Sichuan Boiled Beef (水煮牛肉)

Sichuan Boiled Beef

This grew to be one of my favourite dishes when I lived in Beijing. We ate it very often for lunch. Maybe even once or twice a week. Back in the Netherlands I was really missing this dish. As far as I know, there is no sichuan restaurant here. Chinese restaurants are mainly oriented on the cantonese cuisine. And besides that, they have adapted so much to the average taste, you can hardly recognize it to be chinese. So when I got my hands on “The Land of Plenty” by Fuchsia Dunlop I was thrilled to recognize so many dishes. I’ve adapted Fuchsia’s recipe a little bit by using the Sichuan Chili Oil I prepared earlier, which turns this into a quick and easy recipe.



450 gram lean beef
¼ t salt
1 T shaoxing ricewine

Cut the beef against the grain into thin slices about 2 x 4 cm.
Add salt and shaoxing wine and set aside to marinate while you prepare the rest.

Make a mixture of
4 T potatoflour and
4 T cold water

(or 6 T cornstarch with 6 T water)
and set aside

3 T peanutoil
3 T chili bean sauce (toban jiang)
950 ml chickenstock
2 t dark soysauce

Heat the 3T peanut oil until it will just begin to smoke.
Turn heat to medium and add the 3T chili bean sauce (toban jiang).
Stirfry for about 30 seconds, until the oil is red and fragrant.
Then add 950 ml chickenstock and 2t dark soysauce.
Bring to the boil. Now this is the base for the beef to boil in.
But stirfry the vegetable first.

Chinese Cabbage

4 T Sichuan Chili Oil
4 spring onions (julienne) (so in the picture I did it wrong)
1 chinese cabbage or iceberg lettuce (in stripes)

Stirfry the spring onions and cabbage quickly for about 1 minute in 4 T sichuanpepperoil.
Transfer to a bowl or bowls.

Take the marinated beef.
Add the potatoflour (or cornstarch) mixture and stir well in one direction to coat all the pieces of beef.
Make sure the sauce is boiling vigorously when you drop in the beef. Wait for the sauce to return to the boil and then use a pair of chopsticks to gently separate the slices. Simmer for a minute or so, until the beef is juist cooked and then spoon it onto the waiting vegetables. Pour over the sauce.

Sprinkle some roasted sichuanpeppercorns and additional spring onion over the dish and carefully pour over another 3 T of smoking sizzling hot oil. (I skipped this the other day)

Although Fuchsia doesn’t mention anything about it, I don’t think you are supposed to eat the sauce. It’s too greasy.

Boiled Beef on a spoon
I developed my own way of eating it. I would take some rice with my chinese spoon, then with my chopsticks fish some lettuce from the bottom of the bowl, add a piece of beef and at least 1 sichuanpeppercorn. After a while some of my chinese colleagues copied this. Maybe they still eat it like this. :-)


  • I like to use the frozen beef for this dish. Not just because it’s cheaper, but also because it’s easy to cut if it’s still a little bit frozen.
  • Fuchsia’s recipe asks for flank steak. (Bavette in French or Bavette ‘d aloyau. I think. It’s not very common in the Netherlands, so I’m not sure)
  • In my memory it was always made with iceberg lettuce. When you use that, be sure to really, realy quickly stirfry it. It should still have a little crunch. I used chinese cabbage, because I think that’s a more substantial vegetable than watery lettuce. So it makes a more balanced dinner.  
  • Don’t make the mistake I made (twice!) to just chop the spring onions instead of cutting them julienne. Otherwise it’s more complicate to eat. Julienne is much easier to pick up with your chopsticks.
  • After adding the beef to the stock, really wait for it to come back to the boil and then carefully seperate the pieces with your chopstick. If you do it too soon, the soup will thicken from the cornstarch/potatoflour, as you can see on the first photo. The picture below is from my second attempt. It looks much better. (Tastewise it doesn’t make much difference though)
  • Serve with white rice and Spicy Aubergine from Sichuan

 Boiled beef slices in a fiery sauce

About Robin

I love to cook. Check out my dutch website:
This entry was posted in Beef and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.