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Sichuan Water-Boiled Beef (Shuizhu Niurou, 水煮牛肉)

Adapted from
Sichuan (China) Cuisine in Both Chinese and English, published in China in 2010 by the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine and the Sichuan Gourmet Association.
The Mala Market
Author: Taylor Holliday | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • 2 dozen (or more) moderately hot dried red chilies such as zidantou facing heaven chilies or lantern chilies (use erjingtiao for milder heat and xiaomila for extra hot)
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) dahongpao Sichuan peppercorns (or Sichuan Tribute pepper)
  • ¾ pound high-quality beef such as rib-eye or flank steak cut in thin slices, about ⅛-inch thick 340 grams
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese light soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 to 3 celery stalks, cut into thin strips 3 inches x ¼ inch, leaves set aside for garnish
  • 6 to 8 green onions, cut into thin strips
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, torn into large pieces (or A-choy or the leafy tops of celtuce)
  • ½ cup Sichuan roasted rapeseed oil (caiziyou) (or neutral cooking oil)
  • 3 cups chicken stock (or water)
  • 3 tablespoons aged Pixian doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese light soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon MSG (optional)


  • Heat wok until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil and lower heat. When oil is just hot, add whole chilies and Sichuan peppercorns and toss and toast until partially browned and super fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Remove to a cutting board to cool off, then mince with a knife into small flakes. Alternatively, mince in a food processor.
  • Place sliced beef in a bowl, fill with water and gently massage the beef, washing away the impurities. Wash beef until water runs fairly clear. Drain the water and mix the beef slices with 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, baking soda and corn starch. Marinate for at least 15 minutes.
  • Wipe out wok, return to heat until just starting to smoke, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until hot. Add celery and green onion and stir-fry until celery is beginning to soften. Add romaine lettuce and stir-fry very briefly, just enough to break the rawness. Salt lightly and remove the greens to a large serving bowl.
  • In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup oil until hot and just on the edge of smoking. Let it heat up slowly while you finish the dish.
  • Add the stock to the wok over high heat along with the doubanjiang, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, salt and MSG. Bring to a boil and add marinated beef. Lower heat and gently simmer beef until just done. Pour the entire contents of the wok on top of the waiting bowl of vegetables.
  • Top the meat with the minced chilies and Sichuan pepper. Do not stir. Carefully pour the hot oil over the chilies and watch them sizzle. Garnish with celery leaves and/or cilantro. Serve with rice.


Note that the oily broth is not meant to be eaten like a soup or stew. Diners should not ladle it onto their bowl or plate. They should pluck the meat and vegetables out with chopsticks as the Chinese do, or spoon out the solids with small amounts of sauce onto their individual rice bowls.