My Relationship with Beef

I’m having a hard time thinking of what to write today. I guess I’ll take the easy way out by answering a persistent question that many friends who have dined with me in restaurants before like to ask.

“You don’t eat beef?”

Usually this question would be followed up with the obvious follow up question.

“Why don’t you eat beef?”

And then, usually these questions would be followed up with attempts to answer the questions themselves.

  1. Religion – You Buddhist/Taoist?
  2. Health – You avoiding red meat?
  3. Taste – You don’t like the smell and taste of Malaysian beef?

All right, I’ll tell you more…


First, to clarify, the statement “I don’t eat beef” needs to be added with these three words: “when in Malaysia”. I don’t eat beef when in Malaysia. I would not resist beef when I am in the US or Japan. I am not able to provide a specific reason as to why I have this strange behavior. I guess it is a mixture of a few things.

You see, my family is a Buddhist family. Mom and dad are (quite) devoted Buddhists. Me? I suppose I am a hybrid between Buddhist and atheist. I like to call myself an Intellect Buddhist. I study the teachings of Buddhism, I believe in the laws of karma and the powers of meditation. I don’t quite like going to the temples to partake in hours of mass prayers and scripture recitals. I don’t quite embrace the idea of praying for good fortune. The Buddha teachings that I read tells me that one should do good but not to expect something good in return. Not quite tally with praying for good fortune if you ask me.

Right, I am talking about beef. Do not get distracted.

So, when I was a kid, mom prohibits us from taking beef. If you are a Buddhist or Taoist then I’m sure you know the story of how when Guan Yin Bodhisattva 观音菩萨 was still human, he cut off a piece of his own flesh to offer to a cow and managed to convert the cow from meat eating carnivore to grass eating herbivore. So a Guan Yin believer (which Buddhists and Taoists are) should not eat cow (which beef is made of) because cow is a sacred animal.

As a kid, I didn’t think much of it. When you are a kid, what mom says is right. If mom says do not eat beef, then we must not eat beef. As I grew older, exposed myself to Buddhism teachings instead of just Buddhist prayers, and became the Intellect Buddhist that I am today, I continued with the habit of not eating beef. I guess I was just used to this habit, whenever I read a menu, I will automatically skip all the beef options. Since it does not cause me any inconvenience at all, I am just not bothered to change this habit.

I’m not sure if I want to call this reason a religious one. I guess it is more a mommy reason. I figured when I am in Malaysia, I am quite close to mom, so I do not want to eat something that she doesn’t want me eating. Especially when I am in KL, if I eat or drink anything that she does not approve of, she would be able to smell it from my mouth even after a prolonged period of time.

I still remember there was once when I was high school, I went out with friends. We had a beer at Red Box Karaoke in the morning, then we went for lunch, then crashed a friend’s house, then had dinner, then go home, and the first thing mom asked when I greeted her was: “Why you drink beer??”

And, it’s got nothing to do with how beef tastes or how it affects my body. Come on, I eat pork and I love bacon, I’m sure the (lack of) health properties between pork and beef are almost identical.


So, if I do not eat beef in Malaysia, why do I eat beef in the US and Japan?

Well, as a general rule, my habit is to not eat beef whenever possible. I would only eat beef when I have no choice. When I went to the UK, Europe, Singapore and China, not once have I thought of eating beef.

But when I went to the United States, things changed. If nasi lemak is Malaysia’s national dish and fish and chips is England’s national dish, then I think the steak is the American’s national dish. So, let me rephrase one of my statements above. I would only eat beef when I have no choice not eating it means I am missing out on an absolutely essential experience when traveling to a foreign country.

When my US work counterparts travel to Malaysia, they always lament the fact that the steaks in Malaysia are horrible and that comparing US steaks to Malaysian steaks is akin to comparing chocolate and shit. Looks the same but totally not the same! And then when I was going for the first time, colleagues who have been to the States before said: “You must try the rib-eye steak, at least once! Else you gonna regret for the rest of your life man!

When you hear things like this, how can you not try it? Right? So I did. In fact, I had quite a few wonderful steaks over my few visits, both in San Francisco and Colorado.

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Crap, no… this is the wrong picture. Why am I showing you picture of a dessert? Silly me.. This dessert is called the Big Brownie Blast. It was my first time having hot cake topped with cold ice cream. It was my first time tasting heaven. It was soooooo good!!! Of course, today you can actually find similar desserts even in Malaysia, in TGIF or Chili’s or Morganfield’s, but when it was a first experience, the awesome factor was 100 times greater!

Nooo!! What am I talking about?? Beef!!!

