What Is Shredded Beef Szechuan-Style?
Shredded beef, Szechuan-style offers a prime example of one of China’s regional cooking styles. From the Sichuan province in Southwestern China, Szechuan-style dishes are known for their fiery flavors, but they have other attributes as well.
Beef serves as a good foundation for this kind of cuisine because it can stand up to both the rigors of the cooking technique and the intensity of its flavors.
Dry Frying Technique
Shredded beef, Szechuan style starts with a technique known as “dry frying,” meaning that almost no liquid is used in cooking. The cooking tool of choice is the wok, the Chinese skillet-pan with steeply angled sides that allow for cooking ingredients at different temperatures in a single pan.
However, the dish also can be made using a conventional skillet if you don’t have a wok. Only 2 teaspoons of oil are used to stir-fry this dish.
Thin Slices Are Key
Cutting the beef properly is essential to Szechuan shredded beef. Some cooks suggest refrigerating the beef for 30 minutes to make it easier to slice into small strips.
Slicing the beef against the grain of the meat also helps it retain shape and tenderness; otherwise, it can become stringy and tough when cooked. The beef should be drained well of any liquid before placing in the wok or skillet.
Baking Soda Tenderizes Beef
To make two servings, start with about 1/2 pound of beef that can be cut into thin strips. Sirloin steak sometimes is recommended since it’s a lean cut of beef that will hold its shape well and can be sliced more easily. However, just about any cut of beef can be used if you make sure to add no more than 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to the recipe.
Baking soda serves to tenderize the beef, breaking down the muscle fibers to make the meat tender. Don’t add a lot of baking soda, though, because it will make the beef taste bitter. Let the slices marinate for about 20 minutes in baking soda mixed with ¼ cup of low-sodium soy sauce. Then fry the beef quickly, stirring constantly in the wok or skillet.
Crush the Peppercorns
Thin strips of carrots or celery and white onions typically accompany the beef. These are cooked after the meat. The dish is seasoned with the trademark Szechuan combination of garlic, peppercorns and chili peppers.
The chili peppers can be added in the form of dried flakes or whole. Some cooks suggest crushing the peppercorns to release more of the taste bud-numbing sensation that is part of the Szechuan dining experience.