A spicy, numbing and umami broth, a bed of crunchy, sweet and juicy vegetables topped with tender, thinly-sliced beef—these are the signatures of a classic Sichuan Boiled Beef (Shui Zhu Niu Rou). When serving, a bowl of screaming hot oil is often poured directly onto the decorative minced garlic, chili flakes and scallions, creating an absolute visually stunning display and exquisite smelling sensation right on the table. This is a must-have dish at every Sichuan restaurant.
Salt played an important role in the history of this dish. Zigong city in the Sichuan Province is historically known as the salt capital of China, and salt—being a quintessential ingredient to all Chinese lives—needed to be transported outside of the city. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 B.D), the only ground transportation methods are human laborers and cows. Sufficient food supply during the travel was a joke, and the only way the human laborers were able to satisfy their hungers was by killing the cows who were too weak to travel any further, boiling the meat with the dried spices and salt that they carried, and eating with the dried bread they brought with them.
Hundreds years later, this dish became an international favorite. To a lot of people, just the thought of the sensational smell and the addictive numbing taste would bring saliva to their mouths. That said, the principle of boiling meat in spicy soup hasn’t changed, and it’s super simple to create at home. Below is the most original version of the recipe I could find:
Lean Beef Tenderloin －－ 200g
Asparagus Lettuce － 2 heads
Soybean Sprouts － 150g
Garlic － 2 whole
Ginger －a small nob, sliced
Pi’xian Fermented Chili Bean Paste — 2 heaping Tbsp
Corn Starch － 2 Tbsp
Ground Sichuan Peppercorn －depend on your personal flavor preference
Dried Ground Chili Flakes － depend on your personal flavor preference
Whole Sichuan Peppercorn － a small handful
Water or Beef Broth －300ml
Rains the beef loin, thinly slice them into 1.5 – 2 inch long, 1 inch wide pieces.
Mix the sliced beef with cornstarch and salt until the cornstarch is evenly coated and the mixture is sticky and dry.
Mince garlic and ginger.
Remove the leaves of the asparagus lettuces, wash them thoroughly and pat dry. Cut into 2-inch long pieces.
Clean the root of the asparagus lettuce, cut into the same 2-inch long chuncks.
In a pot of boiling water, quickly blanch the soybean sprouts and asparagus lettuces for 3 minutes. Remove from the water, drain the excess water.
In a heat-proof serving bowl (ceramic bowl or clay pot work the best), place the soybean sprouts and asparagus lettuce in the bottom.
In a hot wok, pour in oil. Let it heat up until when you place your palm over the wok, you can feel the heat. Immediately drop in the ginger slices and sichuan peppercorns.
Add Pi’xian Fermented Chili Bean Paste, stir and mix well with a metal spatula until the fragrant is potent.
In the wok, add water and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, put the beef slices into the water, and use a pair of chopsticks to separate them.
Pour the cooked beef and broth into the ceramic bowl.
Top the bowl with minced garlic, ground chili flakes.
Heat 4 tablespoons of oil until screaming hot, and pour right on top of the garlic and chili flakes.