The following recipe is pretty easy, with an extra step or two that are crucial. I've made it twice now and it's the same both times! I love when that happens.
I saw this prepared on Martha Stewart's show awhile back...I haven't seen an episode it ages, I do think this was the last time I saw it. Probably October/November 2004. The recipe is called Lily's Beef Stew. "Lily" actually prepared the dish on the show, but I don't remember who Lily is. Anyways, here is:
Lily's Beef Stew
The secret to this Chinese version of beef stew, is to cook the meat three times. It’s first boiled, then sautéed in a hot wok, and finally simmered until tender. A traditional Hunan dish, this stew is flavored with star anise and cassia (a close relation to cinnamon that’s available in Asian food stores).
4 lbs boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 TBS olive oil
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 1/8 inch thick
¼ cup dry white wine
2 TBS dark soy sauce
1 TBS dark-brown sugar
4 star anise
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 ½ cups water
1 ½ tsp coarse salt
Steamed rice, for serving
1. Fill a large pot halfway with water, and bring to a boil. Add cubed beef, stirring often to prevent sticking. Cook for 1 minute. Drain beef into a colander, and shake to remove excess water.
(NOTE: This step helps to render out some of the unwanted fat. But do keep the time brief, otherwise the meat will toughen and need longer to cook to become tender again.)
2. Heat wok over high heat. Add olive oil, swirling to coat the sides of wok. Add drained beef, and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, white wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, star anise, and cinnamon. Continue to sauté until evenly browned, about 5 minutes, stirring to combine.
(NOTE: I used a regular kettle for this, I could have used a skillet as well. We no longer have a wok, so we make do, you can to! If you have some cheese cloth laying around, wrap your star anise into a bundle with it. When it cooks slowly, it opens up and releases these larger seed type pods that you don't want to eat, wrapping them up keeps them contained for easy disposal.)
3. Add 1 cup water, and transfer beef mixture to a large pot. Add remaining 1 ½ cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook until meat is almost tender, 1 ½ hours. Season with salt, and continue to simmer until meat is tender, ½ hour. Serve with steamed rice.
(NOTE: If you use a regular kettle, you do not need to transfer. I transfer to a slow cooker! The first cup of water helps to 'loosen' the sauce so it all transfer more easily. If you use the regular kettle, check about every 20 minutes, give it a stir, to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Once the meat is tender, the sauce may be watery. If so, I take a tablespoon of cornstarch with about a tablespoon of water, mix into a slurry, then pour into the sauce, while simmering. It will make a nice thick sauce! And I served it with Jasmine Rice. Yum! Leftovers of this are GREAT!)