Water-boiled beef

Water-boiled beef

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

In Chinese this dish is called shui zhu niu rou. Shui zhu refers to a technique called ‘water cooking’ where thin, tender pieces of meat are cooked in a stock enlivened with lots of Sichuan chilli bean paste (rabbit, fish, sliced pork or tripe are also cooked this way). Even by Sichuanese standards, this dish is spicy — in restaurants there it’s served with dozens and dozens of dried chillies bobbing on the surface. This recipe has been tempered a little for Western palates ... but it’s still hot.


Quantity Ingredient
3 teaspoons sichuan peppercorns
800g beef scotch fillet, in one piece
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12-15 dried red chillies
80ml sichuan chilli bean paste, or to taste
800ml Chicken stock
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornflour


  1. Dry-roast the peppercorns in a small, heavy-based frying pan over a medium–low heat, shaking the pan often, for 3–4 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool, then transfer to a mortar (or an electric spice grinder) and pound with the pestle to form a coarse powder. Set aside.
  2. Trim the beef of all fat and sinew, then use a sharp knife to cut it across the grain into thin slices. Combine in a bowl with the sea salt and rice wine, using your hands to mix well, then set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over a medium–high heat until just beginning to smoke, then add the dried chillies and cook, tossing the wok, for 2–3 minutes, or until the chillies are blistered all over. Remove using a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the wok. When the chillies have cooled a little, coarsely chop them.
  4. Reheat the oil in the wok over a medium–high heat, add the chilli bean paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the stock and soy sauce and bring to the boil.
  5. Combine the cornflour with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and mix well. Add to the beef mixture, using your hands to mix well. Add the beef to the boiling liquid in the wok and, using chopsticks, move the beef around in the liquid to separate the slices. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the liquid returns to the boil and the beef is just cooked. Transfer to a large serving bowl and scatter over the ground peppercorns and chopped chillies.
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