Sichuan Spicy Beef Stew (紅燒牛肉)

by Yi on September 27, 2011 · 53 comments

Post image for Sichuan Spicy Beef Stew (紅燒牛肉)

To beef lovers, a juicy and tender steak is probably the way to go. While I like to occasionally enjoy an expensive steak dinner or feed myself with a much cheaper but equally delicious sizzling steak in black pepper sauce at home, my craving for beef has never been fully satisfied with steak.

Perhaps it’s because I have yet been to a world class steakhouse or I just don’t know how to appreciate a piece of fine steak…..or perhaps it’s my stubborn stomach would not accept anything other than the tender, spicy, and flavorful beef stew from Sichuan (Szechuan). I think it’s the latter.

Just like mac n’ cheese in the States, bratwürste in Germany, or Bibimbab in Korean cuisine (you get the drift), the Sichuan spicy beef stew is a true comfort food in Sichuan and across China. It is so popular that spicy beet stew has become a standard artificial flavor for instant noodles and frozen microwave meals.

The Sichuan Spicy Beef Stew (aka Sichuan Spicy Red-Cooked Beef) is the ultimate treat for beef eaters and spicy food lovers like me. Although the name of the dish seems to suggest something explosive and very spicy, this beef dish is rather moderately spicy compared to another famous Sichuan beef dish.

Restaurants in Sichuan, China usually serve the dish in a clay pot or cast iron skillet, with beef drenched in an oily spicy broth. The beef is slowed cooked until it’s tender and extremely flavorful. You’ll also get lots of variations of this dish thanks to the well-guarded secret species each restaurant uses.

This homemade version recipe is what I have been using for years. I know you might have to fetch some of the species from Asian grocery stores or specialty stores but trust me your effort will be well rewarded.

Don’t forget to have a bowl of rice to go with this beef stew!

Sichuan Spicy Beef Stew – Ingredients (2 servings)

  • 3 lb Beef (brisket, shank, or lean cuts)
  • 1.5 lb Radish (turnip / daikon) or Potatoes
  • 5 clove Garlic
  • 2 inch Ginger (about 4 slices)
  • 2 tbsp Sichuan chili bean paste
  • 2 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 2 small Rock sugar
  • 4 tbsp cooking wine.
  • 4 cup Water or beef stock
  • Chopped scallion and cilantro

Dry Spices

  • 4 Star anise
  • 6 pc Dried chili
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1 pc Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Fennel seeds
  • 2  pc Clove
  • 1 pc Dried orange peel
  • 4 pc Bay leaves
  • 2 Black cardamom

    Sichuan Spicy Beef Stew – Step By Step

    1. Cut the beef into 1 inch thick slices against the grain. Peel the radish or potatoes and cut into 1.5 x 1.5 cubes.

    2. Blanche the beef in boiling water. Rinse the beef with cold water and let it drain.

    3. In a wok, combine 2 tbsp of cooking oil with spicy bean paste, garlic, ginger, and rock sugar. Cook in low heat until aromatic.

    4. Add the beef and mix it with the condiments. Add soy sauce and cooking wine. Cook for another 2 minutes.

    5. Transfer the beef and all the condiments to a stock pot or large Dutch oven casserole. Add the dry species and the water or stock. Bring to boil and simmer in low heat for 1 hours or until the beef is cooked.

    6. Add the radish or potatoes to the beef stew. Add salt to taste. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until both beef and radish are tender.

    Sprinkle some chopped scallion and cilantro to serve.

    PS. And yes you have guessed it right, this is the very beef stew used in the much more well known spicy Sichuan beef noodle soup.

    { 45 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Liz July 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

    Hi. Can I use table sugar instead of rock sugar?


    2 Yi July 14, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Hi there, yes table sugar works too. Thanks for visiting!


    3 David November 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Yi,

    Do you prefer yellow or clear rock sugar ? I can not see it in the pic (wont let me view larger).




    4 Yi November 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    hi David, I normally use clear rock sugar but yellow one should work as well. Thanks.


    5 Luyan July 6, 2014 at 6:25 pm


    Just wondering if a five spice powder can be substituted for the star anise, sichuan pepercorn, cinnamon, fennel seeds and clove…. since that is what a five-spice powder is composed of. Do you think it would change the flavor a lot?


