The first week we were in Chengdu, Ian saw one of the guards at school eating this dish and sweating profusely. He decided he had to try it, and asked the staff to order for us. At first bite, Ian claimed it to be his favorite which remains IMG_0352true. If more than a week or two pass without the dish, Ian starts dropping hints, and I never need to ask what he’d like when we order from the local restaurant. Chengdu locals enjoy making fun of tourists to the city who order this mild sounding dish to take a break from the intense spice of Sichuan food. When the dish arrives at the table, tourist often complain that the kitchen has made a mistake and attempt to send it back. However, as our master chef at the culinary school points out, if they buck up and try the dish, they will not regret the order. If you are brave enough to try shuizhu, have plenty of cooling rice on hand.

  • Beef, tenderloin or sirloin OR Pork, tenderloin (100g)
  • Chinese lettuce tops (Romaine could be substituted) (100g)
  • Celery (50 g)
  • Chinese leek OR Scallion (30 g)
  • Chili bean paste (20 g)*
  • Chili peppers, dried whole (5 g)*
  • Sichuan peppercorn (1 g)*
  • Soy sauce (7 g)*
  • Cooking wine (5 g)*
  • Salt (1 g)*
  • Stock/water (300 g)*
  • Gourmet powder (1 g)*
  • Starch paste (25 g)
  • Oil

* Amounts are approximate.

Preparation:

  1. Cut the beef against the grain into thin slices about the size of a large domino.
  2. Cut the lettuce leaves, celery and leek into 8-10 cm segments.
  3. Remove seeds from dried chilies. Heat oil to a low heat (about 100º). Carefully fry dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorn until chilies are dark brown. Remove and minced finely. (Alternatively, chili powder and Sichuan peppercorn powder can be used. If using, do not fry.)
  4. Pour a small amount of cold water onto beef. Stir gently. The beef will absorb the water. Keep adding small amounts until the beef will hold no more. (This a technique that results in very tender slices.)
  5. Marinate the beef slices in a little salt, cooking wine and starch paste. (Because the slices will be “boiled” they should be completely coated and sticky from the paste.)

Cooking:

  1. Season wok.
  2. Heat oil and stir fry all vegetables until just done. (Do not add any seasonings at this point.)
  3. Place vegetables in a casserole dish or serving bowl and set aside.
  4. Heat oil. Stir fry chili bean paste until oil is red and fragrant. (For a spicier dish, add chili powder. Do not add more chili paste because it is too salty.)
  5. Add stock, soy sauce, and gourmet powder.
  6. Increase heat and bring stock to a rapid boil.
  7. Stir marinated beef and gently immerse beef in boiling stock. Do not stir for about 10 seconds or until the stock has returned to a full boil.
  8. Slowly stir beef and allow to boil until the entire pot is covered in small bubbles.
  9. Remove and pour over vegetables.

Serving:

  1. Top dish with minced chilies and peppercorns.
  2. Heat about ¼ to ½ cup of clean oil to a high temperature (about 170º).
  3. Pour the hot oil over the chilies and peppercorns. The dish should sizzle.
  4. Serve immediately.

IMG_0332Dish checklist:

  • Is the meat tender?
  • Are the vegetables crisp?
  • Is the flavor peppery and spicy?
  • Did the oil sizzle over the peppercorns and chilies?

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