Osso buco, or ossobuco, literally translates to “bone hole” which refers to the center bone of the cross-cut of shank with the marrow inside. In culinary tradition, osso buco refers to a Milanese specialty dish that consists of a cross cut of veal shank, bone in, braised slowly in wine with herbs, spiced and, in some cases, vegetables.
In any meat-eating culture, the parts of the animal that take longer to cook, including the shank, are often cheaper. Combine that fact with the cooking method of osso buco, it is a reasonable guess that it may have originated as peasant food. How it has been elevated into gourmet fare is an interesting food for thought.
In the Philippines, the counterpart of osso buco is bulalo, a term that refers to 1) the cross cut of beef shank with the bone and the marrow inside; and 2) a soup dish that consists of the beef shank and vegetables, the delicious bone marrow being the focal point. It is a provincial dish, the specialty in Batangas where the beef industry is an important part of the economy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about bulalo lately in an outside-the-box way and I looked back on the many ways I’ve cooked it to make it less predictable. Most recently, I’ve been thinking of bulalo in relation to osso buco wondering if, in the future, bulalo would find itself among the world’s gourmet favorites, and that led to the creation of this dish. It is a non-soup bulalo. Instead, the beef is braised in coconut milk.
The volume of each ingredient is not specified. Cross cuts of beef shank are sold by piece and the weight varies. So, the amount of the ingredients will depend on the weight of the beef.
Osso buco, Asian style
- Heat the cooking oil in a pan. Saute the ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add the beef, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brown both sides.
- Pour in the coconut milk (two cups is a good starting point). Simmer, covered for two to two-and-a-half hours or until very tender. Check the liquid occasionally, add more coconut milk and season with more salt and pepper, as needed. Do not add too much coconut milk. By the end of cooking time, you want a thick and rich sauce, not something soupy.
- When the beef is almost done, prepare the kangkong.
- In a small frying pan, heat a little coconut oil and sauté the shallots and chilies with a little salt and pepper. Add the kangkong leaves and cook, stirring often, just until softened.
- Add the sautéed kangkong leaves to the beef, scattering them around the meat. Cover and simmer for another ten minutes.
- Serve the beef shank surrounded by the greens. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat just before serving to moisten the top.