We recently shared nostalgic posters from the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival and asked for your memories. In response, reader Sherrie Allan shared her copy of the 1974 Ninth Avenue Festival Cookbook. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to take some of those Hell’s Kitchen recipes and see if they could be counterfeited! Step on the board, Mackenzie Murray, who toiled in the kitchen hoping to build some history.
The recipe book gave us a choice of “3 From The Philippines” to try from three different 9th Avenue restaurants. We chose shredded beef from Filipinas International.
With only 4 simple ingredients for the recipe, it was absolutely delicious. Who knew that cooking beef in beer, soy sauce and lemon juice would lead to the most delicious and flavorful meal?! Aside from all my ranting, I will say that the descriptions were somewhat baffling and left me a little perplexed. The recipe is as follows:
“Sliced beef” is incredibly indescribable as there are 8 main cuts of beef and probably a hundred different ways to buy beef in a supermarket. I decided to buy 2 packs of sirloin steak at Trader Joe’s and cut them accordingly. Having no idea of the type of beef to use, I found this worked quite well and at a good price. While the beef wasn’t as tender as I’d hoped, it didn’t stop me from eating it for both lunch and dinner.
For the beer, I personally couldn’t find a San Miguel, a Philippine pale lager. As a replacement I used Corona. The recipe then calls for everything (beer, calamansi or lemon juice and soy sauce) to combine and cook until done. Here’s where I was confused: There’s no clarification on actually “shredding” the beef. Does sliced beef count as shredded?
I didn’t actually shred the meat and left it as is. Not completely happy with my overall decision, although exceptionally happy with the taste, I decided to recreate this dish. The second time I tried Chuck Roast. In a perfect world, I imagined the meat simmering nicely and becoming super tender and easily shredded, except the exact opposite happened. The dimensions for the liquid ingredients in the recipe were not enough to cover the meat completely, so it was not tender. When I tried to shred it, the meat just hardened and I found myself cutting the meat again. This cut of meat made that a lot more difficult, as it is a stew that does not “stew”.
I did the same process for the onions both times. I cut them into thin rings and tossed them with the meat at the end. You definitely want the onions not to be overcooked, as they add a crunchy, sweet texture. For serving, I used raw green peppers the first time I made this dish, as there was no explanation of how to cook them. They softened up a bit with the meat, but I’m just not a fan of raw pepper. The second time I served the beef with boiled peas, and they were a nice compliment, but a little bland. I suggest serving this dish with extra lime wedges and cilantro on the side.
Overall I thought this dish was super tasty, flavorful and I really loved it. I’m still quite unsure about the portion of beef to use – I suggest using a higher quality portion that is tender on its own (I’ll go to Piccinini Bros next time!). I never thought that beer, lemon juice and soy sauce would make such a delicious dish together, but somehow it did!
During the pandemic it was a pleasure 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 Philippine institutions, with a Catholic church, bodegas and a restaurant tucked behind the Port Authority Philippine Fast Food, among other businesses and wholesalers. Most of these are now closed, but another Filipino cafe, Tradisyon, recently popped up in the same neighborhood, seeking similar culinary ground.”
Looking at this page of the recipe book, these three Filipino cafes were side by side on 9th Avenue at 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, “Once under 42nd, about 39th or 38th on both sides of the street, all businesses were owned by Filipino families. But it seemed just a few years later they were all gone. They were all cooking their country’s food. They were importing produce 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 2021. After her time in culinary school, she worked as a pasta chef at the Michelin-starred Rezdôra. She now works as a Culinary Assistant and Digital Media Coordinator for Gail Simmons.