Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chen Pi Niu Rou (Tangerine Flavored Beef)

You’ll find this dish on many stateside restaurant menus, especially those purporting to be Sichuan, Hunan, and even “northern” inspired.  This version tries to be rigorously traditional, with hardly any ingredients besides tangerine peel and beef, such brevity of ingredients being typical of mainland Chinese cuisine.

While you will see this recipe translated into English as both “Tangerine Flavored beef” and “Orange Flavored Beef,” the Chinese tradition sees less of a  distinction between the two.   Tangerine, a type of small orange, is an English word deriving from Tangiers, the port from which these fruits were first shipped to Europe.  On the other hand, orange citrus was known to China from earliest times and their remnants found in Han tombs.  Today, anyone visiting Western China will notice small curls of orange peel drying on strings and in window sills in nearly every household.  Even though small oranges have been savored in the Mainland for centuries, only a handful of cooked dishes feature them, Chen Pi Niu Rou being the best known.  It is delicious on several levels, especially the balance of sweet opposed to the bitterness of the peel, the eating of which may be an acquired taste for Westerners.

If you have not air-dried orange or tangerine peel yourself in preparation for this dish, you can purchase the ingredient at a Chinese grocery, although it is not recommended.  (To dry your own, just as most Chinese do, peel fresh tangerines or small, thin-skinned organges and dry the skins for several days in a drafty area or in an oven for about 1-1/2 hours at 110 degrees).

12 oz beef tri tip, sliced 1/8” x 2 “ by 1” or so
Dried tangerine peel from 2  small tangerines (appx. 20 pcs, 1/2” x 1” or so)

Marinade for beef slices:
2 thick slices of ginger, crushed with the flat side of cleaver
1 Tab light soy sauce
1 Tab Shaoxing wine or sherry
2 tsp cornstarch

Stir fry ingredients:
6 scallions, cut diagonally into sections, approx 1” long
        separate white and green portions
6 lg dried chilis, sliced diagonal into 3/4 – 1” sections
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 - 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorn, roasted and ground
1 Tab rice wine

2 Tab soy
4 Tab stock
2 Tab tangerine soaking water
1-1/2 Tab sugar

Soak dried orange peel in enough hot water to cover and allow to soften for an hour or more.
Add crushed ginger to the other marinade ingredients and allow to infuse while the beef is sliced as described.  Mix beef slices with marinade, discarding ginger.
Heat wok until smoking, add 3 or 4 Tab of oil,  and add beef slices.  Brown the meat for 3 minutes or so, then remove.  Add a little more oil, if necessary, and when oil begins to smoke, add white portion of the scallion,  stir fry a little, then add chilis, tangerine peel, garlic and Sichuan peppercorn.  When chilis are browned, deglaze with wine.  On high heat add back the beef slices and green onion; add the sauce mixture after mixing it thoroughly, and toss everything until liquid is reduced enough to glaze the meat.  Toss, plate and garnish with cilantro or slivered scallion.

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