你吃辣嗎? This is, or at least can be, a blindingly hot dish, but you would not know it from the title, “Water Boiled Beef.” Sounds so benign, no hint of spice/heat, except that the dish is from Sichuan 四川, so I guess the chilies are implied. It is perfect for a chilly day in the mountains, a sure fire way to burn the fog off and probably your stomach lining too. Ok, this is probably not the best way to sell this dish, but if you do not like spicy food then this is probably not up your alley anyway. I myself have had a long affinity for 川菜 (Sichuan food) – there is something about that acrid burn from the chilies coupled with the anesthetizing sensation from sichuan peppercorns that I find intriguing.
Those little red fire packets, the capsicum chilies, are one of the many great culinary gifts that the Native Americans gave to the world (by way of the Portuguese and Spanish and definitely without proper compensation or credit). Chilies transformed East Asian cuisines from Sichuan to Korea (well mostly Sichuan and Korea).
Honestly this dish was a little difficult for me to really figure out at first. The english language recipes I seen, well, the ingredients seemed fairly proper but the methods didn’t always seem right. So I did a little digging, got a chuckle out of google translate a time or two. Watched some youtube/youku that sort of thing. There seemed to be a couple popular ways of preparing the dish. It is really not all that complicated, just a set of steps like all cooking. A couple run throughs later, I find it fairly easy. That said, I am not nearly as fast as the video below, but it gives a pretty accurate run down of the steps.
Oh and by the way it is a pretty decent way to use up some venison roast as well.
- 10 oz lean beef cut across the grain into very thin slices
- 8 lettuce leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 large spring onions or 4 regular ones, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- 1 Stalk of celery, split and chopped into 2-3 inch sticks
- pinch of salt
- 1 T shaoxing rice wine 紹興酒
- 1 t soy sauce
- 1 t corn starch
- 1 t water
- 3 T lard or oil
- 10 dried chillies (more or less)
- 2 t sichuan peppercorns 花椒
- 1 T fermented black beans 豆豉, chopped
- 2-3 T hot bean paste 辣豆瓣醬
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3-4 slices of ginger root finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 3 c. stock or water
- 2 t of cornstarch dissolved in 2 T of cold water
- 1 t finely minced garlic (optional)
- 3 T sesame oil
- In a bowl mix the sliced beef with the Marinade ingredients and set aside for at least 10 minutes.
- Add 3 T of lard or oil to a wok over medium heat. When hot, add the chili peppers and sichuan peppercorns fry until fragrant and lightly browned*, turn off the heat. Remove the chilies and the sichuan peppercorns and set aside, leaving the oil in the wok. Chop the chilies into small pieces and grind the sichuan peppercorns with a mortar and pestle if available. Save for topping the dish at the end.
- Reheat the wok add more lard/oil if necessary. To the hot wok add (in this order, stirring a bit with each addition) the fermented black beans 豆豉, hot bean paste 辣豆瓣醬 chopped garlic, chopped ginger, and chopped spring onions. Stir fry until fragrant.
- Add stock or water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the vegetables** (large spring onions, lettuce leaves, and celery) and cook until just done, but still slightly crunchy. Remove the vegetables to a serving bowl or deep sided dish, leaving the liquid in the wok.
- Add the beef slices to the boiling liquid, stir around a bit, cook until just done, add the cornstarch water mixture to the wok and cook until the sauce has thickened a little. Place the meat on top of the vegetables in the serving bowl and pour over the sauce.
- Sprinkle the chopped chillies and ground sichuan peppercorns on the meat, garnish with minced garlic.
- (The fun part) Clean the wok, place it over high heat and make sure it is bone dry. To the hot wok add the Sesame oil. Heat until just smoking, now carefully pour the oil over the meat. Serve immediately. Or you can just use some hot (as in spicy) sesame oil 辣麻油, but the flavor is not quite the same and you don’t look as cool.
Notes: *Alternately, before adding oil to the wok you can dry roast the chilies and sichuan peppercorns in the wok until lightly browned. Take them out etc. then add Oil and go on with the recipe from there.
** In some versions of the recipes prior to Step 2 the vegetables were quickly stir fried in about 1 T of oil (for about 30 sec or so) then about 1/2 c. of stock was added. Continued to stir fry for another 30 sec or so taken out and set aside. Then on to Step 2. Then the vegetables were put back in the wok in Step 3 and the method continued on as usual.