Is Beef Tendon the New Pork Belly?

If beef tendon isn’t lined up to be the next pork belly, I sure hope it gets there soon. While pork belly is popular now, it was once a virtual unknown in the meat cuts world. Americans found it too fatty, it wasn’t a taste that meshed with that early 90s heroin chic. Yet as the 20th century mentality faded away, we began to not only accept the fatty and delicious cut, but to revere it in more ways than just bacon.

Food writers everywhere have made their guesses as to what cut comes next as the fad to go from offal to awesome, from only being on the menu at hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants to being the shining star of an upcoming small plates, seasonal, local joint. After last week, I’m putting my money on the beef tendon, and please allow me to tell you why.

Pork belly introduced Americans to the voluptuous feeling of melting fat in their mouths. It was a baby step, one layer amongst other meaty and even crispy ones, but it was a step. Beef tendon is almost entirely made up of that feeling of melting fat, it is the adult step. Properly braised, though,the flavor combined with the texture makes this an amazing cut of meat.

For years now, you’ve been able to find tendon on the menu at your local pho joint, and in Seattle it was best found at Szechuan Noodle Bowl in their delicious beef and tendon Szechuan noodle soup. Recently, I pulled it off the dim sum cart at a brand new place. Each time I eat it, I get a little bit more excited.

Yet, I know, while I can hope its time will come, beef tendon is playing a waiting game. A search on the internet does not turn up very many hits and even fewer of those are actually recipes. My mountain of cookbooks (stored as such since I long ago ran out of shelf space) also let me down. Not one of them had a tendon recipe, not even the old school Chinese ones! I tried to develop one myself, but it was difficult to find one that really allowed the tendon to shine. Seven hours later, of my 3 different recipes, none were very edible. In fact, if you have a recipe, send it my way, I don’t plan to give up yet.

If you are looking to buy some and you live in the Seattle area, Olsen Farms at the Ballard Farmer’s Market will sell you some, despite the fact that one of the other beef vendors told me they were not allowed to sell due to USDA rules.

I can only hope that people will try it, become fans and it too, like pork belly, will have 260,000 Google hits when you search for recipes.