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We recently shared nostalgic posters of the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival, and asked for your memories. In response, reader Sherrie Allan shared her copy of the Ninth Avenue Festival Cookbook from 1974. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to take some of those Hell’s Kitchen recipes and see if they could be recreated! Step up to the plate, Mackenzie Murray, who toiled in the kitchen in the hope of cooking up some history.
The recipe book gave us a choice of “3 From The Philippines” to try from three different 9th Avenue restaurants. We picked Shredded Beef from Filipinas International.
With only 4 simple ingredients to the recipe, it was wholly delicious. Who knew that cooking beef in beer, soy sauce and lemon juice would lead to the most delightful and flavorful meal?! All of my ravings aside, I will say that the descriptions were somewhat mind-boggling and left me a little bit perplexed. The recipe is as follows:
“Sliced beef” is incredibly undescriptive, as there are 8 main cuts of beef and probably a hundred different ways to buy beef at a grocery store. I decided to buy 2 packs of sirloin steak in chunks from Trader Joe’s, and sliced them accordingly. For being pretty clueless on the type of beef I was supposed to use, I found this worked out pretty well and for a good price. Although the beef was not as tender as I would have hoped, it didn’t stop me from eating it for both lunch and dinner.
For the beer, I personally could not find San Miguel, a Filipino pale lager. As a substitute, I used Corona. The recipe then calls for everything (beer, calamansi or lemon juice and soy sauce) to be combined and cooked until tender. Here is where I found myself confused: there is no clarification on actually “shredding” the beef. Does sliced beef count as shredded?
I did not, in fact, shred the beef and left it as is. Not completely satisfied with my overall decision, even though exceptionally happy with the flavor, I decided to make this dish again. The second time, I tried out chuck roast. In a perfect world, I imagined the beef simmering nicely and becoming super tender and easily shreddable, except the exact opposite happened. The measurements for the liquid ingredients in the recipe were not enough to completely cover the beef, therefore, it did not tenderize. When I tried to shred it, the meat just toughened, and I found myself, yet again, slicing the beef. This cut of meat made that a lot more difficult, considering it is a stew that didn’t “stew”.
For the onions, I did the same process both times. I sliced them into thin rings and tossed them in with the meat at the very end. You definitely want the onions not to be too cooked because they’ll add a crunchy sweet texture. For serving, the first time I made this dish I used raw green peppers, as there was no clarification on how they should be cooked. They softened slightly with the meat, but I’m just not a fan of raw pepper. The second time I served the beef with cooked peas, and they were a nice compliment but somewhat bland. I suggest serving this dish with additional lime wedges and cilantro on the side.
Overall, I thought this dish was super tasty, flavorful, and I really did love it. I’m still pretty uncertain on the cut of beef to use — I suggest using a better quality cut that will be tender on its own (I’ll head to Piccinini Bros next time!). I never thought that beer, lemon juice and soy sauce thrown together would make such a nice dish, but somehow it did!
More about the NINTH Avenue International Food Festival
During the pandemic, it was a delight to welcome Tradisyon to 9th Avenue. As Robert Sietsema reported in Eater in July 2020: “Thirty years ago, Hell’s Kitchen was a hotbed of Filipino institutions, with a Catholic church, bodegas, and a restaurant tucked behind the Port Authority called Philippine Fast Food, among other businesses and wholesalers. Most of these are now closed, but another Filipino cafe, Tradisyon, recently appeared in the same neighborhood, seeking to occupy similar culinary ground.”
Looking at this page of the recipe book, these three Filipino joints were next door to each other on 9th Avenue by W39th Street at 524, 526 and 528 (the corner where Taqueria Diana is now). Lili Fable, founder of the Ninth Avenue Food Festival (and original coordinator of this cookbook), told us: “At one time below 42nd, around 39th or 38th on both sides of the street, all the businesses were owned by Filipino families. But it seemed just a few years later they were all gone. They were all cooking the food of their country. They were importing products in and then it was over. I think they found another neighborhood to move to.”
Mackenzie Murray graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in July of 2021. Following her time at culinary school, she worked as a pasta line cook at the Michelin-starred Rezdôra. She now works as the Culinary Assistant and Digital Media Coordinator for Gail Simmons.