Spice up cold winter days with a pot of Chinese spiced beef and potato stew. Easy preparation with intense flavour. Great dish for sharing.
Winter seems so long in England. It’s not that cold but it’s often wet and gloomy. During this season I carve something warm, filling and earthy. Braising dishes are ideal for this mood. On quiet winter Sundays, instead of having typical English “Sunday roast”, I often take my time to cook Chinese spiced beef and potato stew (土豆炖牛肉) to warm up (spicy up) our Red House.
In China, when beef and potato stew is mentioned, many would associate it with Chairman Mao. Why? Because he wrote a poem in which he mentioned this dish and everyone learns this poem in school. Without knowing the story behind the poem, some may assume that it refers to the Chinese-style beef and potato stew which is popular in many regions of China. However, Chairman Mao was actually talking about a famous Hungarian dish called Potato Goulash. I haven’t yet tasted this dish. But I guess it’s as scrumptious as the Chinese version. When beef meets potatoes in a spiced sauce, nothing will go wrong.
Spices are the soul of this dish. Star anise, cassia cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon), bay leaf and clove are the most frequently used spices in Chinese meat stew, along with soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine. Fortunately, they are all available in western supermarkets. You can add some dry chilli as well to produce a stronger taste.
When cooking Chinese-style stew, there is one particular technique that is uncommon in Western cuisine: blanching the meat. You need to give meat a quick hot bath, then skim off the froth that appears on the water surface. This way most impurities can be removed. Thus, the soup comes out clearer and the finished dish tastes “cleaner” (less gamey flavour). In my version of spiced beef and potato stew, I introduce onion instead of spring onion (which is commonly found in Chinese dishes) as the sweetness from caramelized onion is a great replacement for sugar. Besides, in the end of the braising process, the onion will melt giving the sauce a thicker consistency.
Like most of my other recipes, Chinese spiced beef and potato stew is fuss-free once you’ve got all the ingredients to hand. You just need to be patient. Cook some plain rice while the beef is being tenderized in the spiced soup. Make sure to cook the potato until it’s a bit mushy on the surface. By doing that, all the remaining tasty soup will be absorbed by the potato. I also add carrots to brighten up the dish and in any event you need some vegetable to make it a complete meal.
Have a try if you also need some comfort food in the winter like I do. It will cheer you up I hope.