What is organic?

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What is organic?

Whenever people talk about ‘’healthy eating’’, what will you think of? Maybe, the term ‘’organic’’ will be popped up in your mind at once. So, what is organic? Have you ever thought that organic food is healthier than conventionally grown food because they are more nutritious? Or will you prefer products with the word ‘’organic’’ printed on the packages? And How much do you know about ‘’organic food’? Now, let’s understand more about organic food.

 

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Why should I eat beef?

The human race has been consuming beef, or the meat of cattle, since 8,000 BC. Beef is an excellent source of protein—merely 4 ounces of beef can provide over 60% of our daily needed protein, a nutrient that promotes healthy cells and helps build muscles. Beef is also rich in various vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamin B6 and B12, as well as selenium, zinc, phosphorus and iron. These nutrients lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and colon cancer, and strengthen the body’s immune system. However, since beef also contains cholesterol and saturated fat, it is better to choose leaner cuts and limit consumption to 4 ounces a serving, 3 times a week.

 

What different kinds of beef are there to choose from?

Fresh beef, chilled beef and frozen beef

In Hong Kong, it is possible to find fresh, chilled, and frozen beef. Fresh and chilled beef is sold in wet markets and supermarkets, while frozen beef can be found in supermarkets and frozen meat stores. It is generally acknowledged that fresh beef is of the best quality, but modern technology has made it possible for chilled beef and frozen beef (especially flash-frozen beef) to offer similar taste, texture and nutritional value.

Lean beef and extra lean beef

Beef is sometimes labeled as “lean” or “extra lean.” Beef labeled “lean” is defined as having less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams of the beef. “Extra lean” means that in 100 grams of the beef, it has less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol. Since leaner beef is better for health, paying attention to such labels when shopping for beef is recommended.


 

 

Different grades of beef

Another way to tell whether the beef you’re about to buy is lean is by its grade. In the U.S., beef sold at stores is classified into three grades: Prime, Choice and Select. The grade of the beef is largely dependent on its marbling: the streaks of fat scattered across the beef that gives it flavor and tenderness. Prime beef contains the most marbling, and is therefore the most flavorful and tender; on the other hand, it is also the fattiest.

In Hong Kong, it is not always possible to find out the grade of the beef, especially when purchasing fresh beef. If leaner beef is wanted, it is common practice to simply ask the butcher for it. You may also ask for specific cuts, since some cuts are leaner than others. (See below for details on different cuts of beef.)

Grass-fed beef

In the past, most beef came from cattle that were raised in feedlots, on diets of grains, soy, and even hormones to promote growth. These cattle were sometimes even fed meat, which was considered the cause of mad-cow disease. Nowadays, however, it is possible to find grass-fed beef on the market. Grass-fed cattle are raised on pastures and allowed to eat their most natural diet—grass. As a result, grass-fed beef contains less fat and cholesterol, and more nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which helps fight cancer and reduces body fat. Therefore, while it may not be as juicy and tender as grain-fed beef, it is healthier for you. You can find grass-fed beef in supermarkets that specialize in imported food.

 

Beef from different regions

In Hong Kong, beef is imported from all over the world: Japan, Australia, Brazil, U.S.A., Scotland, and New Zealand, to name a few countries. Let’s compare the two most popular kinds—Japanese beef (wagyu) and Australian beef—below. 

Japanese beef (wagyu)

Japanese beef, or wagyu, is distinguished for its intense marbling, giving it a whitish-pink appearance, rather than the usual red color of beef. This is a result of the cattle being carefully raised, fed milk, grains and beer, and even massaged from time to time. Wagyu is known for its extreme tenderness (to the point of “melting” on the tongue) and rich aroma. It contains more omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than other beef, and a higher ratio of monounsaturated fat. Wagyu can be very expensive.


Australian beef

Australia produces and exports wagyu, grain-fed and grass-fed beef. Generally speaking, Australian cattle are raised on pastures (for grain-fed cattle, they are kept indoors only before they are slaughtered), producing leaner beef. In the past, Australian beef was believed to have a gamey taste and to be tougher and less juicy than American beef. However, as mad-cow disease has never been discovered in the country, Australian beef has since then risen in reputation and popularity.


How do I choose beef?

Fresh and chilled beef should be bright red in color, firm to the touch, and have no foul odor. For frozen beef, go for the vacuum-packed kind. Since it has not been exposed to oxygen, vacuum-packed frozen beef should be purplish red or maroon in color.

 

Popular beef cuts in Hong Kong:

Brisket 

Brisket refers to the meat taken from the lower chest of cattle, and is one of the most commonly used cuts in Chinese cuisine. Since these muscles support much of the weight of the animal, the meat does not contain much fat, and can be quite tough if not cooked properly. Brisket is usually cooked as a stew, in Chu Hou sauce (a Chinese sauce made with spices) or curry sauce, with pieces of radish and ox tendon. It is a common accompaniment with noodles and rice.


