Sunday, June 29, 2014

Food Cart Project Part IX: Sous Vide Kachin Chopped Beef Salad

I've run into a bit of a lull in construction as I've begun seriously assessing the weight capacity of the trailer I'm building the cart on. A little research on trailers of similar size and purpose - the original purpose of mine being hauling ATVs - suggests that my trailer is rated around 2000 lbs, which is about half the weight of what the cart will be once built (a good resource for determining this, via axle size, can be found here). So I've made an appointment for tomorrow with a local shop called Oregon Auto Spring, which specializes in building and modifying suspensions for pretty much any sort of vehicle, right up to heavy duty trucks and RVs, to have them look at it and give me an estimate for swapping out the axle and springs for a beefier set-up. In the meantime, I've continued to experiment with new recipes, some of which might make it onto the menu as specials. This weekend's experiment was a chopped beef salad. This is a specialty of Kachin state, in the far north of Burma along the border with China, and was loosely adapted from Naomi Duguid's Burma: Rivers of Flavor. The salad starts with beef, as you might have guessed. I went with a pound of stew meat:

I tossed the beef with some minced shallot, garlic, galangal, birds eye chiles and ground sichuan peppercorns. The cuisine of Kachin state, being adjacent to China, is heavily influenced by that country's flavors, hence the sichuan peppercorns.

I then vacuum sealed this in a bag to marinate overnight.

Here's what that looks like:

I cooked the seasoned beef in the immersion circulator. While there are plenty of guidelines for cooking times for beef, I couldn't find one specifically for stew meat. It's a tough cut with a lot of connective tissue, and intended for use in stews of course, so it generally cooks for a few hours at a simmer, somewhere around 180 or 190F. I wanted to stick more to a low and slow method, given that I was taking advantage of the circulator, so I set the temperature at 143 and let it go for twelve hours.

The result was pretty good, though in the future I may set it at a slightly lower temperature, somewhere between 135 and 140, and let it go a little longer, closer to 16 hours, perhaps. Here's what it looked like after I took it out of the circulator:

After cooling to room temperature in an ice bath, I pulsed this in the food processor until it came to a nice fine chop. In keeping with the Chinese-influenced flavor profile of Kachin cuisine, I then tossed it with some five spice powder, sugar, salt, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. I also incorporated some chopped mint and added a little bit of lime juice to nudge it back toward Southeast Asia. Here it is next to some Indian beer, along with a grated carrot salad (a specialty of Mandalay) and some turmeric rice: