Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Sichuan celery with beef

I don't cook a lot of Asian food. It's not because I don't like it. The problem - such that it is - is that I live somewhere it's possible to get a good pad Thai for less than $10. And whenever I have made Asian dishes, I not only end up with something that's often inferior to what I can get cheaply within walking distance, but a million bottles and jars that forever after just clink around mostly full in the door of my fridge. But this! This is a relatively recent discovery that requires the purchase of only one jar you're not likely to have already, and is so good and so simple you'll be making it with such frequency that your problem will likely be that you run out, not it's never used. This dish started out as a way to use up leftover celery and quickly became the reason I bought the bunch. It's crunchy and spicy, satisfyingly meaty yet light (it really is celery with beef, not beef with celery). It's got a short list of ingredients, needs barely any prep and takes about five minutes to cook. With the addition of a fried egg on top, it's comfort food that sustains instead of sending you to sleep... or to the local Chinese takeaway.

Sichuan celery with beef
Adapted from a recipe by Fuschia Dunlop, as published on The Wednesday Chef

Whenever I have leftover jasmine rice, I freeze it in one or two-serve portions so I have it at the ready should the urge to make this strikes (which it frequently does). But- if you put on your rice just before getting started on this, both things should be ready at about the same time. I'm sure no-one really needs instructions for how to fry an egg, but just in case, this is my new favourite method.

300 grams (11 ounces) celery
3 tablespoons cooking oil
100 grams (4 ounces) beef mince (ground beef)
1 tablespoon Sichuan chili bean paste (available at Asian grocery stores)
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon Chinkiang vinegar (you could also just use malt)

2 eggs, fried, optional
jasmine rice (steamed, boiled, however you like it), to serve

Cut celery lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips. Finely dice the strips. Bring some water to the boil and blanch the celery for 30 seconds. Drain well.

Heat the oil in a seasoned wok or pan over high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until it is cooked and fragrant, stirring and pressing it to separate the strands. Add the chili bean paste and continue to stir until the oil has reddened. Add the ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds to release its fragrance, then add all the celery.

Continue to stir-fry until the celery is piping hot and well-combined. Stir in the vinegar and serve immediately with jasmine rice and topped with a fried egg.

Serves two.

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