I first made this dish over a year ago, and at the time I was so excited to share it with you. The simplicity! The tastes-like-so-much-effort-but-takes-so-little smug feeling! Anyway, I have no idea what happened but it was relegated to the archives of unpublished posts and it’s taken me until now to come back to it. I made it again this week – it was just as good as the first time – and felt mean for not posting about it earlier.
I originally titled it ‘Asian style combi steam beef ribs’ in my recipe notebook, which is a fine name. But then I made it again with beef cheeks (yes yes do it now, go out and find some beef cheeks, you will not be sorry) so that puts paid to the ‘ribs’ part of the title. My 3 year old calls it sticky beef (or, more accurately, ‘sssstickybeef’) and can happily mow through a full adult portion, so maybe we’ll all call it that and be done with arguing over which cut of meat should feature in the name.
Whatever you call it, this is ridiculously easy to put together, requires almost no attention once it’s in the steam oven (apart from maybe having to top up your water tank if your oven isn’t plumbed) and tastes amazing. It’s definitely impressive enough to serve to guests, if, unlike us, you actually have people wishing to come to your house around dinnertime. Though it disappoints me, it’s probably not surprising that two tiny and very noisy people with their associated dinner/bath/bedtime routines can put off all but the most intrepid of visitors (ie, those who also have tiny people in their lives and can therefore handle the utter chaos that is 6pm). Maybe when the less intrepid see this they’ll be more inclined to invite themselves over. And if not, more for us.
Asian style sticky beef
Makes 4 generous portions if using ribs, 6-8 if using cheeks
As mentioned, I’ve made this with both beef ribs and beef cheeks. The ribs I buy are what I would call ‘full’ ribs rather than short ribs – they’re about 15cm/6in long and quite meaty, with a good covering of fat on the top, and I use four to make up the weight required. I’m sure short ribs would be great too, if you can find them. When I used cheeks I also used four of about 300g each (cut in half), and because they have no bones (and are very rich) you’ll get more portions.
If you want to make ahead, you can fully cook this, pop it in the fridge for up to 3 days and just reheat when you’re ready to serve. It freezes well too.
We like to eat ours with steamed rice to soak up the sauce, and a herby salad.
1.2kg beef ribs or beef cheeks (that’s about four of either - if using cheeks, trim any sinew and cut each in half)
½ cup (g) dark brown sugar
½ cup (125ml) dark soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, peeled and squashed
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
2-3 whole star anise
1 red chilli, sliced (or a couple of whole dried chillies)
½ cup (125ml) water
Mix everything except the meat in a baking dish or deep tray. Put the meat in, turn to coat and marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours (note: the time I used beef cheeks, I didn’t have time to marinate and they were still really great. I think the same would apply to the ribs as they spend quite a while in the oven sucking up all those flavours). You’ll find the marinade doesn’t totally cover the meat but that’s fine.
When you’re ready to cook, set your oven to 120⁰C (combination steam). If your oven has variable steam settings, use 60-80%.
Cook for about 3 ½ hours, turning the meat over a couple of times during cooking (I start the ribs bone-up, then make sure they’re turned meat/fat side up for the last hour or so, otherwise the meat won’t render out properly). If your steam oven isn’t plumbed, you will probably have to top up the water once or twice. It’s done when the meat will easily shred with a fork.
But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! Put it in your slow cooker. You may want to brown the meat first, and cook for around 6 hours, but otherwise it should come out pretty similar.