Red-Cooked Beef with Noodles

Hongshao Niuroumian

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: AniseFlavor: Reddish-Brown: Red-cookedMeal: Easy, Made in AdvanceMeal: One-Dish

    “My father loved beef,” recalls Mrs. Chiang. “He thought it was especially nutritious, so although it was scarce he bought it whenever he could. But it came from water buffaloes, so it was tough and had to be cooked for a long time. It had a marvelous flavor that my mother brought out by simmering it for hours in a rich, dark sauce full of hot pepper paste and Szechwan pepper. The result was a gloriously aromatic stew in which the beef was so tender it almost disintegrated.”

    This is a stew that begs to be combined with noodles. It is too soupy for rice, and, although it can be, and often was, diluted and served as a soup, it is so rich it needs starch as a foil. The resulting combination, beef stew with noodles, is a Szechwanese classic. Mrs. Chiang remembers eating it both as a snack and as a meal in itself.

    Fortunately, water buffalo isn’t essential; any regular cut of stewing beef will produce essentially the same savory stew. Like all long-simmered Chinese dishes, this can be conveniently made in advance, reheated when necessary, and even frozen. Combined with noodles, it is the kind of filling food we like to serve as the focal point of a winter evening meal or even, since you can double or triple the recipe, an informal dinner party. It is not a particularly hot or spicy dish; the hot pepper paste merely offsets the richness of the sauce.

    You can make a similar beef stew by substituting beef for pork in the recipe for hongshao rou, or Red-Cooked Meat. It will produce a richer, sweeter stew with a pleasant anise flavor.

    Method

    Preparation

    1-½ pounds beef (use whatever cut you generally prefer for stew) Cut the beef into 2-inch cubes.
    3-inch piece fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then chop it coarsely into pieces the size of a pea.
    8 cloves garlic Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your cleaver, then peel, but don’t chop.
    5 scallions Clean the scallions, then chop two of them, both the green part and white, into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head; leave the others whole.

    Cooking

    ½ cup peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a moderately high flame for 15 seconds, then pour in the oil. It should be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.

    (garlic and ginger)

    2 tablespoons hot pepper paste

    1 teaspoon Szechwan peppercorns

    (the whole scallions)

    (beef)

    When the oil is ready, throw in the garlic, chopped ginger, hot pepper paste, Szechwan peppercorns, whole scallions, and beef. Stir-fry these ingredients over a fairly high flame for 1 minute, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop the ingredients from the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle, so every piece of meat is exposed to the hot oil.

    1 teaspoon granulated sugar

    3 tablespoons soy sauce

    Add the sugar and soy sauce and continue stir-frying the contents of the pan for 2 more minutes.
    water Pour in enough water to cover the meat and bring it to a boil. Then lower the flame, cover the pan, and let the meat simmer for about 1-½ hours, or until it has become very soft.
    1 pound noodles, fresh Chinese or fettucine About 15 minutes before you are ready to eat, prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package.

    (beef)

    1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

    (chopped scallions)

    When the beef is thoroughly cooked, taste the broth for seasoning. Then add the salt. Sprinkle the beef with the chopped scallions and serve.

    Serving

    The best way to serve this dish is to put each person’s portion of noodles in a soup bowl and place the beef on top of the noodles, making sure everybody gets a generous helping of the sauce.

    Like any long-cooked Chinese dish, this one can be made in advance and reheated just before serving. You can also double the recipe without any serious side effects-and you can even freeze it, as you would any Western-style beef stew.