    6 Yi July 14, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Hi Luyan, sorry for the late reply. I like to use the individual spice because that gives me the option to control the flavor however you can totally use five spice powder instead. If possible, I’d suggest adding extra star anise and sichuan peppercorn on top of the five spice powder. Hope this helps!


    7 Claire February 17, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Omg. Thank you for this recipe. A girl from Szechuan at work taught me a very similar recipe to this, using pork rather than beef. The ingredients were almost the same but less complex. I’ve made her recipe sooooo many times, sometimes adding mushroom which soaks up the juices or sweet potato. I just called it ‘birongs Szechuan pork stew’ lol. I will definitely try this version too!


    8 Yi February 17, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Please let me know how you liked this beef dish!


    9 E Wells February 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Yi, What is sichuan chili bean paste in chinese? I can’t find it in local Asian store. Any substitution?


    10 Yi February 11, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Hello Eva, sichuan chili bean paste in Chinese is Doubanjiang, or 豆瓣酱 in simplified Chinese. Most Chinese grocery stores carry this product under different brands. You can find more information about this condiment on this page. Unfortunately this is one of the ingredients you can’t substitute for this dish. Please let me know if you need any more information. Thanks for checking out the recipe!


    11 raa April 27, 2013 at 3:39 am

    in step 2 u say to raise the beef with cold water and drain is it supose to be rince


    12 Yi April 27, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Hello, thank you for spotting the typo. It has been corrected.


    13 Michael February 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Hi, Yi! I absolutely love your website and its authentic recipes are much needed! I just wanted to give you a small heads up! The link for the sichuan spicy hot pot article takes the user to this page instead! Thanks again for the amazing website!


    14 Yi February 25, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks Michael for the heads up. I have updated the link. Thanks again for spotting the typo!


    15 presa1200 November 5, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Wow this looks like a very authentic recipe, i’ve came across certain people who are not used to Chinese cuisine saying our food is tasteless but i think they will definitely change their mind after trying out this braised beef noodle. indeed they did, i used to make Chinese braised beef for my friends of different ethnic background and they loved it very much. i put some green tea powder and it turned out pretty nice, it adds extra aroma and taste.


    16 Yi November 6, 2012 at 12:57 am

    hi presa1200, thanks for dropping by my site. i am so happy to hear that you conquered your friends with braised beef noodles! I like the idea of adding the green tea powder and i believe i’ve got quite a bit in stock so i’ll try out your suggestion. Thanks!


    17 presa1200 November 6, 2012 at 5:22 am

    haha no problem, our food will always be our pride. i got the idea of adding green tea powder from a Chinese website, i used 1 sachet of OSK green tea because the leaves are very tiny that resemble powder. for the equivalent amount maybe you can use 1 tbsp of green tea powder. some recipes use tomato as well, i think it will add a bit of sweet and sour taste. i’m gonna try out your version, it calls for orange peel and cardamon which i didn’t have these previously. nice photos and presentation btw!


    18 Yi November 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks. Would love to hear how it came out!


    19 Sunshine October 21, 2012 at 9:40 am

    When us the rock sugar supposed to be added in?


    20 Yi October 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    hi Sunshine, thanks for catching it. I just updated the recipe method. It is supposed to be added in step 3. Thanks.


    21 Declan March 25, 2013 at 3:45 am

    Hi Yi

    this looks just liken a version I had ina Szechaun Chinese restaurant in London. It was lovely. Theirs had a little 1″ square white cabbage added which gave the palate a light contrast which was nice.

    I note a lot of recipes using dried spices tend to gently fry them for a few mins until they become aromatic. Have you tried that and did it produce a more aromatic version?


    22 Yi March 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Hello Declan, you are absolutely right about roasting the dry spices before stewing. This process does bring more flavor out of the spices. The addition of cabbage is also an awesome idea. When I make a beef stew noodle soup I use cabbage or bok choy to create a similar contrast. Thanks for your feedback!


    23 Flor September 6, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Can’t wait to try this recipe. I have all the ingredients, except for the dried orange peel and my time to cook it. Thanks for sharing.


    24 Yi September 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    The Flor, thanks for checking out the recipe. Please let me know how it comes out! If orange peel is the only thing pulling you back I’d say go for it with out the orange peel!


