This is a story of patience and true love. When I was in Shenzhen, a business partner said that he had a surprised for me. He knew my ancestral hometown was Shantou, so he arranged for us to go to have Shantou hotpot for dinner.
What is Shantou hotpot? It is basically hotpot with a clear stock, usually beef stock, and features freshly cut slices of beef of different parts. The Japanese have yakiniku, the Teochew have beef hotpot.
But why beef? Shantou is a small city in Guangdong province. Shantou people place a greater demand on beef quality: yellow beef must be slaughtered and eaten in the same day. It’s all about speed – the time between slicing and serving is critical in maintaining the freshness and taste of the beef. Besides quality of the beef, the slicing techniques are also particular. It must be cut by hand and never by a machine.
You can eat almost every part of the cow – tenderloin, sirloin, meat from the calf leg, fats from the chest, tendons, penis, etc. Because of the strong taste and fattiness, organs and innards of the cow are usually braised and cooked separately.
But the piece de resistance is the beef ball – pulverised beef that is shaped into balls that retained the chewiness but concentrated the bovine flavours.
Another really interesting cut was the Chest Fats “胸口油”. You might think that eating a piece of fat would be disgusting. It turned out that the cut was actually crunchy, and the taste was quite light. Loved it.
“雪花” (pronounced xuehua) directly translates to ‘snowflake’ and is the uppermost part of the cow. It is located at the slightly protruding part of the cow’s neck, and often rich in fat. It is especially popular with local people for its tender chewiness. If you are lucky, you can eat it in the restaurant, but otherwise you will only see ‘sold out’ in beef hot pot restaurants. Note! You cannot directly put xuehua beef into the pot like vegetables. Put the fresh xuehua into the big strainer provided, and then dip the strainer into the pot. Time is very important, I advise you to count down from ten to zero together with your friends. Finally, it’s time to take out the strainer and enjoy your “snowflakes”.
“吊龙伴” (pronounced diao long ban) is a long cut of meat along the back of a cow, with the rib eye in the first half and sirloin in the second. It is the second most popular meat at beef hot pot. The strainer method is again required, this time counting down from fifteen.
“嫩肉” (pronounced nen rou) is a cut of the cow’s hind legs, fat and moderate, fresh and delicious. I suggest half a minute for this tender meat.
Shantou is the birthplace of shacha sauce 沙茶醬. It mixes a multitude of ingredients like fish, dried shrimps, peanuts, white sesame, shredded coconut, onion, ginger, garlic, and much more. The flavour of beef complements the shacha sauce with a faint flavour of the sea.
Shacha sauce is a contribution of the Teochew diaspora back to their beloved hometown. Many Teochew spent their adult lives in SEA looking for a better life and when they went back, they tried to replicate the familiar and more pungent sauce that they grew accustomed to. Satay sauce as it is called in South East Asia is a peanut sauce that is heavy with spices. The Teochew shacha sauce is a replica of the satay sauce without the galangal but added dried shrimps.
So what the love story?
This restaurant was so popular that my partner sent his girlfriend to come and take a ticket for a table 3 hours before we arrived! And then we had to patiently wait as all the cuts were pretty much sold out and they had to cut up a fresh new batch.
Was it worth it? Not really. The beef was great, the stock was bland and we had to really borrow the taste from the sauce. Everything else, the environment was really dirty and messy. However, it was this kind of places when the company made up for the shortcomings.
Shantou Baheli Haiji Beef Hotpot
+86 (0755) 22310531
Date Visited : Nov 2017