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 crave 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.
A popular dish in China
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 every one learns this poem in school. Without knowing the story behind the poem, some may assume that it refers to 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.
It calls for common spices
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 stews, along with soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine. Fortunately, they are all available in western supermarkets. You can add some dry chillies as well to produce a stronger taste.
Blanch the meat first
When cooking Chinese-style stew, there is one particular technique that is uncommon in Western cuisine: blanching the meat. You need to give the 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).
Fry onion until caramelized
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, at the end of the braising process, the onion will melt giving the sauce a thicker consistency.
Cook the potato until mushy
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. 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 vegetables to make it a complete meal.
Chinese spiced beef and potato stew
- 800 g beef, cut into chunks, 28 oz
- 2 onions, sliced
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, see note 1
- 2 star anises
- 1 small piece Cassia cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- 2 dry chilli, optional
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 500 ml hot water
- 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 carrots, cut into chunks
- coriander, chopped, optional
- Put beef chunks into a pot filled with cold water (enough to cover the meat completely). Bring the water to a full boil. Use a spoon to skim off the froth on the surface. Then drain the beef.
- Fry onion in oil in a clean deep pot on medium heat until soft and lightly brown. Stir in ginger and all the spices. Fry until fragrant.
- Put drained beef in. Add Shaoxing rice wine, light and dark soy sauce, salt and hot water. Cook on low heat with lid on for around 1 hour (see note 2).
- Place the potato and carrot into the pot. Add some water if it seems too dry. Cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the carrot is soft and potato becomes mushy on the surface. The juice should be very little by then.
- Stir in coriander if using. Serve immediately.
Have a try if you also need some comfort food in the winter as I do. It will cheer you up I hope.