Citizens, your glorious leader has long believed that the many regional variations of Chinese cuisine may in fact be the world’s greatest in diversity, techniques and flavor/texture combinations – and sometimes the simplest dish in the canon may in fact turn out to be a revelation!
Hunan Beef with Cumin aka 孜然牛肉 (zī rán niú ròu) is one of them. As noted on wisegeek.com:
Hunan beef is a spicy regional Chinese dish consisting of thinly sliced beef flavored with hot chili peppers. Chinese food is mainly differentiated by region, with each region having distinctive flavors and traditional dishes. Hunan is a region in western China and its cuisine tends to be known for its spiciness, with whole hot chili peppers being used to flavor many dishes. Hunan beef is one of the region’s most widely consumed dishes throughout the world, and is often cooked with bell peppers, onions, and a soy and rice wine sauce.
Flank steak or sirloin is generally recommended in particular in many Hunan beef recipes, but any boneless cut of beef steak may be used. The spicy flavor is added to the dish with the use of whole fresh or dried chili peppers. Other traditional ingredients in the dish are garlic, shallots, ginger, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine, an Asian wine made from fermented rice; dry sherry may be used as an alternative if Shaoxing wine is not available.
Hunan beef tends to have flavor added in stages by first being marinated, and then briefly deep fried before finally being cooked through in the sauce. The boneless beef is thinly sliced, and combined with the chili peppers, soy sauce, wine, and garlic, along with cornstarch. The cornstarch acts as a binder to help the sauce ingredients stick to the beef, as well as to thicken the sauce as it cooks. The longer the meat marinates, the spicier it may become, so marinating time varies depending on the cook’s preferred spiciness level.
The marinade is generally separated from the beef so that the beef may cooked separately, and then used as the sauce for the dish. Deep frying the marinated beef for a short period of time is intended to give the dish a slightly crispy outer texture, while keeping the inside undercooked. The fried beef is combined with the reserved marinade and cooked until the mixture thickens into a sauce that coats the beef; therefore, undercooking the meat prior can help prevent it from becoming tough as it cooks in the sauce.
Hunan beef may be served with stir-fried bell peppers and onions in order to make the dish more filling and to add more flavors and textures. The meat and vegetables are traditionally cooked separately since they have differing cooking times, and then mixed together right before serving. It may be served with rice, noodles, or a Chinese sesame seed flatbread known as shao bing.
As the Hunan chefs intended it to be, this authentic recipe packs on the spicy heat, my Citizens! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
½ tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (preferred) or medium-dry sherry
½ tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar (preferred) or balsamic
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 tablespoon chicken stock
12 ounces boneless short rib or other beef cut of choice
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, freshly-ground
1 ¾ cups peanut oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 fresh red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons chili-flavored sesame oil (Kadoya brand strongly preferred)
1 teaspoon chili sauce with garlic (Lan Chi brand preferred)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, ground to a powder
2 scallions, green parts only, finely sliced
In a bowl, mix the wine, vinegar, salt, soy sauces, potato starch and stock. Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices and add to marinade. Mix together beef and all marinade ingredients. Leave to marinate for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.
Heat up oil to at least 275 degrees Fahrenheit or until smoking in a wok/pot for deep frying. Add beef and stir the beef to ensure the pieces do not stick together. Remove beef onto a large metal sieve to drain once the meat changes color.
Wait until the oil is smoking again, add drained beef into hot oil. Fry the beef until the beef is caramelized around the edges. Remove beef and drain on the same large metal sieve.
Combine sauce ingredients.
Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of oil in wok. Over a high flame, add the ginger, garlic, fresh chilies, chili flakes, Sichuan peppercorns and cumin and stir-fry briefly, until they are fragrant. Return beef to the wok, stir sauce and add, stirring well, seasoning with salt to taste.
When beef is sizzling and fragrant, add scallion greens and toss briefly. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.
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