Excited really isn’t a strong enough word to describe how thrilled I am to share this Sichuan Boiled Beef recipe with all of you! “Ecstatic” and “triumphant” might do a better job.
It’s a great dish to impress your guests (and yourself) with and then proceed to go gaga over. If you’ve got something to prove in the kitchen, this will get you a lot of oohs and ahhs. I certainly did from the peanut gallery that is the other ¾ of The Woks of Life!
Anything But Bland!
Firstly, PLEASE don’t be fooled by the name, “boiled beef,” and think that this dish is bland. Trust me, it is anything but. Folks from Sichuan only allow the spiciest, most flavorful of foods to cross their chopsticks.
Secondly—and here’s the fun part—let me dig in deeper to show you the key essentials that make this dish as well loved as other famous Sichuan dishes like Ma Po Tofu.
Key Recipe Tips & Notes
- It’s crucial to cut the beef against the grain. See the photos of me slicing the beef below–each piece should be about ¼-inch thick and close to 1” x 2” in size, then flattened with the flat part of your knife slightly. This is key: slicing the beef too thick or too thin will result in tough meat.
- It’s important to soak the beef. Usually, I’d ask you to pat the meat dry using a paper towel to allow it to get a nice sear when cooking. But in this case, I’ll ask you to marinate the beef with baking soda and water and “wash” it under running water. This step will further ensure the beef stays tender. By the way, this is how we used to prepare sliced beef at Bill’s parents’ takeout restaurant, and it’s the way many Chinese restaurants prepare meats in general. For more information on preparing beef, see Bill’s post on How to Slice and Velvet Beef for stir fries.
- It is important to use stock for the soup base. I made some pork bone stock, but you can use store-bought low-sodium chicken stock or my chicken stock if you want to make it yourself. This will add a nice umami flavor to the dish. I tested the recipe using just water, but it was definitely not as good.
- Peanut oil really adds to the flavor of the dish, but canola oil will do fine as well. This dish takes a lot of oil, because you want to achieve that restaurant-quality result. Oil is also needed to get that nice red color and to “wake” up the spices at the end. That said, feel free to reduce the oil if desired.
- The vegetables at the bottom of the dish can vary. You can pick 2 or three different kinds––we used bean sprouts and enoki mushrooms. Some other good contenders are: sliced mushrooms, romaine lettuce, leeks, and napa cabbage. Remember, though––they all must be quickly stir-fried first.
- The amount of Sichuan peppercorns and chili used in this dish can be adjusted based on your personal preference. Feel free to reduce, but don’t cut it all out!’
- This dish is assembled in layers. You’ll put the vegetables at the bottom, then the sauce and the beef, then a topping of spices, garlic, and cilantro, and then a bit of oil to toast the garlic and spices and bring the dish all together!
- Finally, if you have sauce left over in the bowl, don’t waste it! Boil some noodles and maybe some bok choy, toss them in the leftover sauce, and get ready for an awesome lunch the next day.
So many readers have requested this recipe from us over the past few months, and we’ve been making and testing it heavily. Like our Ma Po Tofu, Mala Xiang Guo (aka The “Spicy Numbing Stir-fry Pot”), and Sichuan Hot Pot, we wanted to make sure we got the recipe exactly right before publishing.
Well, the wait is over! Go put on your apron, make it, eat it, and let me know what you think. We’d love to hear from you!
Sichuan Boiled Beef: Recipe Instructions
In a medium bowl, toss together the beef, baking soda, and 1/4 cup water, and allow it to marinate for 1 hour. The baking soda will help to tenderize the beef.
Then “wash” the beef under running water for 5 minutes, using a light to moderate stream of water so it flows out, but the beef stays in the bowl.
After the beef has been rinsed, pour out the water, and marinate the beef with two teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat. Stir fry the soybean sprouts for about 2 minutes…
And 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 Enoki mushrooms around the bottom of the bowl.
Now wash the wok. It’s important to start the next step with a clean wok!
Heat a 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 two minutes, making sure to avoid burning the spices. Now add the spicy bean sauce/paste, stir, and let the sauce cook in the oil for about 3-4 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 vibrant red color; too high and you’ll burn everything!
Once the oil takes on a bright red color, add the homemade chicken stock (or whatever stock you have on hand) 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 beef.)
Now, pour everything over the vegetables in the bottom of your serving bowl.
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.
And remember to save the leftover sauce for lunch the next day by heating it up and combining it with some noodles. It’s not a requirement, but it’s highly recommended. Waste not, want not!