Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bully Beef But We Were Not Conned...

As a member of the Commonwealth, modern Singapore is still steep in some past legacies of the old British Empire such as the Internal Security Act (which authorizes detention without trial in certain circumstances) and the Societies Act (which regulates the formation of associations) that were enacted during the colonial days, I am surprised that Singaporeans have not been conned in eating bully beef like many of Britain’s former colonies. Unlike time- honoured Brands Essence of Chicken or Jacobs Cracker Biscuits which hold much high esteem and have the stamp of approval from our grandparents and parents since British colonial days, the bully beef has failed to leave its mark on our Imperial past. But it had definitely played an important role in the British military history as it was the main field rations for their soldiers fighting in the field from the Boer War to World War II.

Bully beef is also known as canned corned beef and is sold in distinctive oblong-shaped cans, or in Australia , it is typically sold in uncooked round or silverside of beef, cured or pickled in a seasoned brine from supermarkets. It is difficult to point out the differences in consumption of corned beef in various countries but it is often associated with culture and taste. I can simply put it this way, bully beef to the British is like luncheon meat to the Singaporean Chinese.

I could not remember eating canned corned beef in my younger days, until I went to work in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. I was staggered by the popularity and high consumption of canned corned beef in these former British colonies in the Pacific. To this day, it is not unusual to find corned beef being served at communal feast, family gatherings and everyday’s meals. Since then, I have included corned beef in our family cooking as a boiled dinner served with cabbage, and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes.



• 1.5kg uncooked corned beef (silverside)
• 1 onion, quartered
• 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
• 2 medium carrot
• 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 Tbsp sugar
• ½ cup brown vinegar
• 8 whole cloves
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• 1 Tbsp vinegar


• 1 Tbsp butter/margarine
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 1 Tbsp plain flour
• 3/4 cup (190ml) milk
• 1½ cup stock reserved juices from the pot.

Preparation method

Rinse the meat with cold water and place in a large saucepan and fill with water to cover the corned beef Add in your sugar, vinegar, garlic, carrot celery, cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves.
Bring the pot to the boil and cover and simmer for 2 hours or until meat is tender.
Once cooked, take the meat out and let it rest and cool.
To make the sauce;
1. Melt the margarine or butter in a pan over low-medium heat and then add the flour to make a thick paste. Stir in the mustard and keep adding milk to get the consistency of a smooth paste. Add the stock from the pan, to get a nice thin sauce. Serve cooked corned beef with cabbage and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and potatoes.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Uncle Phil, this response comes over one year late, as the label 'Bully Beef' in the Index on the right side of your blog caught my eye.

    In Singapore, for the Chinese at least, luncheon meat has replaced corned beef (Bully Beef) as a standard staple.
    Americans probably know both of these as variants of Spam.

    For me, I've willingly stopped eating such products, due to the high sodium and caloric (fat, cholesterol) content.
    Actually, my immediate concern over the past decade has been diabetes: watch the blood sugar, and therefore cut the sweet drinks and desserts, starchy gravies and piles of processed carbs.

    But I thought that I might as well start earlier, even though my blood pressure is under steady medicated control.