 

 

Round 

Round refers to the meat from the hind leg of cattle. Like the brisket, it is a leaner cut of beef that has little marbling. As such, it is usually cooked in liquid to preserve its moisture. In Chinese cuisine, round is usually prepared by submerging it in sauce and slowly cooking it for several hours. It can also be braised and then marinated in sauce.


 

Rump roast 

Rump roast refers to the meat that comes from the hindquarters of cattle. It is lean and contains little fat, and is usually quite inexpensive. In Western cuisine, it is usually braised or roasted. In Chinese cuisine, it is sometimes cut into strips and stir-fried, or cubed and grilled as kebabs. Careful cooking is necessary to prevent it from being too tough.


 

Chuck Roast 

Chuck refers to the blade and shoulder meat of cattle. Chuck contains a certain amount of fat in between the shoulder blades, which adds to its flavor. However, since it is a body part frequently moved, the chuck contains a lot of connective tissue and can be quite sinewy and tough. As such, it is a cheaper cut that requires not only careful cooking, but also careful cutting. It can be made into a stew, braised, or stir-fried.

Rib Roast

As its name suggest, rib roast refers to the meat on the ribs of cattle (specifically, the meat from ribs 6 to 12). A rib roast usually includes several ribs, which, when severed, become individual rib steaks. Rib roast’s distinguished appearance means there is no mistaking it when you see one; coupled with its superb tenderness and juiciness, it is undoubtedly a favorite at restaurants and big occasions. Rib roast can be grilled, roasted, and barbecued.

Flank steak

Flank refers to the abdominal meat of cattle, near the hind legs. It is usually cut thin and against the grain because of its tough nature. It is also usually marinated before cooking to keep it tender. Flank steak is usually cooked via moist cooking methods, such as braising. In Western cuisine, it is most famously used in London Broil. In Asian cuisines, it is cut thin and stir-fried.

Hanger steak and skirt steak

Both hanger steak and skirt steak are cuts from the diaphragm of the cow, and usually include a membrane that needs to be removed before cooking. Hanger steaks and skirts steaks are similar in texture to flank steak in that they are quite tough, but are distinguished for their intense flavor; in fact, the hanger steak is also known as the “butcher’s tenderloin,” as the butcher would usually keep it for himself! These cuts are tricky to cook; they are usually marinated for long hours before cooking, and are either cooked very quickly (grilled or stir-fried) or very slowly (braised).

Sirloin steak 

A famous cut of beef, the sirloin comes from the rear back of cattle, near the round. It is not as tender as tenderloin or short loin, but is flavorful and less expensive. There are many ways to prepare this cut. It can be broiled, pan-seared, grilled, barbecued, as well as cut into cubes or strips and be stir-fried.
 

Tenderloin

Considered the most tender of all beef cuts, tenderloin is flavorful, juicy, and rightfully expensive. It is a relatively small piece of meat located under the ribs. Tenderloin is tasty grilled, seared, barbecued  roasted, and can even be served raw.
  

T-bone steak 

A T-bone steak is distinguished by the T-shaped bone that separates it into two halves; one is a tenderloin steak and one a strip steak. Naturally, the tenderloin steak is much smaller. Grilling suits T-bone steaks the best, but caution should be taken as the tenderloin steak will be done faster than the strip steak.

Rib-eye steak 

The rib-eye steak is a piece of steak cut out from the rib roast, with the rib bone removed. Rib-eye steaks usually have a lot of marbling running through them, making them one of the tenderest cuts of beef.  The amount of fat present in rib-eye steaks means they taste the best when quickly cooked over high heat, such as on a grill or pan-seared.


  

Ox-tail 

Oxtail, the tail of cattle, can often be found in Hong Kong wet markets and supermarkets, sometimes in its entirety. Usually, however, it is sold skinned and chopped. Oxtail is mainly added to soup and stews, and its rich collagen makes it a healthy ingredient. Furthermore, many people consider oxtail and red wine a match made in heaven; oxtail braised in red wine is a delicacy found in many restaurants.

Hot pot strip 

Not an actual part or cut of beef, hot pot strip refers to thinly sliced beef that is popular on the hot pot table. These slices of beef can come from all parts of the animal, but is commonly from its back or abdomen. The Japanese word for hot pot, “shabu-shabu,” imitates the “swish-swish” sound of swinging strips of meat in the boiling water; in the process, the meat is cooked. Since hot pot strips should be ready in only a few minutes, the best hot pot strips are thin, with a nice scattering of marbling.


 

Minced beef 

Popular for its versatility, minced beef can be found in most places that sell beef. While minced beef is usually made into hamburgers or added to casseroles in the West, in Chinese cuisine it is made into patties and steamed, or stir-fried with different ingredients. In wet markets, you may request the butcher to grind specific cuts of beef for you


 

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