Beef in Asian Cuisine: How China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines Cook It

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Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers.

As a meat lover, I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy beef. And there’s no better place to look than Asian cuisine. How is beef used in asian cuisine?

As you know, beef is a staple meat in asian cuisine. But how exactly does it fit in? In this article, I’ll take a look at how beef is used in asian cuisine and what dishes you can expect to find.

Let’s dive into the history, cultural beliefs, and religious practices that have shaped the way asian countries use beef in their cuisine.

Beef in asian cuisine

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The Evolution of Beef in Asian Cuisine

  • Historically, beef was not a staple meat in Asian cuisine due to religious and cultural beliefs.
  • However, as trade and cultural exchange increased, beef became more widely eaten in various forms.
  • Similar ingredients and preparation methods can be found in many Asian cuisines, with rice being a common side dish.

Regional Differences in Beef Consumption

  • In Northern and Eastern Asian cuisines, pork is still the main meat consumed, with beef being used to a significantly lesser degree.
  • In contrast, beef is a prominent meat in Southern and Central Asian cuisines, often grilled and served with onions and other vegetables.
  • Seafood is also a common protein source in many Asian cuisines, with consumption varying by region.

Common Beef Dishes in Asian Cuisine

  • Beef is commonly used in stir-fry dishes, hot pots, and noodle soups.
  • Grilled beef skewers and beef satay are popular street foods in many Asian countries.
  • Beef can also be included in mixed dishes, such as bibimbap and fried rice.

Key Features of Beef Preparation in Asian Cuisine

  • Drying and smoking are common methods of preserving beef in some Asian cuisines, such as Chinese beef jerky.
  • Mixing beef with vegetables and other products is a great way to add flavor and texture to dishes.
  • The majority of beef dishes in Asian cuisine are served medium to well-done, with rare beef being less common.

Popular Beef Products in Asian Cuisine

  • Beef varieties commonly used in Asian cuisine include flank steak, short ribs, and brisket.
  • Onions, garlic, and ginger are commonly used to flavor beef dishes.
  • Soy sauce, sesame oil, and oyster sauce are popular condiments for beef dishes.

Historical Basis of Asian Cuisine

  • Cereals such as wheat, barley, and maize have historically constituted the basis of Asian cuisine.
  • Bread, noodles, and dumplings are common wheat-based dishes.
  • Olives, sesame, mint, and yogurt are also commonly used ingredients in some Asian cuisines.
  • Inclusion of beef in Asian cuisine has overlapped with the Middle Eastern and Turkic peoples, such as the Yamal and Kumis.

Beef in Chinese Cooking: The Art of Velveting

When it comes to beef in Chinese cooking, the key is to ensure that the meat is tender and retains its moisture. This is where the traditional Chinese technique of velveting comes in. Here’s how to prepare the meat for velveting:

  • Cut the beef into thin strips, about 1 cm in thickness.
  • Mix the beef with a tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of cornstarch. This will help to coat the meat and ensure that it retains its moisture during the cooking process.
  • Let the beef sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the mixture to penetrate the meat.

The Velveting Process

Velveting involves a process of lightly frying the meat in oil to create a soft, velvety texture. Here’s how to velvet beef:

  • Heat a large skillet over high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the beef strips in small batches, shaking off any excess cornstarch mixture.
  • Fry the beef for about 30 seconds, or until it turns slightly brown and floats to the surface.
  • Use a skimmer to remove the beef from the oil and place it on a rack lined with paper to drain any excess oil.
  • Repeat the process until all the beef strips are cooked.

The Sauce

No Chinese beef dish is complete without a signature sauce. Here’s how to make a sweet and sticky sauce to coat the beef:

  • In a small bowl, combine a tablespoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon of cornstarch, a tablespoon of chili sauce, and a tablespoon of sesame oil.
  • In the same skillet used to velvet the beef, add a little extra oil and heat it over medium heat.
  • Add a chopped onion and stir-fry for a minute or two until it turns slightly brown.
  • Pour the sauce mixture into the skillet and stir until it thickens.
  • Add the velveted beef strips to the sauce and toss to coat them thoroughly.


Once the beef is coated in the sauce, it’s time to serve it up. Here’s how to plate the dish:

  • Place the beef strips on a large plate, leaving some space between each strip.
  • Sprinkle some chopped green onion on top for garnish.
  • Serve the beef with a side of steamed rice.

Velveting may involve a few extra steps, but it’s worth it to ensure that the beef is soft and tender. The process also helps to prevent the meat from clumping together during the frying process. Depending on the type and quality of the meat, you may notice a slight difference in the texture after velveting. But with the right techniques, you can ensure that your beef dishes are always a hit.

Discovering the Delicate and Flavorful Beef Dishes of Japan

When it comes to Japanese beef dishes, thinly sliced beef is the star of the show. This type of beef is usually cut into smaller, thinner cuts, making it perfect for quick and easy cooking. The most common way to prepare thinly sliced beef is by simmering it in a broth or sauce, which allows the delicate flavors of the meat to shine through. Some of the most popular dishes that use thinly sliced beef include sukiyaki, nabe, and shabu-shabu.

