BBQ-style sauce with chutney beef brisket.
BBQ-style sauce with chutney beef brisket.
Image: Yang Zhao

Although the definition of beef brisket, a primal cut, differs internationally, it is loved by many cultures and in many cuisines. I personally love my brisket slow cooked in five spices with daikon radish, atop a bowl of hot rice noodle soup, Hong Kong-style.

The cut that defines beef brisket is the part where the muscle is held by numerous connective tissues, which is rich in collagen. After prolonged cooking, collagen gelatinises and becomes a soft, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery substance that coats the ultra-tenderised meat and your taste buds. In my opinion, fattiness is a necessary flavour to a great tasting meat dish.

Cooking brisket is a time-honoured process, whether it be in a Texan style smoker, on fire, or in any modern cooking vessels, such as the slow cooker. Overnight marinade is preferable, but if you’re a last-minute dot-com like me, give it at least one-and-a-half hours before cooking to make sure your meat is tenderised and well-soaked in its marinade.

I can rarely find the Hong Kong-style cut in SA, so I get the regular unrolled brisket popularly used for slow cooking or hot-smoking, as much as I’d like to make my Hong Kong brisket noodle soup reminiscent of home. Having learnt to improvise, some foods do still taste better where they comes from. I can wait.

On a trip to the US once upon a time, we spent a night in Philadelphia, and came across a ramen restaurant that served “Jewish-Japanese-style” ramen. The piping hot bowl of ramen in broth, topped with slices of barbecue brisket and matzo balls, was nothing short of delicious. I recently learnt that Jewish people celebrate Christmas in Chinese restaurants across the US. It was said that Chinese eateries were the only places where one could find decent “kosher-ish” foods on a night when every other place closes. These nuanced stories of connections do make the crazy world seem quite amazing.

Beef brisket.
Beef brisket.
Image: Yang Zhao

I’ve adapted my friend Gen Putter’s recipe for an easy marinade. Putter is a postpartum doula whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting as I started my postpartum pantry service. Putter created a BBQ-style sauce with chutney. Then I used chicken broth from a batch I made two weeks ago, added noodles and poached napa cabbage when the broth is at boiling point, and lastly, slices of brisket to finish it off. You can, of course, pair your brisket with other delicious sides such as a great salad, and if there are any leftovers, pop it into a sandwich.

Berbere spice, Ethiopian spice blend.
Berbere spice, Ethiopian spice blend.
Image: Yang Zhao

Ingredients:

  • 1kg x beef brisket
  • 400g x Mrs Ball’s chutney original flavour, about three quarters of a bottle
  • 2 x medium-sized onions, diced
  • 4 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of berbere spice, Ethiopian spice blend
  • 2 x tsp of white pepper
  • 2 x tsp of salt.

Method:

  1. To marinade, mix the chutney, diced onion, chopped garlic, spices, salt and pepper thoroughly until they are all blended in smoothly. Then place the brisket in the marinade for at least one-and-a-half hours, or overnight for the best flavour.
  2. Heat the pan and seal the brisket with some butter or oil.
  3. Add it to a slow cooker for eight hours. I used Instant pot slowcook function. Alternatively, you can use a pressure cooker — I tested a previous recipe and two hours are sufficient for cooking in a pressure cooker.
  4. Let it cool, slice, pour sauce ove, and serve it however you like. Enjoy!
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