- 2 kg wagyu chuck steak
- Wagyu beef dripping – about 8 tbs when melted
- About 3/4 of a jar of Laoganma* chilli bean sauce
- 2 small red onions, sliced
- A chunk of unpeeled fresh ginger – about 4 cms – cut into thick slices
- 3 large pieces of cassia bark
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise
- 4 tbs Shaoxing wine
- 4 tbs dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp Sichuan pepper
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp cloves
- 10 – 12 cardamon pods
- 2 – 3 bay leaves
- Coriander leaves to garnish
- 2 – 3 carrots and
- 2 – 3 parsnips or
- 1 daikon radish/ Chinese turnip
- Boiled rice
- Shan’s bashed cucumber – Pai Huang Gua – see recipe in earlier post
Preparing and Cooking
Cut the beef into large cubes – with wagyu there is virtually no trimming required and no waste. Place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming off the mucky froth that rises to the surface. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and leave aside in a colander to cool and lose any excess liquid. Strain the remaining cooking liquid (through muslin if possible) into a jug or pot. Heat the wagyu dripping in a large, deep saucepan over a medium heat – if there is too much just drain off the excess into a bowl. You can use it again. Add the Laoganma chilli bean sauce to the dripping and stir, over medium heat, until the sauce and oil have combined. Add in the red onion, ginger, cassia bark, cinnamon, star anise and stir fry until you release the heady aromas of the spices and the onion begins to soften. Then turn up the heat and gradually add in the beef, stirring constantly until all the beef is coated with the rich red sauce. Swirl in the soy sauce and the Shaoxing wine and stir to mix, then add sufficient of the reserved cooking liquid to barely cover the meat. Reserve any remaining liquid. Add the bay leaves and the remaining ingredients – Sichuan pepper, fennel seeds, cloves and cardamon – tying them in muslin if you have a small piece or bag to hand, but don’t worry, you can strain them out later if you wish. Bring to the boil, then transfer immediately to a slow cooker and cook on “low” for about 6 – 7 hours. Check the beef for tenderness after 6 hours, keeping the time you have the lid off the slow cooker to a minimum. When the beef is cooked to melt in the mouth tenderness, allow to cool then refrigerate over night. The next day, remove and discard any excess fat that has set on the surface – it will be a bright orange colour. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and place, along with the larger spices and ginger slices, in a large cast-iron casserole dish or saucepan. Strain the remaining liquid, to remove any smaller seeds and bay leaves, and return it to the pan. Check the seasoning while it is heating and balance if necessary with soy sauce and Shaoxing wine – I found the rich intense flavour from the long, slow cooking was just right. Reheat thoroughly over a moderate heat and serve garnished with fresh coriander.
*available in all Aisan supermarkets, the Laoganma sauce is made with black beans, chilli and Sichuan peppercorns. The literal translation of it’s name is “old dry mother sauce”. The photo below will help you recognise the label but be careful to get the one that does not contain MSG – the newest bottles have the ingredients listed in English on the rear. If you are unable to find the Laoganma label you could substitute Lee Kum Kee chill bean sauce made with broad beans which may be easier to find but it will not give the same richness of colour or flavour.
I love the deep red colour and the rich, spicy flavour and aromas of the beef. But you can lighten the overall effect of the dish, and add variety in colour and taste, by adding in chunks of briefly par-boiled carrots and parsnips or Chinese turnip, also known as daikon radish, for the last 20 – 30 minutes of re-heating, so long as the pot has reached simmering point. You may need to add additional reserved cooking liquid or water to ensure the meat and vegetables remain barely covered with liquid and to adjust the seasoning to re-balance the dish.
This is a special dish with an intensity of colour and flavour which mellows and deepens with the long slow cooking and the overnight rest. It tastes even better on the third day. Finding the courage to take this dish out for public inspection, at my first ever public presentation of Shananigans, 3 months to the day after starting the blog, means it will always have a special place in my portfolio of recipes.
While the use of wagyu beef makes this an exceptional dish, the recipe would work equally well with good quality shin beef as the long slow cooking would melt down the fat. If using shin beef in the slow cooker you may need to allow up to an hour longer to achieve a melt in the mouth texture.
Mashed potatoes can be used as an alternative to rice.
Cinnamon sticks can be used as a substitute for cassia bark.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, simply cook on the hob on a low simmer for about 3 hours. In this case you will need to cover the beef more generously with the cooking liquid and keep an eye on it to make sure the beef is covered with water at all times and doesn’t dry out.
Whichever method you use, I strongly recommend allowing it to rest overnight so that you can remove the fat and ensure there is no oily after-taste in the dish.
The recipe serves 8 to 12 people but quantity can be halved to serve 4 to 6 people but it may be more efficient to make the larger amount and freeze half if necessary.