In Chinese culture, nothing edible is ever thrown away — pig’s ear, innards, fish head, chicken feet, orange peel… you name it. During the years of scarcity when I was growing up, every part of an animal or a plant could be made into a delicious dish.
Ever since I brought back the oranges from my mother-in-law’s garden in Los Angeles, I have been saving the rind to turn into Chen Pi. Not only are her oranges extremely sweet and juicy, the peel is also thin and fragrant, which is perfect for making dried orange peel. In the olden days, it would take a long time to produce Chen Pi. You must first leave the rind in the sun to dry, and when it’s dry, you’d steam it. Then you’d dry it again in the sun. The process of drying and steaming would be repeated 9 times before the peel would acquire a piquant fragrance and become Chen Pi. People cook with it, or drink it in their tea. They also make snacks of it. You can find the snack version of Chen Pi in most Chinese super markets.
I dried mine in the oven and I only repeated the drying and steaming process 3 times, but the Chen Pi was very aromatic when it came out of the oven the final time and the house was redolent with the sweet scent.
When I saw the beautiful filet mignon tails at the neighborhood butcher’s, I decided that they would be perfect for a spicy Chen Pi beef stir fry. And it was absolutely delicious!
You don’t have to make your own orange peel. It’s available at most Chinese herbalists or dry goods stores.
Spicy Chen Pi Beef
4 pieces, about 1.2 pounds filet mignon tails, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoon to 1/4 cup cooking oil
8 slices peeled fresh ginger
3 clove garlic, sliced
4 dried red chilies (I left them whole because I only wanted the dish to be mildly spicy, but you can cut them if you want to turn up the heat.)
1/2 small red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
4 stalks green onion, sliced diagonally and separate the white from the green part
2 heaping tablespoons dried orange peel (available in most Chinese herb stores)
1 teaspoon orange zest and more for garnish
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn or Sichuan peppercorn powder
Cilantro leaves and crispy garlic for garnish
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shao Xing cooking wine
1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar or xylitol
1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
Marinate the cubed filet mignon pieces for 20 to 30 minutes.
Mix all the Sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stir to combine well. Set aside.
Soak the dried orange peel in 2 tablespoons water until soft. Save the water.
On medium high heat up a wok with the oil, stir fry the red chili and Sichuan peppercorn (if using) until aromatic. If you are using whole Sichuan peppercorn, you may want to spoon out and discard the peppercorn as they are very strong in flavor especially if you bite into a whole one. (I love biting into a Sichuan peppercorn for a burst of flavor that numbs my tongue, but Peter only wants a hint of the peppercorn flavor in the dish.)
Turn heat to high and add the sliced ginger, rehydrated dried orange peel, white part of the green onion and chili into the oil and stir for 30 seconds. Then add red bell peppers, jalapeño and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir fry until 50% done. (Alternately, you can sear the beef cubes in a separate pan and then add to the mixture in the wok.)
Add in the sauce and the saved orange peel water. When the sauce thickens, add the green part of the green onion and orange zest and stir for another 30 seconds.
Serve hot with rice.