Spicy, Shredded Beef

Shredded Beef
This is cooked with Indian spices but there is nothing traditional about this dish, nor does it originate in any particular region. I improvised the general approach some years ago for pork shoulder in the slow cooker (though I use a slightly different spice mix for pork). You cook it low and slow all day long, take the meat out when done and shred it with a fork and mix it in with the sauce. The end result is very close to the Mexican barbacoa in looks but, of course, tastes quite different. You can eat it in much the same way: with rice, or with chapatis or parathas (rolled up in them or otherwise). I suppose if you really wanted to get fusiony you could even put it in a sandwich.

But whether making a sandwich or an ersatz taco/burrito I find it difficult to add cheese. This is entirely my problem. Despite all the similarities between Mexican and Indian cuisines—both in terms of form and flavour—I can’t wrap my head around putting cheese over Indian meat dishes (or any other dishes for that matter). Those not bound by a lifetime of associations should feel free to experiment that way and report back.

Ingredients

  • Beef chuck roast, 3 lbs (if you have another cut by all means use it)
  • One large onion, sliced.
  • 1/2 tblspn ginger, crushed
  • 1/2 tblspn garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • The following ground to a coarse powder: 3-5 hot dried red chillies, 1 tspn cumin seeds, 1 tspn coriander seeds, 1/2 tspn black peppercorns, 1/2 tspn Sichuan peppercorns, 1 pinch black mustard seeds, 1 pinch fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tspn turmeric powder, 1 small piece cinnamon/cassia bark
  • 4 tblspns apple cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Cilantro for garnish

Preparation (see illustrated guide below)Shredded Beef

  1. Sprinkle salt over the roast and brown it in a hot skillet, about two minutes each side.
  2. While the meat is browning make a thick paste of the ground spices and the vinegar.
  3. Mix the onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes and place in the slow cooker, sprinkling some salt over.
  4. Smear the top of the roast with the spice paste and place on top of the onions.
  5. Add the water around the roast, sprinkle a little more salt over.
  6. Cover and cook at the 8 hour setting for 6 hours and then switch it to the 10 hour setting.
  7. When 8 hours have elapsed, uncover and remove the meat. Scrape most of the spice paste off the top of the roast and mix it all in with the sauce.
  8. Taste the sauce, add more salt if needed and pour into a platter.
  9. Shred the meat with a fork, place over the sauce, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Illustrated Guide

Notes

  1. I make this in our Rival crockpot which has “low” settings of 4 and 6 hours and “high” settings of 8 and 10 hours. It doesn’t actually have a thermostat though (like most crockpots) which means that the time settings are merely an indication of how long it takes to get the contents of the pot to a near boil. This is why I cook it at the 8 hour setting for 6 hours and then turn it to the 10 hour setting. Otherwise you risk overcooking and scorching the meat.
  2. Adjust the spice mix as you see fit. You could make it more cuminy if you like, or a lot hotter.
  3. As with most braised meat dishes, this will taste even better on the second day.

3 thoughts on “Spicy, Shredded Beef

    • Well, I think it’s more that there isn’t any traditional Indian cheese outside of paneer (and processed cheese, of course, which is quite popular but not used in traditional cooking). There’s certainly a lot of paneer outside the south: cooked as a main ingredient, in pakodas, stuffed in parathas etc. And Bengalis make all kinds of sweets with cottage cheese. So it’s not that cheese per se is not used. It’s just not used in one of the particular ways that it is used in Mexican or Italian food: i.e shredded/grated/melted over cooked food (maybe because paneer doesn’t melt)—it’s this sort of use that I can’t wrap my head around for the kind of ersatz taco I suggest you could otherwise make with this shredded beef: paratha rolled around spicy meat is a common snack in various parts of India (not functionally unlike burritos or tacos). But cheese is not shredded on top.

      As for why India doesn’t have a cheese culture beyond cottage cheese I’m not sure but I’m guessing most tropical areas don’t. Maybe Mexico does on account of the extended Spanish influence? Colonialism brought some ingredients to India without which contemporary Indian cuisine seems unthinkable (chillis, tomatoes, potatoes) but had limited influence otherwise on cooking outside of some pockets (loaf bread is probably the one ubiquitous thing that was adopted widely; probably some others too that I can’t think of on account of being half asleep).

      For cuisines that really don’t use much cheese at all you have to go further east than India.

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      • Thanks! -At least there are two of us still awake tonight (@ 2:24 ET, 1:24 your time…assuming you’re in MN right now). This elucidates the question very well for me. -And for your last sentence, I’m reminded of China and Japan. Once again, regional and transoceanic influences are intriguing. (Did I spell that right? It IS late!)

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