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Yeah, this is beef. This was my first meal in Colorado, in fact. I had it in Lone Star Steakhouse just across the street from my hotel. It’s a Sirloin/Chicken Breast Combo with Mashed Potato side. It was my first steak and it was also my first introduction to the real American portions.

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Here’s the picture of another steak meal I had when in the States. It is a 6 ounce rib-eye topped with shrimps and assorted vegetables. It was one of those dishes from Applebee’s Simple-and-Fit menu, where all the dishes are 550 calories or lower.

And then, when I had a business trip to Japan, I had beef too. Come on, you know that besides sushi and sashimi, the most famous food export of Japan is the wagyu beef, right? Right??

Much like how I did not have a choice when in the US, I did not have a choice in Tokyo! Not eating wagyu beef in Tokyo is simply not an option!

DSCN0484

Oh man.. I got the wrong photo again. Tis’ not beef, tis’ mixed seafood platter. I had this in a fancy restaurant called Tokyo Ocean Grill. It is on the top floor of Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku. It was 5900 yen (RM 180/US$ 60) and it was the most expensive meal that I have had, ever.

Beef! Go back to beef!

IMG-20140217-WA0001

Yeah, tis’ beef. Tis’ wagyu beef strips. At least that’s what the menu said. I mean, that’s what the kawaii waitress said the menu said. That’s what “Kore wa? Wagyu sutoripusu desu.” means, right? (This? It’s wagyu strips.) .. I had this is Denny’s, which is (ironically) an American family restaurant chain. The price for this plate of food was 2400 yen (RM 72/US$ 24).


I have never told my mom about me breaking her don’t eat beef rule. She never asked, and I never mentioned. I suppose if I did not talk, then I did not lie to her. Of course, if she reads this, I wonder if I will be in trouble, or how much trouble I will be in.

And, I actually set out to write intellectually, but I guess in the end, it is just another show off post, showing you the awesome food I have had on my working trips… Oh well…

32 Comments

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog post while searching for answers myself. As you have mentioned, I too just followed whatever my parents dictate when I was young and it became a habit/reflex. When I started going out with my other half, who is an atheist, and was asked to justify my abstinence of beef, it got me wondering and therefore searching for answers. Till date, I did not find any reference which dictates the abstinence of beef in Buddhism, just some that encourages vegetarianism. Though there are many sources on the net, each with their own opinion, I truly believe in being good, doing good and staying good, regardless of what one may consume and what religion one may choose to embrace. Malaysia Chinese Norm? Yeah, I agree.

    Cheers.

    • I salute you for bothering to search for answers. I would be annoyed at the person who ask me to justify my abstinence instead. I mean, why should I need to justify? That’s my freedom of choice to not eat beef, just like beef eaters choose to eat beef. Why don’t you justify your preference on beef instead?
      It is one thing to be curious to find answers, another thing to be challenged to do so by people who have different choices. That really ticks me off, sorry hahaha!
      You’re right, nowhere does Buddhism tell us to abstain from beef. In fact, it doesn’t even encourage vegetarianism. Buddhism at it’s original root is all about going with the flow, as everything is fated. Buddhist monks who follow the original teachings will eat whatever given to them without any preferences. Vegetarianism and beef abstinence is actually something introduced by Chinese Buddhism. Influenced by Taoism and every other Chinese beliefs I guess. 🙄

    • I think kobe beef is just a cut from wagyu. Wagyu is the cow, kobe beef is a specific cut from a Wagyu, isn’t it? Kobe beef is the expensive of expensive, I can’t afford it!

      • Yes, kobe beef refers to cuts from the wagyu cattle but (what I know) is kobe beef specifically comes from a specific prefecture in Japan (and its capital is called Kobe) and if the beef is not from this prefecture, it’s not really kobe which is the best of the best!

        • I suppose you are right, they wouldn’t call Kobe beef if it is from Nagoya or Aomori I suppose. I’m not a beef guy so I don’t really know the details LOL! 😀

  2. I think I’m one of those who asked you this question before…and now I know. Your mom smelling beer on you…now that’s quite easy to detect but smelling beef…now that’s another thing altogether! 😀 You say it’s about the beef and then you tempt us with pics of brownie and lobster…sneaky, sneaky!!

    You too had wagyu (not at a Japanese eatery) but at an American restaurant while you were there, so I don’t think Malaysian steaks are all that bad. Steaks are so common in US that any diner can serve up a good steak but compared to the common American franchised diners here, then I agree the steaks are not as good. I did try steaks while I was in the US and I can’t say our steaks are not as good (some are, some aren’t). Normally, I find that the good (and slightly more expensive) steakhouses (not those American franchises) serve up pretty good steaks. I’m not with what most people think about our steaks…so yeah..

