I’ve been spending a bunch of time cooking from Fuchsia Dunlop’s fantastic Every Grain of Rice, especially its vegetable and tofu sections, but some of the cold dishes seem a bit labour-intensive for everyday cooking. I was pondering the Sichuan Numbing and Hot Beef, a party dish, really, that requires slowly simmering a whole beef shin before slicing it thinly for a crowd. And even this is Dunlop’s simplified version of an original that featured various cooking methods of tongue, heart and tripe. I love the combination of Sichuan peppercorn, cilantro and sesame but I wanted something for a weeknight dinner for two, not an impressive party platter. It struck me that, because the original is a cold dish, it might be susceptible to transformation into a yam, or Southeast Asian salad. Regular readers will know of my obsession with Thai and Viet main-dish salads, which can be quite hearty meals, but emphasise herbs and bright spicy flavours. I decided to commit what is probably a shameful bastardisation of a classic dish, and to experiment with a bit of fusion. I replaced the beef shin with a nice rare steak and the cooked sauce with a creamy sesame dressing. I think it ultimately turned into something quite different, but the result was addictive. The recipe could probably do with some revision – knock yourselves out if you have ideas for improvement – but as experiments go, it was pretty successful.
Numbing and hot sesame beef salad
- 1 thick-cut steak
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 inch knob of ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 tsp toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
- 1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp chili oil with some sediment
- 1 tsp pure sesame oil
- large handful of cilantro
- 1 tbsp roasted peanuts
- 1/4 cup finely cubed cucumber
- 1 tbsp spring onion / scallion greens
To make the dressing, begin by toasting the Sichuan peppercorns and then (separately) the sesame seeds in a skillet until fragrant, and the sesame seeds are lightly golden. Cool and then grind in a mini-prep. You want the sesame to turn into a soft sandy consistency.
Put the sesame and peppercorns in a serving bowl and add soy sauce, chili oil, sesame oil and Shaoxing wine. Pound the garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle and add to the dressing. Mix well and salt if necessary.
Next grill the steak to your liking – but it should be on the rare side.
While the steak rests, prepare the toppings: chop the scallions thinly, cube the cucumber and toast the peanuts then lightly bash them into smaller pieces. Then slice the beef thinly (taking care to capture any juices) and add to the serving bowl along with the scallions, cucumber, peanuts and cilantro. Toss well and serve with rice.
Loosely based on Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe.