- Course: Main Course
- Skill Level: Easy
- Cost: Inexpensive
- Favorited: 35 Times
Zi Ran Niu Rou
The powerful aroma of cumin is always associated with Xinjiang, the great northwestern Muslim region where it is grown. On city streets all over China, you will find it drifting up from portable grills where Xinjiang Uyghur street vendors cook their trademark lamb kabobs, scattering the sizzling meat with chili and cumin. In Hunan, the spice finds its way into “strange-flavor” combinations, Uyghur-influenced barbecues and a limited number of restaurant dishes. This one is irresistible. Tender slices of beef luxuriate in a densely spiced sauce, speckled with the gold and ivory of ginger and garlic, scarlet chili, and green scallions, and suffused with the scent of cumin. You can use prime steak if you wish, but I usually make do with a braising steak such as chuck or round: the method of cutting it across the grain makes it seem almost as tender.
This particular recipe is one from the Guchengge restaurant in Changsha, and it’s one I fell in love with immediately. I’m sure you will too.
- 12 oz. trimmed beef steak, such as sirloin (see headnote)
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
- 2 fresh red chiles, seeds and stems discarded and finely chopped
- 2-4 tsp. dried chili flakes
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 scallions, green parts only, finely sliced
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1¾ cups peanut oil for frying
For the marinade:
- 1 tbsp. shaoxing wine
- ½, tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. light soy sauce
- 1 tsp. dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. potato flour
- 1 tbsp. water
1. Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices, ideally 1½ by 1¼ inches. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.
2. Heat the peanut oil to about 275°F. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, remove them from the oil and drain well; set aside.
3. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil. Over a high flame, add the ginger, garlic, fresh chiles, chili flakes, and cumin and stir-fry briefly until fragrant. Return the beef to the wok and stir well, seasoning with salt to taste.
4. When all the ingredients are sizzlingly fragrant and delicious, add the scallion greens and toss briefly. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.
© 2006 Fuchsia Dunlop
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.