beef


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.

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This one’s much more simple than it looks, but it’s time consuming. Save it for a Sunday and try to rope in a significant other or potential significant other. Nothing tests your ability to enjoy someone’s company like folding scallion dumplings with them for an hour or so.

On the left...the work of a perfectionist. On the right...functional.

The recipe itself is from Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires, which is about her tenure as the New York Times’ restaurant critic and is worth reading if you’re at all curious about restaurants and how they work.

Aushak

Meat Sauce

  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Heat oil in small skillet. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until golden. Add beef, garlic, coriander, and ginger and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes until meat is no longer red. Add water and cook, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir, and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup full-fat yogurt 
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Blend ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Dumplings

  • 2 bunches scallions, green parts only, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 25-30 wonton wrappers

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Lay 1 tsp mixture in center of each wrapper and moisten edge. Fold over and press edges to make semicircles if your wrappers are round, or triangles if square. 

Heat 3 quarts salted water in a large pot. When boiling, add dumplings and cook for 5 minutes.

To Assemble;

Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt sauce onto a serving dish and cover with dumplings. Spoon remaining yogurt sauce on top and garnish with chopped fresh mint. Spoon meat sauce all around, and serve at once.