Dry-frying, in Chinese cookery, can mean both that a dish is fast-fried with little or no sauce, and also that the main ingredient is fried, often in more than one step, to yield a dry, chewy result. Here, both ends are achieved with beef that is first deep-fried and then stir-fried along with celery and carrot. That vegetable combination is quite common in dry-fried beef preparations but here I have expanded on the usual theme by lightly pickling the veggies first and then spiced the whole affair up with lots of garlic, cumin and dried chili for a definitely Western Chinese flavor…
- 1/2lb. Beef, sliced to moderately thin shreds;
- ¾ cup each Carrot and Celery in long. matchstick sized pieces;
- 1 pinch White Pepper;
- 1 tbs. Soy Sauce;
- 1 tsp. Cornstarch;
- 1 tsp. Sesame Oil;
- 1 tsp. Salt;
- 1 ½ tbsp. White Vinegar;
- 2 tbsp. coarsely chopped Garlic;
- 1 tbsp. Sugar;
- 1 tbsp. Cumin Seed, toasted and coarsely ground;
- 1 tsp. dried Chili flakes.
First, mix the beef with the soy sauce, pepper and cornstarch, then stir in the sesame oil and leave o marinate for the time being.
Toss the celery and carrot with the salt and allow to macerate for about 20 minutes or so. When the veggies have thrown off a good bit of liquid, rinse well, drain and then squeeze dry. Stir in the vinegar and allow to pickle for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a cup or two of oil in your wok over moderate heat and then add the beef, stirring to separate the shreds. Deep-fry until nicely browned and just beginning to crisp here and there.
Remove the beef from the oil and drain the oil off leaving two tablespoons or so. Turn up the heat and then add back the beef shreds, stirring for a good 3 or 4 minutes until they are very well cooked through.
Now add the garlic, cumin, chili and sugar and continue to stir vigorously so that the garlic does not burn.
When the garlic is translucent and the aroma is filling your whole kitchen, throw in the carrot and celery along with the vinegar that has not been absorbed and stir until all is thoroughly heated through. Plate and serve immediately.
I made this dish for myself while my wife is traveling but it turned out so nicely that I will cook it again as soon as she comes home. I was really ‘playing by ear’ when it came to the flavorings here but I was lucky enough to strike an almost perfect balance. The sugar might seem like quite a lot for the amount of main ingredients but, trust me, the sweetness really made the dish and I might even be tempted to increase the sugar level just a little next time…