The other day, when I said I bought a cookbook off Book Depository, actually… I bought two.
I love Japanese cuisine for its fresh and clean flavours, but I also love Sichuan cuisine for its spice and heat. So the other cookbook I bought was The Food and Cooking of Sichuan and West China by Terry Tan. If you like Sichuan cooking, this is a book you should check out. I’ve already tried out a number of recipes from the book so far such as the twice-cooked pork, stir-fried chive stems and pork balls in clear soup. My favourite so far though, is the boiled fiery beef, or shui zhu niu rou.
If you like chillies, Sichuan peppercorns and garlic, this is definitely a dish to try out. I know that I’ll be making this again and again because I love spicy food! I did change it slightly – the chilli oil mixture seemed to make a large quantity and I didn’t really know what else to use it for, so I halved it to make just enough for us. Also, on inspecting the photo in the book, I decided that even though it’s meant to be more of a sauce rather than a broth, there seemed to be a lot of liquid and so I turned it into a kind of (shallow-ish) noodle soup. I used thicker rice vermicelli noodles which had a good bite to them (al dente). Some simply cooked choy sum on the side made it a complete meal.
Of course, you can just make it without the noodles and choysum and serve it with rice. The author notes that you need to make sure your spices are fresh, or the dish will turn out “unpleasantly acrid” – he also notes that you could cook pork or chicken in the same way. The recipe below is my version with noodles and for me, it’s exactly the sort of meal I look forward to as winter comes upon us. Just thinking about it is making me hungry again…
Boiled fiery beef with rice noodles and choy sum (shui zhu niu rou)
400g thick rice noodles
1 bunch choy sum, trimmed and cut into roughly 10cm lengths
450g sirloin or rump steak
1 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C + 2 Tbsps sunflower oil
4 dried chillies, seeded if you like, crushed into coarse flakes
1/2 tsp crushed Sichuan peppercorns
2 Tbsp chilli bean paste
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 C water
Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, slice the beef into thin slices across the grain and put into a shallow dish. Put the cornflour in a small bowl and blend in the wine or sherry, garlic and salt. Sprinkle over the beef and toss to coat evenly. Set aside to marinate.
Cook the choy sum (put any thicker stems in first) in the boiling water until tender. Divide evenly amongst 3 or 4 bowls (depending on how hungry you are!). In the same pot, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and make sure to rinse under cold water to remove starch and stop them from sticking to each other. Divide amongst the bowls as well.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium-low heat. Add the dried chilli flakes and peppercorns – they should sizzle lightly – and stir for 10 seconds, then pour the oil and spices into a heatproof bowl and leave to cool.
Heat the remaining 1/4 C oil in a clean wok and fry the chilli bean paste for about 30 seconds over a medium heat. Add the water and soy sauce, then turn heat to high and bring to the boil.
Add the beef and its marinade to the wok, stirring to separate the beef slices. Cook for 2-3 minutes or so, until the beef is just cooked, then divide the beef and pour the broth over the noodles in each bowl.
Heat up the chilli oil mixture in a pan until very hot, then drizzle over the beef – the sauce should sizzle, Serve immediately.