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September 22, 2011

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Autumn is the time for glorious steak

WHEN autumn comes, Chinese traditionally start eating more meat for health reasons. The tradition is called tie qiu biao, literally "fattening up for the winter."

On one hand, the animal protein helps maintain nutritional balance since most people eat more vegetables and less meat in the hot summer.

On the other, Chinese believe that eating meat with high calories in autumn helps store fat, which protects the body against the coming winter cold.

Hence, it's time for delicious and nutritious steak, the standard bearer of red meat.

Doctors warn against eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol, notably in red meat, since it increases the risk of heart disease.

Meat lovers and the meat industry cite a recent study showing that red meat has a place in a healthy diet if people choose the right cut and limit the serving size.

This week, we introduce two steak destinations, The MEET restaurant in the Kerry Hotel Pudong and Cafe Mix in Crowne Plaza Shanghai Fudan. Chefs from the two restaurants are rigorous in their choice of prime beef, which they cook to perfection.

Both chefs choose Australian beef, saying Australian cattle ranches provide the best, relaxed environment that leads to the best quality meat.

"Those cows living unstressed are more willing to walk around. Moving helps them form prime muscles with a perfect portion of lean and fat," says Tobias Unger, chef de cuisine at The MEET.

"Only healthy cows produce top-quality steak," says Jason Xu, executive Western chef of Crowne Plaza Shanghai Fudan.


Both chefs spend a long time ageing the steak, which makes the meat more tender and flavorful.

During ageing process, natural enzymes break down the hard connective tissues in meat and there's evaporation of water that dilutes the original meat flavor, says Chef Jason.

The MEET has an ageing room where diners can see various cuts on display. The visible stripes of the fat and lean are aged differently.

Most of the big cuts are dry-aged, hung in an environment with humidity and temperature control.

Some small cuts are wet-aged, vacuum packed on one side so the moisture is locked in.

The Meet signature steak is Ningaloo Tomahawk, Marbling Score 4+ (980 yuan/US$153.13).

Chef Tobias and his team age steak for 14 to 21 days, which helps the lean part of the meat completely absorb the flavor and aroma from the fat.

The size, 1.8-2.3 kilograms, can be shared among four people. Since the oven is heated with cherry wood, each bite has a smoky, and slightly fruity aroma. Other cuts, from fatty rib eye to lean filet mignon, are also excellent.

To help diners with pairing, Donald Yan, sommelier at the Kerry Hotel, gives two recommendations for each steak on the menu.

We also recommend you try the freshly brewed black beer; the sweet, caramel-like aroma and slightly bitter flavor balance the fatty taste of the steak.

Chef Jason recommends Prime Wagyu Steak, served with creamed spinach, rosemary potatoes and wild mushroom.

Sauces include mushroom, shallots and red wine, and black peppercorn. Famous Wagyu beef with perfect marbling has a rich flavor and a juicy texture that melts in the mouth.

Chef Jason emphasizes temperature control.

"When the steak is served, the surface temperature of the plate should be 80 degrees Celsius, so the meat texture is highlighted."

For wine pairing, Antoine Chignac, assistant food and beverage manager of the Crowne Plaza Shanghai Fudan, recommends a nice bottle of Australian red wine Jim Jim.

But what about trying something new, pairing with white Chardonnay?

He says the wine is a little dry with a long finish and its chilling mouth-feel balances the strong taste of Wagyu steak.

Crowne Plaza hotels in Shanghai all have an Australian beef promotion.


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