    25 KimmyCat June 3, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Thank you for this great recipe. I made it yesterday, still need a little tweaking to measure up to my favorite and one and only authentic Chinese restaurant on Istergade in Copenhagen :) And yes I know Copenhagen is as far from China as you can get, but after 20 years in the States I do think I know my Chinese.


    26 Yi June 3, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Hi KimmyCat, thank you for stopping by my blog. This is one of those recipes that takes some time to experiment. In fact when I cook this dish for myself (as opposed to my guests), I put twice as much Sichuan bean paste as the portion in the recipe. I just like it spicy and strong haha. Please feel free if you haev any questions. Thanks again for your visit.
    P.S. after a quick lookup, I found the distance between NY and Beijing is 2000 miles more than the distance between Copenhagen and Beijing. So after all you aren’t that far from China than where I am lol. But fortunately, there are a lot of authentic Chinese restaurants in NY than many other major cities in the US.


    27 KimmyCat June 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Yi,
    I’ll be making this dish next week for a bunch of our Danish friends, and I’m sure it’s going to blow them away, in a good fiery way ;) And I’ll be sure to add a bit more bean past.
    And thank you for this great blog:)


    28 Yi June 17, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks for trying out the beef stew recipe KimmyCat. I’d love to hear how it comes out to be!


    29 Selah Becton February 19, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Thanks again for the blog article.Really thank you! Awesome.


    30 Health Bee October 5, 2011 at 3:42 am

    Hi Yi,

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. It looks delicious. Can’t wait to try the spicy beef stew, especially when the weather is now getting colder.


    31 Yi October 5, 2011 at 6:39 am

    yup this will be perfect for the cold weather!


    32 Calvin October 4, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I’ll definitely love to see that beef noodle soup recipe, too!


    33 Yi October 4, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Hi Calvin, I’ll be sure to inform you once I post the beef noodle soup recipe. Thanks.


    34 Nami | Just One Cookbook October 4, 2011 at 3:46 am

    Hi Yi! This is my first time on your blog and I’m enjoying browsing around! You have lots of great recipes and how wonderful you are cooking these great dishes! I love the spices you added to this stew. I can’t eat spicy but my husband is crazy about the spice. :-)


    35 Yi October 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Nami. Thanks for our visit. If you prefer you can actually tune down the heat and make it just a little spicy….but I always prefer to have more chili though :)


    36 Jun October 2, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    We have stopped eating beef for a while now, about 6 months and I truly miss it. And I don’t think I can make stew out of chicken, can I? Beautiful recipe as always, Yi …


    37 Yi October 4, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Jun, thanks for checking out the recipe.. I think chicken will work but it will taste a little different.


    38 Shi kai Wang September 30, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Great blog! Found out about it from been looking for a Chinese/Taiwanese authentic blog for awhile and this turned up. My parents run a Taiwanese small eats restaurant in Hawaii and I want to expand my knowledge of cooking heritage now that I’ve got a son. Keep up the great work!


    39 Yi September 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Hello Shi kai Wang,
    Thank you for the visit. A few years ago I realized how little I knew about Chinese food so I created this blog to expand my Chinese culinary knowledge and share ideas with people with common interests.
    I hope you find the dishes interesting to you. As always, please feel free to leave comments, suggestions, and questions!



    40 tigerfish September 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Love the aroma of the spices you have used in this beef stew! Best stew for the cooler days and nights ahead.


    41 Yi September 30, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Hi tigerfish, I totally agree with you that this is a great stew for the winter.


    42 Fiona September 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    i love the Chinese beef noodle soup with tender sliced beef like this… this the same beef stew used in the noodle soup? Thanks!


    43 Yi September 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Hi Fionna, yes this beef stew is great for a spicy beef noodle soup. I’ll probably post the recipe for the noodle soup separately shortly. Please stay tuned.


    44 Vivienne September 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    the chinese in me would appreciate this much more than a fine piece of steak too :P im salivating reading this in the morning! hahaha. the meat looks so tenderr as do the radishes…i never seem to have the right spices at home for dishes like this unfortunately. will stock up on orange peel and star anise next time im at the chinese shop.

    btw, regarding your comment, NYC seems like a much more exciting/happening cultural place to live than Syd :P i have friends moving there for work…lucky!


    45 Yi September 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks Viv. I agree it’s a pain to get all the spices but I think the effort is well rewarded :)


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