Spicy Sichuan Beef Stew
Beef dishes are more common in Sichuan than in most other Chinese cuisines because of the prevalence of oxen. Beef stew is considered to be a comfort food where everyone has their own secret blend of spices.
The following recipe contains all of the necessary basic ingredients, but other spices such as cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves, black cardamom, and even dried orange peel are sometimes added.
This recipe is an example of what is called "red cooking" by the Chinese. This type of cooking involves braising meat in liquid for long periods of time until it becomes tender and takes on a brownish color from the soy sauce and other ingredients in which it is cooked. The term "red cooking" is used in place of "brown cooking" because red is a happy color in China.
The Chinese generally use the cheaper, tougher cuts of beef to make this dish, but I use regular stew meat. You can use any size pieces of meat, but I normally cut my beef into chunks that are 1-inch square by 1/2-inch thick. I recommend that the first time that you cook this dish, you use the basic ingredients listed below. In future preparations, you can experiment with some of the spices that I previously listed.
Rather than cooking in a frying pan or a wok, I suggest that you use a Dutch oven or a covered baking dish. It is probably easier to finish this dish in a 250°F oven than to try to keep it from burning on top of the stove.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Preparation Time: 30 minutes
- Cooking Time: 2 hours at 250°F
For the beef mixture:
Mix the following in a bowl before you begin.
- 2 pounds of beef stew meat
- 3 tablespoons Sichuan sweet bean sauce
- 2 tablespoons Sichuan chili bean sauce
For the sauce mixture:
- 4 tablespoons black soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan flower peppercorn powder
- 4 whole star anise
- 3 cups of water (approximately)
- 6 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 6 chopped scallions, including the green parts
- Heat a large Dutch oven or baking dish and add the 6 tablespoons of oil. Cook the ginger, garlic, and scallions for 2 minutes.
- Add the beef mixture and cook on all sides until it loses its red color.
- Add the sauce mixture and the water and mix well. Cook for about 2 hours until the meat is tender, mixing occasionally to prevent sticking. There should be about 1 1/2 cups of sauce left. You can add water if necessary.
- Serve with noodles or rice.