It’s really no surprise that Jews and Chinese food are synonymous. When typically thriving urban centers shut down for Christmas, us non-Christian folk have little to do… volunteering is out as most non-profits are already inundated with caring Christians. TV programming focuses on Christmas specials and football. And every store or restaurant is either closed or Christmas-centric.
The only open restaurants not featuring a Christmas special are the Chinese. So the Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas.
By now its tradition – I host (or go to) two holiday parties a year – a latke party and a “Chinese” Christmas party.
This year, I decided to blend the two cultures and will prepare Chinese brisket. Brisket is actually the cut of meat just below the breast.
The muscle, not surprising given its location, is quite active. Active muscle = flavorful meat, and also very tough meat. The only way to cook brisket is to slowly simmer it covered in liquid. This breaks down the meat into meltingly tender deliciousness. The Jews usurped the name to refer to the braised meat dish prepared with this cut.
For Chinese inspired brisket, I turn to my favorite Chinese authority Eileen Yin Fei Lo for Five-Spice Beef.
She suggests serving the dish cold. I serve it hot as part of a larger banquet/buffet.
My favorite four-year old proclaimed that my house “stinked” upon walking in and smelling the brisket in the oven. He changed his opinion quickly.
Five Spice Beef Brisket
Adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo
4 cup water
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup shao-hsing wine
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 slices ginger, smashed
3 star anise
½ tsp. Sichuan peppercorns
½ tsp. salt
1 cinnamon stick (I used a piece of Vietnamese)
½ tsp. five-spice powder
¼ cup mushroom soy sauce
¼ cup regular soy sauce
¼ cup rice or black vinegar
2 lb. beef brisket
1. Combine ingredients (except beef) in a large pyrex dish. Stir to dissolve sugar.
2. Add beef. Cover dish with foil. Put in a 325 oven.
3. Every hour or so, turn meat over.
4. Cook for 4 hours or until meat is tender.
5. Slice meat thin. Drizzle braising liquid on top. Garnish with scallions if you like.