What Is the Hunan Beef?
Ever heard of Hunan beef? You might have seen Hunan beef in a menu of your local diner, or even tried it once and loved it. If you ate this dish in more than one restaurant, you probably noticed they’re all different – that’s because even the Chinese chefs have varying recipes, let alone the Americanized recipe!
Americanized Hunan Beef vs. Authentic Hunan Beef
Yes, there is the original Hunan beef and there’s the American Hunan beef. Can you guess which one is the original recipe? Is Hunan beef Chinese or American?
Obviously, Chinese the Hunan beef recipe is the original one. The Americanized Hunan beef recipe tastes a lot like other stir-fry dishes prepared in Western countries, so they taste similar toeach other to be honest. Chinese cuisine is way richer and way tastier when you eat in China, compared to the Chinese dishes prepared in the West.
People in Hunan are known for their love for spice, so takeout places often add different peppers, claim they’ve achieved the perfect Hunan Beef recipe and call it a day. What a shame! You can’t stuff peppers into a dish and call it “the original Hunan beef”.
The original Hunan Beef recipe is prepared with dry smoked beef, which is a specialty of the Hunan province. With fermented black beans and peppers, the beef is reinvigorated much like beef jerky. How great is that?!
Since dry smoked Hunan beef is hard to come by, we’re going to use regular beef in our Hunan beef recipe, but we’ll fry it to make its texture even crispier. If you have a nearby Hunan restaurant to get the authentic, dry smoked Hunan beef, you should obviously buy from them! The more authentic ingredients you can get, the closer you’ll be to the original Hunan beef recipe.
What's the Difference Between Hunan and Sichuan (Szechuan) Cooking?
Both Sichuan and Hunan dishes use peppers heavily, yet there’s an important distinction in the two regions’ cuisines. Sichuan recipes have grown a lot in the West lately, so you might be more familiar with Sichuan cooking. That’s a good thing, because you’ll understand the difference between Hunan recipes and Sichuan recipes a lot better!
Ever heard of Sichuan peppercorns, perhaps in the Mapo Tofu dish? That’s one of the main ingredients which makes Sichuan food different from Hunan food. Hunan recipes don’t try to use spices to numb your taste buds like Sichuan recipes. Compared to Sichuan dishes, Hunan dishes make use of fresh and pickled peppers more. Fermented black peppers, garlic, ginger, different kinds of pickled ingredients and smoked ingredients should also be in your shopping list when you’re cooking a Hunan recipe like Hunan beef.. And since Hunan dishes use less oil compared to Sichuan dishes (which rely heavily on oil and sauce), they’re prepared differently.
All these factors make Sichuan and Hunan dishes taste very different. According to Chinese gourmets, Hunan dishes can be spicier than Sichuan recipes because of this! If you’ve tasted a Sichuan dish and thought “Wow, too spicy!” and think Hunan dishes are way out of your league, just bear with us and gather your confidence to try our Hunan beef recipe!
Related: Classic Burger Recipe
Picking Your Peppers
Peppers are almost as important as beef in the Hunan beef Chinese food recipes. Having said that, you get to decide which peppers you’d like to use while preparing the Hunan beef recipe. Want to use spicy peppers? Opt for jalapenos or fresnos peppers. Gourmet 212’s pickled hot peppers are also very good choice for it. Care for the sweet peppers? Holland and poblano peppers could be your choice of peppers. Want to mix and match? Go crazy with combining one from each group!
As long as you’ll like the result, you can’t go wrong with which kinds of peppers you choose. However, do keep in mind that using dried chili peppers in your Hunan beef recipe can add more spice than you want. Also, choose wisely between keeping the seeds or cleaning them out. If you make a mistake and make the food too spicy, just be mindful when you add your peppers into your next dish – making mistakes is the best teacher, after all.
Hunan Beef Recipe Instructions
Step 1: Marinate the Beef
The first step necessary for the making of Hunan beef recipe is to marinate the meat. For this, place the oyster sauce, baking soda and water in a bowl, and place the finely sliced meat in it. Gently massage the ingredients into the meat and leave to marinate for half an hour.
After the marination process is finished , lightly soak your meat in cornstarch and set aside and let it sit for frying.
Step 2: Prepare Peppers
During the pepper preparation phase, slice all the fresh peppers diagonally into thin slices. Set aside the dried red peppers and be careful not to break or chop them if you don't want a very spicy Hunan beef. Once the peppers are ready, also prepare the ginger, shallots, onions, garlic and black beans.
Step 3: Prepare Sauce
In step three of the Hunan beef recipe, combine the sugar with 2 tablespoons of hot water and mix well until dissolved. Next, add the Chinese black vinegar, soy sauce and ground white pepper, stirring until well combined with each other and set them aside.
Step 4: Fry the Beef
Heat your wok over a high heat until it starts to smoke as the fourth step of Hunan beef recipe. Rub 1/3 cup of oil on the surface of the wok and fry the beef in groups of three until both sides are slightly crispy. Strain the crunchy beef by sliding it to the edge of the wok. You can then transfer the beef to a sheet pan or plate. There is no need to put it on paper towels or wire shelves, as the oil will drain to the bottom. Then fry the other group. Make sure the wok and fat are warm when you add each batch of beef. in this way, fry the Hunan beef in three batches.
After frying the beef, leave about 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok and remove the rest. If your wok burned during the frying process, it is recommended to wash it before the next process.
Step 5: Assemble the Hunan Beef
As the final step of your Hunan beef recipe, heat your wok over a medium heat or set it to a medium setting if it is already burning. Put the sliced ginger in the wok and fry for about 30 seconds until caramelized. Then add the shallots and, after continuing to fry for another 30 seconds, add the fresh peppers, except for the red Holland or Fresno peppers. Set the heat to high to roast the peppers nicely and stir in this way for 1 minute. Clean a section under the wok, add the dried flakes and let them Brown in the oil for 20 seconds. But, if you want your food spicy, you can add dried flakes of peppers along with shallots earlier.
Next, pour the Shandong wine around the wok. Stir over high heat for another 30 to 60 seconds, adding sliced garlic, fermented black beans and red Holland or Fresno peppers. Next, add the braised beef and pour over your pre-made sauce. Keep the highest heat possible and stir everything for 20 seconds. Add the last remaining onions. Keep frying until most, if not all, of the sauce has evaporated because most authentic Hunan mixed dishes are relatively dry without any pool of sauce.
Your Hunan beef is ready to eat. It is recommended to serve your spicy Hunan beef with steamed rice. Wèikǒu hǎo