Sweet soy sauce beef is a unique beef stew waiting for you to discover and let the myriad of spices tantalize your taste buds. That is called daging masak hitam manis, or sweet soy sauce beef stew.
OK. That sounds interesting. But what is so impressive that makes all the difference from the familiar beef stew?
The best part of this recipe is that it is easy to prepare. Just combine the marinated beef with all the ingredients and let it simmer. The flavor is intense, and has the authentic aroma of traditional Malay cuisine.
Well, it is certainly hard to imagine what it tastes like by just knowing the name. So, now I’ll paint a picture in your mind- succulent beef stewed for hours with a symphony of flavor with cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom, star anise, tamarind juice and the fiery spicy flavor of dry chilli.
Many restaurants in Malaysia have their own versions of sweet soy sauce beef that have been perfected through a gantlet of tests. This recipe is a simplified one without sacrificing the taste and flavor. It is on the menu of my cafe and it has been getting positive reviews. I hope you will enjoy making this Malaysian dish as much as I do.
For now, feast your eyes and control your drooling. Start preparing beef with sweet soy sauce with Malaysia’s rich gastronomic heritage.
- Cut the beef across the grain into 1/4 cm thick slices.
- Marinate with sweet soy sauce, sugar, and white pepper powder for an hour or longer.
- Grind the fennel and cumin seeds into powder. (Or buy ground fennel and cumin to save time).
- Soak the tamarind in warm water and remove the seeds. Keep the tamarind water for use later.
- Heat up the cooking oil in a pan or wok. Saute the onions until they become translucent.
- Add the marinated beef and the remaining ingredients.
- Simmer over low heat for about 2 hours or until the beef is tender. Add water if necessary.
- When the beef is tender, simmer further until the sauce thicken.
- Serve with plain or biryani rice.
About Sweet Soy Sauce
Many people are unfamiliar with sweet soy sauce. Sweet soy sauce is called Kicap Manis in Indonesia and Malaysia. The sauce is darker and thicker (like molasses) than the Chinese and Japanese soy sauce. It has a unique flavor due to the caramelization of sugar during the preparation.
Sweet soy sauce beef is normally served with biryani rice, but I normally take it with stir-fried mixed vegetables and plain rice. In Malaysia, it was considered a delicacy and served during festive occasions. Nowadays it is has become a common dish that you can find in most Malay and Indian restaurants.
There is one important point that I need to emphasize. The soy sauce for this recipe is the sweet soy sauce from Malaysia or Indonesia, NOT the Japanese or Chinese soy sauce. The flavor of these two groups of soy sauce is entirely different, so make sure you use the right soy sauce.
Sweet soy sauce is available in all grocery shops in Malaysia and can be found in most Asian grocery shops in countries outside Asia.
If you have difficulties finding this sauce, you can make it. Here is a recipe prepared with Chinese light soy sauce (which is easily available) as the starting ingredient.
- Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat.
- Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.
- Increase heat until the syrup starts to boil vigorously.
- When the syrup has thickened, remove it from heat.
You may also need the following items for this recipe:
Tips on cooking the sweet soy sauce beef stew
- Dry red chilies have a very distinctive flavor. The taste is different if you use any fresh chilies. However, there isn't any hard and fast rule to follow when it comes to the choice of chilies. Just use the type that you are most comfortable with.
- You can vary the amount of dry chilli. I use six dry chillies for 1kg of beef, which results in a mildly hot beef dish. You can use more chilli if you like it spicy.
- The flavor of star anise is quite intense. I use six star points of star anise for each kg of beef.
- Each brand of sweet soy sauce has a different level of saltiness. You can add less sweet soy sauce initially, and keep adding more to the desired level.
- Sweet soy sauce beef has an intense flavor. It is best to eat it with other mildly flavored foods or just plain rice.
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