These hot and spicy beef strips are coated in a rich and savory sauce. Choose your own adventure/heat level with the amount of dried chili peppers used in this recipe! This quick beef stir fry puts a low carb and healthy dinner on the table in just about 30 minutes.
Chengdu Challenge #6: A Spicy Beef Challenge in More Ways Than One
“This is the only dish that’s spicy enough for girls’ night,” said my 15-year-old daughter, Fongchong, as she dove into Hot and Spicy Beef.
She may be right. Though I’ll be working hard in this blog to disabuse readers of the notion that all Sichuan food is spicy, some dishes are indeed fiery. And out of all the spicy Sichuan dishes I regularly cook, this one is the spiciest. As a result, we generally save it for Wednesday nights, when Dad is out hosting his live/radio music show and it’s just Fongchong and I for dinner. Dad actually likes spicy food, but he’s not into killer spicy food like we are. So we snicker as we eat it, picturing Dad with his mouth on fire while we enjoy the burn.
Even I was worried, however, when I first made the spicy beef and was setting out the mise en place. Looking at the three heaping tablespoons of dried chili flakes portioned out in a bowl, I thought, No way, that has to be too much. But I’ve cooked enough from Sichuan Cuisine in Both Chinese and English—and second-guessed it one too many times to my regret—to know that you don’t doubt this cookbook, the definitive collection of Sichuan recipes straight out of Sichuan. So I used the whole amount.
The recipe also calls for Sichuan pepper, Sichuan pepper oil and chili oil. Oh, and hot green chilies (I use serrano, seeds and all). Is it hot and spicy and numbing? Yes. Is it delicious? Double yes.
Update 2023: All of the above was written in 2014. Fifteen-year-old Fongchong is now 24! And we have in fact changed up the recipe over the years, making it our own, as home cooks can and should do. We eventually did dial back the ground chilies to 2 tablespoons instead of 3. The Chinese name for this dish, 香辣肥牛 (xiānglà féiniú), is literally translated as “fragrant and hot fat beef,” and the ground chilies we now import from Sichuan for The Mala Market are also xiangla, which denotes a wonderful flavor and fragrance along with the heat.
Most noteably, we changed how the beef is cooked. The original recipe instructed you to quickly deep-fry the beef as the first step, because that’s how it’s done in professional Chinese kitchens. I liked the result, because the oil blanching draws out some of the fatty gray juices that beef exudes, leaving a cleaner look and taste in the final stir-fry. But no one really wants to use a cup of oil to deep-fry beef at home in what is merely the first step of cooking, right?
I didn’t, so I looked to other beef stir-fry recipes, particularly in Grace Young’s classic Breath of a Wok, where she collects recipes and tips from Chinese cooks near and far. One cook’s recipe called for removing the beef after an initial stir-fry and draining it in a colander to rid it of the sludgy juices. But I’ve found that another approach works almost as well as deep-frying, and that is merely marinating the meat in a corn starch mixture, which first helps to seal in the juices and then thickens as you cook, making the liquid that remains more appetizing. There will still be some beef fat, so I then drain the beef in a bowl lined with paper towels, patting the meat to remove most of it. You can, of course, skip this step if it doesn’t bother you.
So while this recipe did not originally call for a marinade with corn starch, I have added one. But other than that first step and a bit less ground chilies, I have left the recipe alone, because I want 24-year-old Fongchong to like it as much as 15-year-old FC did.
Xiangla feiniu, or fragrant hot fatty beef, starts with well-marbled meat like this bavette. Cut very thinly across the grain.
Your mise en place includes ma and la in the form of ground chilies, spicy fresh chilies, onions, huajiao, Sichuan pepper oil and your favorite chili oil
After you’ve stir-fried the beef, clean the wok and make a simple chili oil in which to finish the stir-fry. This dish smells even spicier than it tastes, so you’ll want to add the chilies in a well-ventilated room, with exhaust fan on or doors open.
Return beef to wok along with the chilies and onion, adding the finishing oils at the end.
Not as scary at the multiple types of chilies and huajiao would lead you to believe, this hot and spicy beef is just right, if you like spice!
If you love Sichuan’s spicy beef, try my Mala Beef Jerky (Mala Niurougan) recipe inspired by Houston’s Mala Sichuan Bistro!
Why this recipe is just so good….
- If you like Szechuan Beef, you will love this recipe! It is very similar using the spicy chili peppers, ginger and the garlic. And of course it is nicely balanced with the sweet from the brown sugar and savory oyster sauce.
- When you use thinly sliced beef and quickly stir fry it, you guarantee that it will be fall apart tender. Stir fries are a delicious way to prepare dinner fast!
- The heat level in this recipe is determined by how many dried chili peppers you use. Left whole in the sauce, you will have a mild to medium spicy meal. If you cut open a few of the peppers and stir them into the sauce, you will increase the spiciness. But it will always lean towards the spicy/savory side. It wont make your eyes water or burn your tongue! This article on Wikipedia describes different chili peppers and their level of heat.
- If you like savory beef with a a bit of spice, try my Skillet Pepper Steak and Onions recipe or Moo Shu Beef.
- We are using flank steak in this recipe. I find that even though it is lean, it is still very tender. You can use skirt steak, but I would avoid a London Broil or Top Round steak because they will be tougher.
- There is a little bit of brown sugar in the sauce. If you are watching your carb count, use a sugar substitute like Swerve.
- The spiciness in this recipe will be determined by how much ginger, chili pepper and the Chinese 5 spice you use. Taste your sauce and add a bit more of these to make it spicier. To tone it down, add some water, a few additional tablespoons of soy sauce and a bit more sugar.
How to make Hot and Spicy Beef
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir well. If you want a spicy sauce, go ahead and cut one or two chili peppers open.
- Slice the flank steak against the grain in thin slices, about 1 ½ -2 inches long.
- Add the oil to a large fry pan or wok and heat on medium flame.
- Stir fry the meat for about 3 minutes until browned.
- Place the chili peppers in pan and stir fry for another 3 minutes.
- Add sauce ingredients into pan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer on medium heat. Lightly sprinkle the xantham gum or cornstarch into sauce and stir to break up any lumps. Stir in ¼ cup of water and heat through.
- For a perfect stir fry make sure your meat is cut in uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
- Also cut the beef against the grain for the most tender meat. This means as the meat faces you with the grain,( long strands of muscle), turn the meat and slice it against (opposite) the grain.
- Take the beef out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you fry it. Cold meat may tend to stick to the pan more.
- Fry the meat in smaller batches if you dont have a large pan. The meat will lose some of its crispy edges if you crowd the meat as it will create too much steam.
Some other beef recipes that you may like to try:
Jul 5, 2014 · The Chinese name for this dish, 香辣肥牛 (xiānglà féiniú), is literally translated as “fragrant and hot fat beef,” and the ground chilies we now
What is spicy beef made of?
Packaged/processed spiced beef
Ingredients generally used
Spices, saltpetre, water, beer
What is difference between Mongolian beef and Szechuan beef?
Is Szechuan beef the same as crispy beef?
What makes Mongolian beef Mongolian?