I found my copy of Chinese Cuisine from the Master Chefs of China languishing on the used book shelf of Auntie’s Bookstore while home in Spokane for the holidays a few years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorites. No other Chinese cookbook I’ve encountered has ever been so…aggressive about its Chineseness. It’s focused around many of the State-run “court” restaurants which have been oft-reviled in travel literature as overpriced tourist traps: this means complicated dishes and exotic ingredients. What other cookbook would dare include six recipes for sea cucumbers and feature the ferociously complex Dragon and Phoenix Cold Dishes as its first appetizer?

I think it’s because China Pictorial‘s editors meant the book to be just as much a “brag book” as an actual useful cookbook. China’s always been (justifiably) proud of its culinary traditions; when they sent their first Taikonaut into orbit, the PRC’s propaganda ministry made sure to let the world know that his space rations would be the tastiest ever carried by a space explorer.

Still, nestled in amongst the elaborately sculpted court dishes are some real gems, one of which is Taiyuan-Style Braised Beef (the recipe was contributed by Beijing’s Jinyang Restaurant). It’s easy, fast, and very tasty.

Taiyuan-Style Braised Beef (from Chinese Cuisine from the Master Chefs of China)

  • 3/4 lb beef, sliced thin
  • 8 scallions, cut into 1and 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tbs cornstarch paste (mix 2 tbs cornstarch with 2 tbs water)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice wine
  • 1 anise star (this is the big star shaped kind, not the little seeds. You can find them in Asian or Mexican food stores – it adds a definite liquorice flavor)
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (you can substitute black peppercorns in a pinch, but the flavor will be different)
  • 1/2 cup clear chicken/duck stock (the original recipe calls for a mix, but you can use just 1/2 cup chicken stock and preserve most of the intended flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • pinch shredded ginger

Pour 1 tsp boiling water over peppercorns and let steep 5 minutes. Combine soy sauce and cornstarch paste in a bowl. Add beef and scallions and mix. Heat sesame oil in a wok over high flame. Add anise star, then beef/scallion mixture and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add stock, rice wine, and 1 tsp of the peppercorn infusion. Cover and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle ginger on top and serve.

Advertisements