Saturday, March 03, 2007

water boiled beef recipe 水煮牛

Recipe based on Chinese recipe on baidu.

I was craving water boiled beef for dinner and found a simple recipe on baidu. I have adjusted some of the cooking directions based on my cooking experience. This entry is closer to what I made.

edit: yay photo from second time making this. didn't go crazy on the different sauces, just used one and it was fine.


Water boiled style is very popular in Sichuan (Szechuan) cuisine. In fact, the first time I went to a Sichuan style restaurant, I grew very fond of the tender, spicy and numbing water boiled beef. I have never attempted to cook it at home because it always seemed complicated. Some foods are probably meant to be enjoyed at a restaurant, I thought.


Main ingredients:
Sliced beef, celery
Supporting ingredients (for flavor):
thin strips of ginger, chopped scallion (or cilantro, or both), dried chili peppers,
sichuan peppercorn, black beans (broad beans, 豆瓣), soy sauce, rice wine (cooking wine), slices of garlic, corn starch, salt, cooking oil (any light veg oil will do).
Optional ingredients:
sichuan pepper powder, dried pepper flakes, sesame oil

The recipe also calls for MSG but I made the dish without it and it tastes fine. If you don't have all of the above ingredients, it may be possible to substitute various cooking sauces. My fridge is stocked with many Lee Kum Kee brand sauces which are easy to find at Asian supermarkets. I used the black bean chili pepper sauce and another brand of sauce that is basically dried chili peppers submerged in pepper oil. If you can't find sichuan peppercorn you can probably use sichuan peppercorn oil or powder as substitute.

Preparation Steps
1. Cut beef into thin slices. The original recipe says about dimentions of 5X3 cm (1.5 inch long?). I found that 10 seconds in the microwave is plenty for unthawing beef. If you unthaw it for too long, it will be difficult to cut thin slices.
2. Put the beef slices in a bowl and mix with corn starch (a spoonful or so, just to keep the beef moist), rice wine, and soysauce. The recipe doesn't specify quantity. I don't like my meat too salty so I put in a teaspoon of soysauce and about 2-3 spoons of rice wine. Let it sit and marinade.
3. Cut, chop, slice: scallion (and/or cilantro), ginger, and garlic.
4. Chop celery diagonally into pieces. So it looks like this //I like my celery to be about half an inch thick.

Cooking Directions
1. Put cooking oil in a pan or wok, heat up. Then put in dried peppers and sichuan pepper, stir and cook.
2. Add any sauce like black bean sauce or pepper sauce to the pan.
3. Add water (1 cup or a bit more) to pan and let boil.
4. Once the soup mixture in pan boils, add scallion, cilantro, celery slices, ginger, and garlic pieces. Then add soysauce, rice wine, pepper, and salt to taste. You can also add more pepper sauce if you find the celery too bland.
5. Once the above ingredients are cooked and flavored, drain and place them in a plate.
6. Put the beef into the soup mixture that you still have in the pan.
7. Use chopsticks or a fork, stir the beef slices around in the boiling soup so they will cook quickly. Do not overcook! Once the color of beef changes (instead of red or pink), take them out immediately. The inside should be still tender and soft. This is why thinnly sliced beef is key. If the slices are too thick, the boiling process will dry out the beef or way undercook it.
8. The beef should now sit on top of the celery. Add pepper flakes, sichuan pepper powder, and sesame oil to make the dish even more tasty.
9. Add the soup mixture to plate if desired. I find it better without it since I don't like to fish around for meat and celery. But of course, some people like the fact that beef and celery will continue to soak up the soup if you have it in the plate. The originally recipe actually calls for pouring hot veg oil on top of the beef.

Extra note: Be sure to prepare enough rice for this dish as it is very spicy and tongue numbing (from sichuan pepper). If you usually eat a bowl of rice, you may want to consider 1 and a half bowl or even 2 bowls for this dish.

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