Monday, January 27, 2014

Sichuanese "Send-the-Rice-Down" Chopped Celery with Ground Beef

Happy almost Chinese New Year! At the end of this week, we will be beginning the year of the horse. Although I'm not Chinese myself, I do love representing Chinese food and culture whenever I can because it's definitely one of my favorite ethnic cuisines. On Wednesday I plan on sharing a roundup of Chinese and Chinese-inspired recipes from my blog in honor of the occasion, but before we get to that, I wanted to add another Chinese recipe to the mix.

One of my go-to Chinese cookbooks is Every Grain of Rice. I love that the recipes featured in the book are authentic Chinese dishes as opposed to Americanized imitations. I also love that most of the recipes are vegetable-centric, and the one I'm sharing today is no exception.

Although it't not vegetarian (it contains ground beef), the main ingredient here is definitely celery, which maintains a delicious crunch in this quick stir-fry. Utilizing a lot of flavor and spice from Sichuan chili bean paste and ginger, this is great way to cut down on the amount of meat in your diet while still giving it a cameo.

I actually doubled the recipe when I made it, using 8 ounces of beef and a TON of celery, and served it with brown jasmine rice and some stir-fried Swiss chard. It was a very satisfying meal, light on the calories (I cut down significantly on oil) and high on flavor.

Check back on Wednesday to see photos and links of other great Chinese recipes you can create to celebrate the impending year of the horse!

Sichuanese "Send-the-Rice-Down" Chopped Celery with Ground Beef
Serves 1 (or more as part of a larger meal--should be served with rice)
(From Every Grain of Rice)

11 ounces (300 g) celery
3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used a lot less)
4 ounces (100 g) ground beef
1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan chili bean paste
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
Light soy sauce, to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon Chinkiang vinegar

De-string the celery sticks and cut them lengthwise into 3/4 inch (1 cm) strips. Finely chop the strips. Bring some water to a boil and blanch the celery for about 30 seconds to "break its rawness." Drain well.

Heat the oil in a seasoned wok over high heat. Add the ground beef and stir-fry until it is cooked and fragrant, pressing it with the back of your wok scoop or ladle to break it apart. Then add the chili bean paste and continue to stir until you can smell it and the oil has reddened. Add the ginger and stir-fry for a few moments more to release its fragrance, then add all the celery.

Continue to stir-fry until the celery is piping hot, seasoning with a little soy sauce, if you wish. Finally, stir in the vinegar and serve.


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