Shantou, China: Beef Hotpot

China is famous for its hotpot, and the style of hotpot varies from region to region. Sichuan is notorious for its lethal spiciness and numbness. Beijing takes pride in its lamb hotpot. Chaoshan hotpot might not have the same level of international fame amongst its fellows, but its beef hotpot has long gained popularity within China.

What is Chaoshan Hotpot?

Chaoshan hotpot is a very simple cooking method by blanching thinly-sliced beef in a clear beef stock, for as short as 3-8 seconds. The idea behind this rapid blanching is to slightly cook the extremely fresh meat without losing much flavor to the stock.

hotpot 1

You almost don’t need a sauce for such succulent beef. Though usually a plate of soybean satay dipping sauce is paired with the meal.

hotpot 8

Before cooking the beef, it is a ritual to savor the clear stock with a sprinkle of chopped celery. Other ingredients such as vegetables and crispy tofu skin are suggested to be eaten after all the beef are finished, so as not to “contaminate” the beef with other flavors.

Historically, Chinese yellow cattle are draft cattle, but gradually bred to be consumed for its prominent beefy flavor. It is interesting to know that these Chinese yellow cattle were not bred and raised in the region, though a large quantity is consumed. Nonetheless, indisputably, Shantou is an expert in cooking and eating them. They have a unique way of butchering the cattle.

An approximate analogy between Chaoshan and American cuts of beef

Must-try cuts

脖仁 / Chuck Eye Roast

This precious cut, with only less than 0.2% yield of the whole cattle, has probably the best marbling. Also known as “fatty beef”, fresh 脖仁 should be “melt-in-your-mouth” tender.

嫩肉 / Round

If you prefer super tender meat, go for 嫩肉. This cut is usually sliced a little thicker, so you can taste the sweetness of the beef.

hotpot 10 round

五花趾 / Hind Shank

My personal favorite and also a rare cut. This part of the cattle has a very low fat content, with a high collagen (tendon) proportion. When sliced thin enough, the meat gives a crunchy yet tender texture that no other parts can compare.

hotpot 13 hind shank

胸口油 / Soft Tissue in Brisket

胸口油 literally means “oil in the chest” in Chinese, though technically it is soft tissue that resembles fat, owing to its pale yellowish appearance. Unlike other cuts, it requires minutes to be cooked, to become this distinctively crunchy bite.

hotpot 3 soft tissue

鲜丸 / Fresh Meatballs

Meatballs in Shantou are made by pounding the tougher hind and round cuts with a heavy metal rod to break down the connective tissues. This is a labor-intensive process that many restaurants decide to abandon.

If you are only going to visit 1 hotpot restaurant, go to a place with fresh meatballs. Fresh meatballs are much juicier and crunchier than cooked ones. Enjoy that explosion of freshness and juice in your mouth!

Recommended Beef Hotpot Restaurants

八合里海记牛肉店 Baheli Haiji Beef Restaurant
Cost per head: 100 RMB (14.70 USD)

Shop 014-016, Block 6, Xiping Xi, Intersection of Huanggang Road and Zhongshan Road, Shantou
+86 0754-88708552

杏花吴记牛肉火锅 Xinghua Wuji Beef Hotpot
Cost per head: 100 RMB (14.70 USD)

47 Xinghua Xi Road, Jinping District, Shantou
+86 0754-87225148

hotpot 12

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