Dry-fried Sour and Spicy Beef
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. In this recipe, both ends are achieved in that the beef is first deep-fried, stir-fried slowly until it is dark and bordering on crispy, then tossed with celery and carrot with lots of Garlic, Chili and Cumin.
The Basic Method
The shredded beef is first marinated for half-an-hour or so in Soy Sauce, Pepper, Cornstarch, and Sesame Oil. The oil not only adds flavor, but will also help prevent the shreds from sticking together when put into the deep-fry oil.
The shreds of carrot and celery used in this recipe are essentially ‘pickled’ by salting them until soft, then marinating in white vinegar. Macerating the vegetables with salt serves two purposes; It reduces the cooking time and also allows the vinegar flavor to penetrate. This will give the ‘sour’ quality to the finished dish.
The beef is deep-fried in a cup or two of oil at a relatively low temperature to brown it and reduce the water content. The process will take several minutes and is complete when the ‘bubbling’ of the oil has largely died away and everything is ‘simmering’ rather than ‘boiling’.
During the second part pf the frying process, the beef shreds are further cooked in the pan with only a little oil. Again, the temperature is a bit lower than is usual in stir-frying and the idea is to slowly brown the beef to a much darker color and further drive off the water content to yield a dry, delightfully chewy texture.
The pairing of Chili and Cumin in this recipe indicates a Western Chinese influence, and the two work very nicely with the Sesame Oil. A little Sugar is added round out the other flavors and a lot of Garlic is added because… Well… Garlic!
Finally, the soured vegetables are added and everything is given a last fry before service. The ‘sauce’ is minimal and has a lovely sheen from the melted and caramelized sugar.
Your Recipe Card:
Dry-fried Sour and Spicy Beef
- 1/2 lb. 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.
- Mix the beef shreds with the soy sauce, pepper and cornstarch, then stir in the sesame oil and leave to marinate for the at least 30 minutes.
- Toss the celery and carrot with the salt and allow to macerate. When they have thrown off a good bit of liquid, rinse well, drain and 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.
- Add back the beef shreds and continue to cook them, stirring regularly, until they are darkened considerably and have thrown off their water content.
- Turn up the heat and 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.