The Ultimate Sukiyaki Recipe

Sukiyaki is a classic Japanese beef dish that is perfect for a comforting meal at home. To make sukiyaki, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Thinly sliced beef
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Sake
  • Mirin
  • Water
  • Vegetables (such as onions, mushrooms, and spinach)
  • Tofu
  • Glass noodles

To make the sukiyaki sauce, simply combine soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then, in a large pot or skillet, add the sauce and enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. Add the vegetables and tofu and bring the mixture to a simmer. Once the veggies are cooked, add the thinly sliced beef and cook until it’s just done. Serve the sukiyaki with glass noodles and enjoy!

The Simple and Delicious Shabu-Shabu

Shabu-shabu is another popular Japanese beef dish that’s perfect for a quick and easy meal. To make shabu-shabu, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Thinly sliced beef
  • Vegetables (such as cabbage, carrots, and mushrooms)
  • Dipping sauce (usually a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil)

To prepare the dish, simply bring a pot of water to a low simmer and place the thinly sliced beef in the pot. Let it cook for just a few seconds, then remove it from the pot and place it on a plate. Repeat this process with the veggies, then dip the meat and veggies in the dipping sauce and enjoy!

The Flavorful and Comforting Nabe

Nabe is a type of Japanese hot pot that’s perfect for a cold winter day. To make nabe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Thinly sliced beef
  • Vegetables (such as napa cabbage, carrots, and daikon radish)
  • Tofu
  • Dashi stock
  • Sake
  • Soy sauce
  • Mirin

To prepare the dish, simply combine the dashi stock, sake, soy sauce, and mirin in a pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the veggies and tofu and let them cook for a few minutes. Then, add the thinly sliced beef and let it cook until it’s just done. Serve the nabe with rice and enjoy the warm and comforting flavors of this delicious dish.

In Japan, beef is considered a luxury ingredient and is often reserved for special occasions or meals at high-end restaurants. However, with the right ingredients and a little bit of prep time, you can create your own delicious and flavorful Japanese beef dishes at home. So why not give it a try today and discover the umami-rich flavors of Japanese beef for yourself?

Beef Bulgogi: A Classic Korean Dish

Beef Bulgogi is a traditional Korean dish made with thinly sliced beef that is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. The marinated beef is then grilled or pan-fried and served with rice, lettuce wraps, or other side dishes.

How is it Prepared?

To make Beef Bulgogi, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 pound of thinly sliced beef (usually ribeye or sirloin)
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of minced ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 of a large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced

To prepare Beef Bulgogi, follow these steps:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and black pepper.
  2. Add the sliced beef to the bowl and mix until the beef is fully coated in the marinade.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) to allow the flavors to meld together.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil.
  5. Add the sliced onions to the skillet and stir-fry for a couple of minutes until they are slightly softened.
  6. Add the marinated beef to the skillet and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until the beef is cooked through.
  7. Remove the beef from the skillet and serve with rice, lettuce wraps, or other side dishes.
  8. Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.

Notes and Tips

  • Beef Bulgogi can be made with other cuts of beef, such as flank steak or brisket, depending on your preference.
  • If you want to make a low-fat version of Beef Bulgogi, you can use ground beef instead of sliced beef.
  • Beef Bulgogi can be made spicy by adding a couple of teaspoons of gochujang (Korean chili paste) to the marinade.
  • Beef Bulgogi is a great dish to serve for dinner parties or special occasions.
  • You can usually find thinly sliced beef for Bulgogi at Asian grocery stores or ask your local butcher to prepare it for you.

Beef Bulgogi is a perfect example of how beef is used in Korean cuisine. It’s a classic dish that is easy to prepare and can be served as a main course or as part of a larger spread of Korean dishes. The fresh ingredients and bold flavors make it a favorite among many, and it’s a dish that is sure to impress anyone who tries it.

Beef in Filipino Cooking: A Flavorful Journey

When it comes to beef, Filipinos love to use different cuts for their dishes. Here are some of the commonly used cuts in Filipino cooking:

  • Tenderloin
  • Flank
  • Sirloin
  • Shanks and bone-in cuts for soups like bulalo and nilaga

Marinated and Sliced Beef Dishes

Filipino beef dishes are often marinated to infuse flavor and tenderize the meat. Here are some popular marinated and sliced beef dishes:

  • Bistek Tagalog: a simple dish of thinly sliced beef sirloin cooked in soy sauce, lemon juice, and onions
  • Bulalo: a beef shank soup that is slow-cooked for hours with vegetables and spices
  • Bulgogi: a Korean-inspired dish of thinly sliced beef marinated in a combination of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and other fragrant ingredients

High-Quality Beef in Filipino Cuisine

While beef is a common ingredient in Filipino cooking, high-quality beef like wagyu is also used in some dishes. Here are some examples:

  • Beef steak: a dish of grilled or pan-fried beef served with a side of rice and a sauce made with oyster sauce and other seasonings
  • Spare ribs: a dish of marinated and grilled beef spare ribs served with a side of rice and a dipping sauce

In conclusion, beef is a versatile ingredient in Filipino cuisine, used in a variety of dishes from soups to stir-fries. Whether it’s a simple dish of bistek tagalog or a high-quality wagyu steak, beef is sure to be a flavorful addition to any Filipino meal.


So, that’s how beef is used in asian cuisine. It’s a staple meat and has been for centuries, but the way it’s used varies from country to country. 

You can see how the content changes as we go from a general overview to a more specific look at beef in asian cuisine. It’s not as hard as you think to write about a subject like this, as long as you have the right guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.