Chinese Braised Beef and Tendons

Chinese beef stew


I had made Chinese beef stew (gnau nam) awhile back and blogged about it. One thing that I was missing at the time was beef tendon which really makes this dish for me.  I could have gone to Ranch 99 and got the beef tendon there but hesitated because I’ve been trying to only eat “natural” (hormone and antibiotic free) beef. I’d add in 100% grass-fed but unfortunately it doesn’t really work with this dish (too lean making the meat tough). So my thinking was, if I’m going natural beef I got to go all the way and not throw in any factory lot beef tendon into the mix!

I asked my local butcher, Drewes Bros, whether they could special order beef tendon. The owner said he could probably get it but would have to check around with his suppliers. I mentioned that I could just go to the Chinese market to get it but would prefer to eat the “natural” beef product. He kind of looked at me, shakes his head, and goes (and I paraphrase) “Those Asian markets, I don’t know where they get half the stuff they have in stock!“.

After a few days, I get a call from the butcher who says he can get it but I have to order a 20lb box! 20 lbs? Of beef tendon? My mind starts working on how I could store this in my place (Yes, I’m considering it). I run out of ideas and decide I need to get others to join in! My original thought was, I need 3 other people who would be willing to take 5 lbs each. I hit up one of my co-workers, Vivian. She’s in but reluctant to take 5 lbs. After some discussion, we tag team and hit up all the Asians we know! In the end, we round up 7 people total (including myself). Everyone is willing to take 2.5lbs with one going for it and taking 5lbs! We even got one non-Asian to buy in. Big props considering it was the first time he was getting it and had no idea how to cook it.

I call in the order on a Wednesday. It’s ready on the Friday. I’m told that it’s actually a 16lb box. I ask them to break up into 2 lb bags and keep frozen until pick up Sunday. Late afternoon Sunday, I wheel my cart down to the butcher shop.

It’s all ready to go. Price $4.96/lb. $81 total including taxes. The 16lb box is actually closer to 15 lbs. I had asked the butcher where it came from. He told me the farm’s name. I forget but it was out of state and I want to say somewhere in the Deep South. I’ll have to ask him next time I see him.

The frozen tendons fit nicely into my cart.

I didn’t have the freezer space for all of the tendon but thought if I sealed up the bag it should remain frozen overnight. It did.

The 2lb packs were over and under so I brought my food scale along with the tendons to work the next day. I weighed each pack and figured out the cost. It was like I was weighing and selling gold…or drugs.

Everyone was pretty excited as they came by to pick up their bag. We all discussed what we were going to make. A lot of us were making a variation on the Chinese beef stew. We had one person saying they were going to braise it and then use it in hot pot. And another using her tendons in Vietnamese pho.

4 lbs protein – 1 lbs beef brisket, 1 lb beef short ribs, 2 lbs beef tendons

4 large coin sized pieces of fresh ginger

1 lb carrots

1lb daikons

2 tbsp canola oil



4 tsp 5-spice

3 anise

2 tsp chinese cooking wine

2 tsp light soy sauce

2tsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp oyster sauce


Mix all marinade ingredients in bowl and set aside.

I got a little over 2 lbs of carrots and daikon. Boil a pot of water. This will be used to remove the scum and excess fat from the tendons and meat.

Washed and peel the carrots and daikon.

Slice the carrots and daikon into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Cut 4 pieces of fresh ginger.

Next up was cutting and blanching the meat and tendons. I decided on beef short ribs, beef brisket, and, of course, beef tendons.

I cut up the brisket into bite sized chunks.

Once the pot of water is boiling, blanch the meat and tendons for a few minutes.

Meat after it’s been blanched.

Look at the scum I was able to remove.

Cutting the beef tendon gave me carpal tunnel. I really had to work at it and was sweating by the time I finished slicing the third tendon.

This piece was particularly difficult to cut through. I  gave up and sliced lengthwise.

Heat a heavy bottomed pot with oil.

Brown the beef brisket and short ribs. Ideally do it one layer at a time. But I got lazy, and kind of browned everything together but moving the meat around pretty often.

Add the tendons to pot and pour over marinade.

Mix meat until it is coated with marinade. Add enough cold water to cover meat.

Cover and simmer for three hours.

Add the carrots and diakon to the pot and stir thoroughly. Cover and simmer for another hour.

After four hours, the tendon should be oh so tender!

Eat with bowl of rice or noodles and add some shanghai bok choy for a complete meal!

Here are some pictures from my co-worker’s yummy tendon creations!



11 thoughts on “Chinese Braised Beef and Tendons

  1. Hi…..found your site looking for beef tendon recipes. I have a question about the wine used in this recipe. Is Michui, Shao Xing and just plain ole Chinese cooking wine one and the same? All this references to the cooking wine is confusing. Some are clear and some are amber and prices vary. One recipe said that pale dry sherry could be used which is what I had, used, and the beef tendon turned out wonderful. But I am still trying to clarify if all these cooking wines are pretty much the same? Can you help enlighten me. Thanks

    1. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog! You can use any cooking wine but they are not all the same. Some are better than others. The guideline I use is when I buy Shao Xing wine I make sure it’s drinkable. My understanding is the cheaper ones can be very salty and not something that you’d drink. I try to find mine in liquor stores if I can’t find a good one in an Asian market. Hope that helps.

  2. Hi! Need not to struggle cutting the beef tendons. I can simply use a scissor to cut the tendons easily and quick too. Give it a try! Yum! Yum.

    Oh! I like your trolley! Looks great! : D

  3. My husband had an Asian tendon stew and wanted me to make one. I came across your recipe through the internet. I am going to try it and let you know. Although I am an accomplished cook, the pictures help to define the process. Great job of encouraging others to be curious and courageous about trying new foods. I know how difficult it is to find items. I made duck pate but could not find the “fatback”. Finally, my husband took it off of a pork should roast. The pate came out wonderful.

  4. I love your blog. I laughed so hard from your carpal tunnel description. Those bloody things can kill someone. Lol!!! Thank you for showing the step by step directions. I learn visually so that helped tremendously. Though the tendons are so alien looking that it has it’s wonderful health benefits. The collagen and gelatine from the cartilage helps with the growth of nails, hair and our complexion. Ever see an Asian age terribly? Well there you go. All the good stuff from bone soup to tendon stews are the main ingredients to youthful skin.

    Beef tendon for good health.

  5. I am a 1st generation American-born of Chinese ethnicity. I’ve always liked beef tendon stew and after my teenaged daughter decided to taste it at a local Chinese restaurant, I decided to cook some at home. In searching for a recipe, I ran across your blog. I think your instuctions with photos was WELL DONE!

    Seeing how you got carpel tunnel cutting the blanched beef tendon, I decided to fit the beef tendons into sections BEFORE I braised them. With a Wusthof Classic chef’s knife, it was a bit resistant, but not impossible to cut.

    In keeping with the frugality I saw my parents practice while I was growing up, I used a fine screen skimmer to remove the debris off the top of the water after blanching the tendons. I poured the liquid into a lidded eight quart measuring cup/bowl and put it into the refrigerator. After the fat congealed at he top of the liquid, I removed the solid fat.

    I later used this blanching liquid to cover the meat and tendons during the long cooking process.

  6. I read in some TCM articles that it is best not to cook carrots together with daikon… I have been doing that for ages. It didnt exactly explain why not, but it is listed as “foods that should not be cooked together”.

  7. TIP: After blanching the tendons, put them in fresh boiling water, cover and turn off flame. Let sit in the pot for an hour then remove and voila, easy to cut and partially cooked. Then continue recipe as described.

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