What’s the point of having a food blog if you can’t post your Asian aromatics snapped in Canberra’s perfect winter afternoon light?
Dried blood orange peel, green onions, ginger, sichuan pepper, sand ginger and cao guo ready to cook up a big pot of Sichuan red-cooked beef. The germ of the idea came from the fresh tofu skin I bought at the farmers market on Saturday morning:
I asked my twitter food friends for suggestions to use it, having only used dried tofu skin before. After I realised the skin was too fragile to stuff – and after the weather took a turn in the freezing effing cold direction – I starting thinking of a chilli laced braise.
The braise was thrown together after reading Fucshia Dunlop’s Sichuan Cooking and Irene Kuo’s The Key to Chinese Cooking
Sichuan red-cooked beef
1 kilo chuck steak in 2 cm cubes
2 Tablespoons corn or peanut oil
20 g ginger, sliced thickly and smashed (about the size of a ping pong ball)
3 spring onions (aka green onions, aka scallions), trimmed and cut in thirds
90 g chilli bean paste – about four generous tablespoons
4 Tablespoons Shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 pieces dried citrus peel – likely tangerine from the shop, or what you have at home
1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 cao gao*
2 pieces dried sand ginger*
2 star anise
1 litre stock (I used half chicken stock, half water)
1/2 cup dried lily buds*, tied in a knot and the hard bud end pinched off, soaked for 30 minutes in hot water from the kettle
6 fat white capped shiitakes, soaked for 30 minutes in hot water from the kettle (use different containers)
the same volume of fresh tofu skins, in 2 cm lengths
Blanch beef cubes in a saucepan of boiling water, drain and rinse.
Heat oil in a wide pan, and add chilli bean paste and stir for a minute or so until the smell rises and the oil is red. Add beef and all ingredients up to (and including) the stock.
Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook for about 2 – 21/2 hours until meat is ridiculously tender. Do not be afraid of the sea of oil on top – you won’t be eating it. You can cool it to reheat later which improves the flavour and allows you to defat it.
Reheat and add the second group of ingredients, and simmer until the flavours are infused, 20 minutes or so. Serve with coriander over rice and lots of green veggies.
Although it seems like a huge quantity of chilli bean paste going in, it’s not super hot, more of a deep background warmth. It will make your house smell better than you thought possible.
* There are some ingredients that you may not have on hand, but most Asian groceries should have them. The cao guo is the big ridged nutmeggy lookin’ thing, like cardamom in flavor but with a kind of peppery-menthol note. They might be labelled “Tsao Kuo”. Sand Ginger looks like slices of dry pale bark and might be labelled “sliced ginger”. Dried Lily buds are about 5 cm long and thin, and might be labelled “golden needles” or “tiger lily buds”. Fresh tofu skin is hard to come by, but soaked dried tofu stick works just as well.