I saw a one-pot Chinese-style braised beef recipe on BBC Good Food and I immediately experienced an adrenalin rush. It looked so good. I checked the ingredients and, in my mind, I just knew that the dish would taste good too. I was out of Chinese five-spice powder, but, what the heck — I had ALL the spices needed to make the spice mix.
It’s a fusion dish. Browning meat prior to stewing and deglazing the browned bits are more French than Asian but the spices and seasonings used in the dish are decidedly Asian.
It’s a stew so you have to use a stewing cut of beef. Cut the beef into serving-size pieces, season with salt and pepper, and toss in flour. Then, brown the beef on all sides. Depending on the size and shape of your cookware, you may have to do the browning in batches to avoid overcrowding.
Set the browned seef aside and saute the herbs and spices in the remaining oil so that the herbs and spices get mixed up with the browned bits left from the beef. Pour in rice wine (yes, rice wine because it’s essentially an Asian dish, after all) and stir to deglaze. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, to loosen whatever is stuck.
When the mixture is almost dry, put the browned beef back in, pour in broth and soy sauce, add sugar, and leave the beef to cook until tender.
This beef stew can be cooked on the stovetop from start to finish. You may also do the browning and sauteeing on the stovetop and finish cooking in the oven. A third option is to use a slow cooker. And a fourth option, the one I chose, is using a pressure cooker.
Chinese five-spice beef stew
- 1 ½ kilograms stewing beef - I used short ribs but crest, shank or shoulder blade will also be good
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup flour
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- ¼ cup chopped scallions
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 two-inch knob ginger - peeled and julienned
- 2 bird’s eye chilies - chopped
- 2 star anise
- 1 two-inch piece cinnamon bark
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns - toasted in an oil-free pan
- 4 cloves
- 1 generous splash rice wine
- 2 cups bone broth
- 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- finely sliced scallions - to garnish
- Place the beef in a single layer in a container with a tight lid.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper generously.
- Sprinkle the flour on the meat, cover the container tightly and shake to coat each piece of meat with flour. Alternatively, use a resealable plastic bag.
- Heat the cooking oil in the pressure cooker.
- Brown the beef in batches.
- Scoop out the beef and keep warm.
- Reheat the cooking oil in the pan and add the ginger, garlic, scallions and chilies.
- Drop in the cinnamon bark, star anise, cloves, fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns (or sprinkle in five-spice powder, if that’s what you’re using).
- Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about two minutes.
- Pour in the rice wine.
- Scape the bottom of the pan to loosen the brown bits.
- Allow the rice wine to almost evaporate, about a minute.
- Return the browned beef to the pan.
- Pour in the broth and soy sauce.
- Add the sugar. Stir.
- Taste the sauce and add salt, as needed (I don’t recommend adding more soy sauce because that will make the dish too dark and rather unattractive).
- Seal the lid on the pressure cooker, wait for the valve to whistle, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 60 to 65 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, wait for about ten minutes for the pressure to die down then remove the lid.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, if needed.