muscly, lean, tough, and full of connective tissue. However, once cooked low and slow, or using a pressure cooker (Instant Pot), the connective tissue melts away and the meat becomes juicy and tender. In fact, it’s one of the best cuts for stews and braised dishes. Because the lean muscle is quite short and protected by the connective tissue, when braised, it has a softer and juicier mouthfeel  and is less stringy than some of the more expensive cuts. 

On the other hand, if you cannot find beef shank, it’s totally OK to use other cuts such as chuck, brisket, or short ribs. 

Raw beef shank

Soy bean paste

A key ingredient in this recipe is soy bean paste, or Huang Dou Jiang (黄豆酱). You may also see it labeled as “ground bean paste” or simply “bean paste”. The soy bean paste is made with fermented soybeans. It tastes savory and salty, like soy sauce but with a richer flavor and denser texture.

If you cannot find soy bean paste, Chinese sweet bean paste (甜面酱) is the next best thing. Alternatively, you can also replace it with oyster sauce or black bean sauce. The flavor profile of the dish will change but remain delicious. 

Chinese soybean paste

Braising ingredients

I’ve tried my best to shorten the ingredient list and use species you can easily find. If you often braise meat, you probably already have most of them.

Ingredients for making braised Chinese beef shank

Cooking process 

Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, the cooking couldn’t be simpler:

  1. Cover the beef with cold water and add the aromatics
  2. Boil the beef and skim the foam from the top. This step gets rid of the impurities from the broth and makes it clearer
  3. Add the rest of the braising ingredients
  4. Pressure cook or cook on the stovetop until the beef turns tender 

I highly recommend using a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot for this one, because it shortens the cooking time by a lot. The beef will be so tender that you can cut it with a fork.

How to make braised Chinese beef shank step-by-step

How to serve Chinese braised beef shank

  1. Serve it by itself, hot or cold

Once you’re done cooking, you can simply serve the braised beef shank with some braising liquid. The meat is super tender and pairs perfectly with steamed rice. The meat will become more flavorful if you soak it in the cooking liquid for a day or more, but I simply add a spoonful of the broth onto my rice when I eat it. It’s so delicious!

You can also wait for the meat to turn cold, slice it thin, and serve it as a cold appetizer. It works nice in the summer with a glass of cold beer.

  1. Make a quick beef salad

I shared this super quick beef salad recipe that uses the braised beef shank and braising broth. By adding celery, cilantro, and peanuts, the texture of the dish becomes much more interesting. A generous pour of homemade chili oil is a must!

  1. Super fast beef noodle soup

This 20-minute beef noodle soup is a perfect one-bowl meal for any time of day. You can put it together with just a handful of ingredients, using the braising liquid as the soup base and the tender beef chunks as topping.

How to use the leftover braising liquid

The beautiful thing about the Chinese braised beef shank is, you can reuse the braising liquid again and again. That’s why some people call it “thousand year sauce”. When you re-use it, ideally you should top it off with more liquid and extra spices, so the amount of the broth remains unchanged. However, here are a few ways to use the broth easily:

  1. Cook a few soft boiled eggs like you normally would and use the broth to marinate the eggs. The egg yolk will be cured in the broth and taste heavenly. 
  2. Braise the tofu in the broth with a touch of chili oil. It’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy tofu because it is infused with a rich flavor and tastes so good. 
  3. Use the broth as a base to poach chicken. The idea is similar to soy sauce chicken, but the chicken will turn out richer because the braising liquid has the beefy essence.
  4. You can also use a small amount of the broth to braise or stir fry vegetables. For example, when my mom makes the braised napa cabbage, she always uses broth instead of water and oyster sauce to create a delicious base. 
Cut up braised Chinese beef shank

Afterthought

Chinese braised beef shank is a humble yet very versatile dish. It is perfect for meal prep and cooking in advance because you can use the meat and broth to create many other dishes throughout the week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Other recipes you might like

  • Chinese Pork Belly Bun (Rou Jia Mo, 肉夹馍) – Tip: try using the Chinese beef shank to replace the braised pork!
  • Easy Hand-Pulled Noodles – serve this beef over hand-pulled noodles to impress your friends!
  • Bean Sprout Stir Fry – a great side dish to go with this one
  • Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜) – a classic cold appetizer that’s great with everything
  • Real Deal Sesame Noodles – Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of beef broth to replace the water in this recipe and boost your noodles!

