Beef cheeks were often on restaurant menus when I was a young chef, and when cooked correctly, they have the most amazing flavour. Beef cheeks come from the hard-working muscles on either side of the cheekbones. Any muscle that is constantly worked becomes very tough; therefore, when you cook cheeks, you need to do so on a low temperature for a very long time to allow the muscle fibres to break down and become melt-in-the-mouth tender. My money is always spent on secondary cuts like cheek, tail or leg meat for flavour, and I only use prize cuts like eye fillet for raw preparations or extra-special dishes.
Burmese Beef Cheek Ingredients
- 3 teaspoons tamarind pulp
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 600 g beef cheeks
- 3 cardamom pods
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 lemongrass stem, white part only
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 30 g shredded coconut, toasted
- 400 ml coconut cream
- ½ bunch of kale (about 200 g)
- 200 g choy sum
- 2 tablespoons fried shallots
Eggplant Pickle Ingredients
- 1 eggplant
- sea salt
- 2 teaspoons dried garlic
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (belacan)
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce , or to taste
Spice Paste Ingredients
- 8 dried red chillies
- 3 cm piece of fresh galangal
- 3 cm piece of ginger
- 3 lemongrass stems, white part only, chopped
- 5 red Asian shallots
- To make the eggplant pickle, cut the eggplant into 8 cm long batons.
- Place on a tray and sprinkle with some salt. Leave for 5–10 minutes, then rinse under cold water and pat dry.
- Soak the dried garlic in 1 ½ teaspoons of hot water for 3 minutes, then mash to a paste. Mix with the onion, chilli powder, turmeric, salt and shrimp paste. Add the eggplant and stir well.
- Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the eggplant for about 5 minutes, turning over so that it cooks evenly.
- Reduce the heat to low, pour 3 tablespoons of water over the eggplant, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Add the apple cider vinegar and fish sauce and continue to cook, moving the eggplant carefully in the pan, for 2 minutes, or until the oil becomes relatively clear. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- To make the spice paste, soak the dried red chillies in warm water for 5–10 minutes, then drain. Place the chillies in a food processor with all the other ingredients and 3 tablespoons of water and process to a paste.
- Mix the tamarind pulp with 125 ml of warm water in a bowl and, using your fingers, extract the juice from the tamarind pulp. Strain, discarding the pulp and seeds and reserving the tamarind water.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the spice paste and fry for 2–3 minutes, or until fragrant.
- Add the beef cheeks and seal them in the spice mix on all sides. Add the tamarind water, spices, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, coconut, coconut cream and 300 ml of water, cover and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, or until the cheeks are tender.
- Add the kale and choy sum and simmer for a further 2 minutes, or until wilted.
- Serve the curry scattered with fried shallots and with the eggplant pickle on the side.