Probably because cattle are notoriously inefficient at converting vegetation to animal protein and because of their traditional use a draft animals, beef is not common in Asian cuisine. In Muslim countries like Indonesia, however, beef occasionally shows up on the menu. Most the recipes for beef in these poorer lands have the meat cooking for rather a long time leading me to suspect that, originally at least, the beef was from worn-out draft animals. And I suspect that it was much tastier than our coddled, corn-fed beef.
This recipe comes, with minor modifications, from Charmaine Solomon’s wonderful The Complete Asian Cookbook (Lansdowne Press, Dee Why West, NSW, Australia 1976) distributed in the US by McGraw-Hill.
12 ounces beef, I used some sirloin left overs
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger or ginger paste from a jar
4 small red chili peppers, preferably Thai or Serrano, or taste
¼ trasi (Thai dried shrimp paste, available in Asian markets or online)
2 Tbsp. neutral cooking oil, I use Canola
½ cup water
1 Tbsp. tamarind liquid or ¼ tsp. tamarind concentrate dissolved in 1 Tbsp. hot water
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. palm sugar, preferred, or light brown sugar
Salt to taste
Cut the meat into strips about ¼ inches square by 2 inches long. Set aside.
Put the onion, garlic, ginger, chilies, and trasi into a food processor and process to smooth paste, adding just a bit of water if necessary. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan with a lid over medium high heat. Add the paste and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the oil begins to separate. Add the beef strips and continue stir-frying until lightly browned.
Add the water, tamarind liquid, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beef is tender. (For a tender cut like sirloin this is about 10 minutes; for an old water buffalo it would be considerably longer.)
Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Stir in the palm sugar and season with salt to taste.
Serve with boiled white rice and appropriate vegetables accompanied by your choice of sambals.
Serves two to four.