Henny Swan’s 5 spice beef 5 ways

The 11th in a series of posts that bring together the two sides of my blog: Food and technology. I’ve asked the great and the good from the web standards
to share their favourite recipes. This bundle of awesome Chinese dishes is from Henny Swan.


Six helpings.
30 minutes

5 spice beef plated up to serve


  • 750g shin of beef or stewing beef.
  • 2 spring onions tied in a knot.
  • 3 slices of ginger.
  • 4tbsp Shaoxing wine (you can get this from the Chinese super market).
  • 1.5l chicken stock.
  • 4tbsp light soya sauce.
  • 3tbsp dark soya sauce.
  • 1tbsp 5 spice powder.
  • 150g rock sugar.
  • 1 spring onion (finely chopped).
  • 1tsp roasted sesame oil.
  • Chopped coriander.
  • salt and pepper.

All the ingredients in the pot


  1. Cut the beef into 2 or three smaller chunks and add to a pot with the knotted spring onions, ginger, Shaoxing wine and stock.
  2. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum. Add the rest of the ingredients, minus the coriander, then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. To serve slice the beef thinly and put it on a plate. Pour some of the master sauce on top along with chopped up spring onion, coriander and a dash of sesame oil. Traditionally it is served cold at the beginning of a Chinese meal.

Henny’s notes

I lived in China in the late 90’s and was in food heaven. When I came back to the UK I really struggled to find any decent Chinese food cooked the way it’s cooked in China and not in the west. Out of desperation I taught myself how to cook properly.

This beef recipe is as easy as they come and for me captures the taste of China. It’s also a dish that keeps on giving as you can use it for lots of other dishes which I’ve also included below.

I use the left overs for all sorts of things including the sauce which is called ‘master sauce’. Master sauce is kind of like the Chinese version of stock and can be frozen or used right away. Below are a few of the things I make with both the sauce and the beef.


Stir-fry onions, vegetables meat or tofu in sesame oil. Add noodles and a splash of the sauce and you’re done.

Tea eggs (sort of)

One of my favourite street foods is tea eggs. These are eggs that have been hard boiled in a tea and soya sauce mixture. They are delicious hot and can be brought at stalls with bubbling vats of hot tea with eggs in.

I like to make ‘tea egg’s in the master sauce mixture along with the beef. The trick is to boil them for 10 minutes or so, remove the eggs from the sauce then gently crack the shell by rolling the egg on a counter. Don’t remove the shell. Return the eggs to the mixture and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes. The sauce will seep into the egg giving it a lovely rich flavor, the cracks also make beautiful patterns on the egg after it has had its shell removed.

Tea eggs, cooked and peeled, with a beautiful marbled pattern

Eat as is, or cut them in half and put them in noodle soups. For a real treat use quail eggs.

Smokin’ bean curd

This is another hybrid on a very traditional Chinese dish of soft bean curd with soya and sesame oil.

Place a cube of soft bean curd on a plate, chop up coriander, spring onion, and some chili and pop it on top of the bean curd. If you have tea eggs chop a couple of them up and add them too. Pour on some of the master sauce. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil then pour that on top to give it a smoky look and taste.

Smokin' bean curd with tea eggs

5 spice beef & yorkshire pudding

This makes a good canapé and is another mix of east and west. Mix some crème fresh and wasabi. You can make this as strong or as mild as you like. Place a dollop in mini Yorkshire puddings with a generous slice of beef on top. Sprinkle chopped up chives on top and serve.

If you are into good Chinese food the best recipe books are:

2 comments on “Henny Swan’s 5 spice beef 5 ways”

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  1. Comment by Joseph Karr O'Connor

    Henny, this all sounds so delicious. Master sauce and tea eggs! Thanks and Merry Solstice!

  2. Comment by Henny

    Thanks for posting this Léonie and thanks Joseph. We’ll probably have a cooking session doing your spaghetti and meatballs dish soon as my daughter loves those.

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