    • Not purposely one!! 😀 😀

      I guess I will never know if Malaysian steaks are really that bad, unless I try them. And at the moment, I have no interest to do that..

  3. I think most of us are like that as kids. We listen to what our parents said, no questions asked.

    My Mother-in-law doesn’t eat beef either. However, she once accidently ate it because she thought it was pork in the roll. Oh, well!

    And I worked with a guy who said he doesn’t eat beef because he said beef will make you stupid. He said when he gave up eating beef in university, his grades improved.

    • That’s a load of bollocks! I think it is all a matter of confidence and belief. He believed that he had eliminated the source that made him stupid, so he studied with more confidence and was able to improve his grades.

  4. From your post, I can see that you are really a filial son.. thumbs up for you! As a mother, we only wish for our kids to be healthy and happy… this post can be titled My Relationship with Mom… 🙂

    • Right now, my mom may or may not read this. If the title is My Relationship with Mom, she will definitely read it! 😀

  5. Ah, now I see why you don’t eat beef “when in Malaysia”.
    Seriously, I thought that the brownie was beef with mashed potatoes and I wondered why the sauce is so dark. Turned out to be brownie and ice cream with chocolate sauce hah..hah…
    Geez…I should have opted for steak when I was at Applebee’s. Tsk!!

  6. Whoa, a very detailes post on your relationship with beef.. Most people I know don’t eat beef and lamb.. They say red meat wer, health conscious.. But I’m a meat eater, I love meat, all kinds of meat.. So it’s hard to find someone same channel with me one.. It’s weird when, say, we go to McD for lunch, I’m with the non beef eating gang, I would also order chicken, as I feel paiseh eating beef in front of them..

    • Actually no need to feel paiseh one lah. I don’t think we are so sensitive to what meat you put in your mouth. Just don’t feed me what I don’t eat. 🙂

  7. Not a fan of beef when pan-grilled, served as steaks like that. I don’t mind it in other ways such as beef stews, beef soup…as in beef noodles, or in Malay delights like curry, rendang or satay or even as patties in burgers. Just not fond of it in a thick slab like that.

    • I wanted to say, I guess you’re a very traditional person when it comes to food. But then I see you having western styled food on and off too. LOL! I guess maybe you need to have steak overseas. Maybe Malaysian steaks is really horrible! 😀

  8. Interesting!! I never knew that part of the teachings about Buddhism, and why the cow is sacred. I wonder though… what was your first reaction/impression when you had beef for the first time in your life?! Steaks are popular in America, but i think our national dish is the burger or pizza, haha.

    Mmmmm I haven’t had a brownie in a while, and now I’m really craving one. Thanks.

    • LOL! I’ve had THOSE national dishes too! 😀

      My first bite, I thought: Okay, yeah, this is delicious! But.. is it really better than the steaks in Malaysia? How am I supposed to know?.. It was rather interesting..

    • Maybe if you think hard, you will figure out the reason! But then, beef is red meat, not so healthy if eat a lot, so don’t eat also okay lah 😉

  9. When I saw the top most photo, I knew that is a special beef dish, it looks really tasty. Hahahaha, guess you are right, you managed to put in all the photos of good USA and Japan food here.

    Ok, in a nutshell you don’t eat beef because of your mother.

    One interesting thing I notice is that taiwan people are also Taoists or Buddhists but they eat beef unlike Buddhists here, so strange.

    • Now that you mentioned.. you are right! I wonder why Taiwanese don’t mind having beef. Maybe there are different Taoist sects, certain of them don’t mind beef.. or maybe it is the non Taoists people who eat. Same like here, not everyone are religious..

  10. such a beefy post! but halfway swayed to seafood platter and brownie (on purpose!!) haha!! the food really “wows” me coz i nvr have beef steak outside Malaysia…All those steaks i had here are crapz…nothing on par with yours! Anyhow i seldom take beef too, except for burgers!

    • I really accidentally one! 😀 😀

      I don’t know, most people agree steaks in Malaysia sucks, I guess it is true, although I have no way of confirming it..

      Don’t know why your comments all went to spam folder, I think your IP address for today has been earmarked as spam IP.

  11. beef is nice.. similar to your background, we have the Guan Yin at home and since young we were not brought up to have beef.. so i don’t eat beef at home, but i cannot remember since when i started to have beef outside, in Malaysia or anywhere just not at home.. errr, nice steaks and beef dishes you have there!! yummy..

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