SHUIZHU NIUROU (Sichuan boiled beef, for four)
10 ounces flank steak, sliced ¼ inch thick against the grain
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil (plus ¼ cup, plus 3 tablespoons, used separately)
6 ounces soy bean sprouts, washed and drained
7 ounces enoki mushrooms
3 slices ginger
3 scallions (white part only, cut into ½ inch pieces)
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
3 tablespoons spicy bean sauce
1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
1. In a medium bowl, toss together the beef, baking soda and ¼ cup water and allow it to marinate for 1 hour. The baking soda will help tenderize the beef. Then “wash” the beef under running water for 5 minutes, using a light to moderate stream of water so the water flows out but the beef remains in the bowl. After the beef has been rinsed, pour out the water and marinate the beef with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat. Stir fry the bean sprouts for about 2 minutes, then add the enoki mushrooms. Stir and mix everything well until the mushrooms have wilted. Turn off the heat, pick a large serving bowl with some depth, and spread the bean sprouts and mushrooms around the bottom of the bowl.
3. Now wash the wok. It’s important to start the next step with a clean wok!
4. Heat ¼ cup of oil in the wok over medium heat. Cook the ginger slices until they start to turn light brown. Add the scallions and the Sichuan peppercorns. Cook for 2 minutes, making sure to avoid burning the spices. Now add the spicy bean sauce, stir, and let the sauce cook in the oil f or about 3 to 4 minutes. This will give the oil a bright red color. It’s important to control the heat — too low and the oil won’t turn that bright red color; too hot and you’ll burn everything.
5. Once the oil takes on a bright red color, add the stock and sugar. Turn up the heat to high, stirring, and let the liquid come to a boil. Immediately add the beef and stir slowly to separate the pieces, still using high heat. Quickly turn off the heat once all the beef pieces turn opaque. (You don’t have to cook the beef completely through — a hint of pink in the middle equals tender meat.) Now, pour everything over the vegetables in the bottom of your serving bowl.
6. Top it with the minced garlic, chili flakes and chopped cilantro. In a small saucepan, heat the last 3 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Pour the heated oil over the garlic and chili in a very thin stream – you should get a good sizzle. Finally, add a dash of ground Sichuan peppercorns over the top to finish this dish off on an even higher note. To serve, mix everything together and enjoy this dish of spicy, numbing, meaty awesomeness with plenty of white rice.