Sichuan Spicy Boiled Beef

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Sichuan Boiled Beef is a quintessential Sichuan dish. It’s known for its numbing spicy tongue burning sensation, in a good way, I promise. There’s also an interesting legend behind this fiery dish.


I remember when I was still a kid, my parents took me to a Sichuan restaurant along with some of their friends. One of the friends ordered Boiled Beef. And it’s called Shui Zhu Niu in Chinese. It literary translates to “water boiled beef”.


“How could he order something so bland in a Sichuan restaurant? ” I wondered. When the waiter served the dish on the table and announced, “Here’s the Boiled Beef.” I raised both of my eyebrows, and my eyes almost popped out. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was absolutely nothing like how I imagined.


It was indeed a bowl of sliced beef served on top of a bed of vegetables in fiery hot chili sauce, and with like a hundred pieces of chili peppers in it. The beef was meltingly tender and the vegetables were bursting with flavors. It was numbing spicy and full of umami taste. It was surprisingly pleasing to the palate.


Later I discovered that Sichuan Shui Zhu or Boiling is actually a common Sichuan cooking method by boiling meat in a spicy broth. The broth usually consists of chili peppers, Sichuan ‪peppercorns, ginger, garlic, scallions, Sichuan Pixian Broad Bean Paste, and other seasonings.


According to the legend, during the Northern Song Dynasty, the Zigong city in the Sichuan province was known as the salt capital of China. Back in days, people used cattle to transport salt throughout China. The journeys were very labor intensive, so naturally, both the workers and the cattle were exhausted quickly. In order, for the workers to have sufficient energy to continue the work, they slaughtered the cattle once they were incapable of traveling anymore. Then the workers cut the meat into thin slices, boiled it in water, add salt, Sichuan ‪peppercorns, chilies, and other seasonings in it. As time goes by, this became the renounced Boiled Beef of Sichuan Province.


Serves 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes


For the beef and marinade:
1 pound of beef tenderloin, cut against the grain into thin slices
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water


For the Chopped Peppercorns Chilies (Dao Kou Hua Jiao):
‪3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of dried red chilies
1 tablespoon of Sichuan ‪peppercorns

For the base vegetables:
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 cups of Napa cabbage, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup of Chinese celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
Pinch of salt


For the broth:
3 slices of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
2 stalks of scallions, the white part
2 tablespoons of Sichuan Pixian Broad Bean Paste with Red Chili Oil
3 cups of beef stock
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn oil
2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 4 tablespoons of water


For the toppings:
6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Cilantro for garnish


Marinate the beef with the marinade. Mix well. Let it sit for 15 minutes.


To make the Chopped Peppercorns Chillies, in a pan, pour in the vegetable oil, add the dried red chili and the Sichuan ‪peppercorns. Cook on low heat until aromatic for about 3 minutes. Take them out and drain. Put the chili oil aside.


Wait until cooled down to chop the dried red chili into about 1/2-inch pieces and chop the Sichuan ‪peppercorns into a coarse powder. Put aside.


To stir fry the base vegetable, in the pan, pour in the vegetable oil, add the Napa cabbage and the Chinese celery. Stir fry until softened for about 2 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Mix well. Put it in a big bowl.


To make the broth, in the same pan, add the chili oil, the ginger, the garlic, the white part of scallions and cook until aromatic. Then add the Sichuan Pixian Broad Bean Paste with Red Chili Oil and cook until the fragrant comes out. Pour in the beef stock, add the soy sauce, the salt, the white pepper, the peppercorn oil. Cook until the water is boiling.


Turn to low heat, then add in the marinated beef slices one by one. Then turn to high heat and cook until well done. Put in the cornstarch slurry to thicken the broth. Pour this in the big bowl.


Transfer the dried red chilies and Sichuan ‪peppercorns in the bowl as well.


For the toppings, in a small pan, heat the vegetable oil in high heat until smoking hot. Pour the oil over the dried red chili and the Sichuan ‪peppercorns. Garnish with cilantro.






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