Red cooking is a unique, Chinese method that brings extraordinary flavor to a dish. When using the red cooking method, meat is slowly simmered with soy sauce, sugar and aromatics like star anise and cinnamon. Unlike the lightning fast stir fry typical of Chinese dishes, red cooking is done low and slow. It's a braise in a wok, making the meal more stew-like.
Because it's a braise, you want to use a very fatty cut of meat like short ribs. If you try and use a leaner cut, your meat will be very dry and the dish a lot less flavorful. I prefer the boneless short ribs at Costco, which I bought two days ago for just $7.99 per pound. Buy your short ribs at Whole Foods and you'll be playing double that.
This is an absolutely brilliant recipe from David Tanis, City Kitchen column writer for The New York Times. Cook and prep time will run you a little under two hours...but what a wonderful way to wile away a chilly Saturday afternoon. This recipe serves four to six people.
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs or chuck, cut in 1/2-inch strips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
2 teaspoons grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
2 small strips orange peel
4 dry red chiles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons potato starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water (optional)
1 pound daikon radish, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup slivered scallions
- Put meat in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, skimming off any foam. Drain meat in colander, discarding liquid.
- Transfer meat to medium bowl and season lightly with salt. Add soy sauce, wine, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, orange peel and chiles. Mix to coat and marinate 15 minutes.
- Put 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add sugar and stir until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add marinated meat and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until meat is tender, 40 minutes to an hour, adding water occasionally to keep meat barely covered.
- To prevent meat from overcooking, remove and set aside, then bring remaining cooking liquid to a rapid simmer over high heat and reduce to intensify color and flavor. (Or thicken sauce with potato starch.) Return meat to wok and coat with reduced sauce.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a separate pan over medium-high heat. Add daikon, season with salt and pepper, and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
- Put beef in a serving dish and arrange daikon on a platter. Drizzle both with sesame oil and garnish with cilantro sprigs and scallions.
Wine pairing: Rombauer Zinfandel