Spicy Chen Pi Beef

 

P1120032

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.

P1120028

Spicy Chen Pi Beef

Ingredients:

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

P1120026

Marinade:

2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shao Xing cooking wine

Sauce:

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

P1120037

Preparation:

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.

P1120035

Sichuan Orange Beef

P1060563

Many of my friends and relatives enjoyed reading about my grandmother.  So I am going to share another story about her today.  In a society that valued collectivism, my grandmother was quite an unique individual.  She could get away with it because she often laugh at herself.  Having lived through so much trial and tribulation, she took herself lightly, but she never went with the crowd.

During the mid to late 80s in China, when people had relatives from America, it was customary to bring television sets, refrigerators or other electrical appliances when they visit.  These American brand appliances were important status symbol to any person or family.  After I began acting in films and television, I had enough money to bring her the TV set or the refrigerator, but she didn’t want them.  She said there was not much on TV that she cared to watch.  And she already had a small Chinese made refrigerator.  “I am making money now,” I said. “I must bring you something.”  “Bring me some cheese then,” she brightened, “I haven’t had cheese for so long.  Blue cheese, the stronger the flavor the better.  And I heard that they made bras that fasten in the front.  It would be nice to have some bras that fasten in the front.”  I told her that I would get these, but I insisted that these were not enough.  “If you insist,” she added a little sheepishly, “bring me a black wig, with a little wave in it.  I’m getting too grey and too bald.”

Grandmother

Grandmother before the wig

She was almost 80 years old at the time.  Most women her age during that era in China didn’t pay much attention to their appearance.  I was quite surprised by her vanity.

It was priceless to see my grandmother wearing a wavy black wig while savoring the most pungent blue cheese. 

For many years, she would wear her present and wait for me by the window whenever I visited her in Shanghai.

SCAN0120

Grandmother with the wig on, sitting between my father and me.

Sichuan Orange Beef

Ingredients:

8 oz. beef sirloin, cut into thin strips

2 tbsp peanut oil

1 tbsp Season with Spice’s Sichuan Peppercorns, crushed

1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry (optional)

1 small red bell pepper, sliced

1 jalapeno pepper, sliced

2-3 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

For the marinade:

Juice from one orange (about 1/3 cup*)

Zest from one orange (about 1 tablespoon)

2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp fresh ginger – minced

2 teaspoons cornstarch

P1060548  P1060559

Preparation:

In a bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Add in the beef and coat well. Leave to marinate for 15 to 30 minutes in the fridge.

Heat a wok on high fire. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil, and swirl to coat. Toss in the crushed Sichuan peppercorns and do a few quick stirs until fragrant. Add in the beef, but keep the leftover marinade to the side. Pour in Shaoxing wine if using. Let sear for 1-2 minutes until slightly charred, then do a few quick stirs.  Set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the wok, add in bell pepper, jalapeno and the white parts of the scallions, stir until tender.

Add the beef back in the wok.

Keep the heat on high, add in the leftover marinade, and toss to coat all the ingredients. When the sauce starts to simmer, stir in the scallion greens and toasted sesame oil. Dish out and serve immediately with rice.

P1060556  P1060554

Adapted from Rasamalaysia