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Introducing a Chinese beef shank recipe that features tender juicy braised beef in a rich and savory broth that’s full of aroma. The recipe requires very little hands-on time and is super easy to put together. Once done, you can enjoy the beef by itself, use it to make salad, top noodles with it, and more. The braising broth, also known as “master sauce” in China, can be used again and again for marinating and braising meat, tofu, and vegetables. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Chinese Braised Beef Shank (酱牛肉, Jiang Niu Rou)

Introducing a Chinese beef shank recipe that features tender juicy braised beef in a rich and savory broth that’s full of aroma. The recipe requires very little hands-on time and is super easy to put together. Once done, you can enjoy the beef by itself, use it to make salad, top noodles with it, and more. The braising broth, also known as “master sauce” in China, can be used again and again for marinating and braising meat, tofu, and vegetables. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

To make this dish gluten-free, use dry sherry to replace Shaoxing wine, and use tamari to replace the light and dark soy sauces.

Author: Maggie Zhu

Course: Main

Cuisine: Chinese

Keyword: home style

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

Blanching

  • 2 to 3 lbs (1 to 1.4 kg) beef shank (shin) , sliced to large bite-size pieces (*Footnote 1)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 4 green onions , cut into 2” (5 cm) long pieces
  • 1 thumb ginger , sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns

Instructions

To blanch the beef

  • Add the beef into a big pot (or an Instant pot or a pressure cooker). Add 4 cups of cold tap water to cover the beef. Add the green onions, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil. Stir occasionally to prevent from sticking. Turn to medium heat. Boil for 10 minutes while skimming the brown foam off the top and discarding the foam.

To braise

  • Combine the soybean paste, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly until the soybean paste has completely dissolved into a smooth sauce.

  • To use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker: Add the soybean sauce mixture and the rest of the braising ingredients. Seal the pot. For the Instant Pot, pressure cook on high for 35 minutes. For a pressure cooker, heat over medium heat until it reaches high pressure. Turn to low heat, then cook at high pressure for 35 minutes (*Footnote 1). Once done, release the pressure naturally by letting the pot sit for 20 minutes.

  • To cook on stovetop: add the soybean sauce mixture and the rest of the braising ingredients to the pot. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a simmer. Turn to medium-low heat. Simmer, covered, until the beef turns tender but is not falling apart, 1.5 to 2 hours.

  • The beef is cooked now. But for the best result, transfer the beef, broth, and all the spices to a large container. Once it has cooled completely, cover the container and store it in the fridge overnight before serving.

  • To serve, slice the beef into thin pieces. Serve it by itself, in a salad, or as a noodle / rice bowl topping.

Notes

  1. If you cannot find beef shank, you can also use other cuts such as chuck, brisket, or short ribs. For pressure cooking times, cook chuck for 40 minutes, short ribs for 45 minutes, and brisket for 60 minutes.
  2. If you do not have either, you can use black bean sauce or oyster sauce as a substitute. The flavor of the finished dish will be different but delicious regardless.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 serving , Calories: 229 kcal , Carbohydrates: 4 g , Protein: 34.9 g , Fat: 7.2 g , Saturated Fat: 2.7 g , Cholesterol: 101 mg , Sodium: 510 mg , Potassium: 475 mg , Fiber: 0.2 g , Sugar: 2.2 g , Calcium: 4 mg , Iron: 21 mg