Beef with Cumin is a recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop’s brilliant Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, her engaging and delicious exploration of Hunan cuisine – the name of the cookbook refers to the fact that Chairman Mao came from Hunan. Hunan cuisine, also called Xiang cuisine, is one of the eight regional cuisines of China and is not one I was familiar with before coming across Dunlop’s book. The flavours are punchy, hot and bold which happens to be just the way I like my dinners! This dish is utterly beautiful, simple enough for a weeknight dinner but with the sort of flavours and textures that make your tastebuds really sit up and take notice. Dunlop’s recipe uses the traditional “passing through oil” technique to cook her beef; I on the other hand am in the same camp as Barbara over at Tigers and Strawberries who reckons that this technique is way too much fuss for a quick dinner as well as using heaps of oil, so below you will find the ingredients as per Fuchsia Dunlop but the technique as per Tigers and Strawberries. Serve with steamed rice and a veggie side dish; we had gai lan with garlic and black beans.
This is wonderfully lip-tinglingly spicy; my suggestion if you would like a nice warmth without the full on chilli heat is to use 1/4 chilli and 1/2 tsp chilli flakes – you’ll still get the lovely flavours of the dish. If you think you know what Chinese food tastes like, give this a go for something a bit different and utterly delicious.Serves 2-4
340gm steak (I use rump), cut against the grain on the bias about 1/8-1/4″ thick
1 1/2 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato flour (or cornflour)
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic
1-2 fresh red chilles, seeded and finely chopped
2-4 teaspoons dried chile flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-3 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine as needed
2 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced on the bias
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Toss the beef in the wine, soy sauces and cornstarch until it is well coated with the mixture. Allow to marinate at room temperature for at least twenty minutes.
Heat wok on high heat until a thin thread of smoke rises from it. Add peanut oil and heat for another thirty seconds or so. Add beef, reserving any remaining liquid marinade in the bowl. Spread beef out into a single layer over the bottom of the wok and allow to sit undisturbed for at least a minute so it can sear. When you smell it browning and the top edges begin to turn greyish brown, then begin stir frying vigorously.
While stirring, sprinkle meat with ginger, garlic, chiles, chile flakes, and cumin. Continue stir frying just until all of the red color is gone from the meat, adding a bit of Shao Hsing wine as needed to deglaze any browned bits from the bottom or sides of the wok. Add any liquid marinade and stir fry just until the liquid thickens and clings to the meat.
Sprinkle with scallion tops, and drizzle with sesame oil. Remove from heat, give a few more stirs and then serve on a heated platter with plain steamed rice and a vegetable dish.