This dish comes together with the help of a few Chinese pantry staples: sweet chinkiang vinegar, tingly sichuan peppercorns, umami-forward garlic black bean sauce, and shaoxing wine. If you don’t already keep these ingredients in stock, head to your local asian market to pick them up. They all last for awhile in the pantry and fridge, and you’ll find yourself reaching for them over and over. My absolute favorite ingredient is the humble sichuan peppercorn. It adds wonderful depth to an already flavor packed dish.
The Humble Sichuan Peppercorn
I think sichuan peppercorns are pure magic. There’s nothing quite like them out there: intensely aromatic with a subtle lip numbing heat. Traditionally, these peppercorns are paired with spicy chili peppers with the belief that the numbing effect helps diners “handle” the heat better. This numbing affect allegedly helps you to fully enjoy the fruity flavors of the intense chilies. In this recipe, we turn peppercorns into a tingly and subtly spicy oil that perfect contrasts the umami flavors of the grilled steak.
Sourcing ingredients and substitutions
You can find all of these ingredients at your local asian market. I highly recommend going the distance to purchase these items, as they open the door to lots of traditional Chinese cooking. You can even likely find sichuan peppercorns and garlic black bean sauce at your regular grocery store. For the black bean garlic sauce, look for the Lee Kum Kee brand. If you can’t find chinkiang vinegar, you can substitute regular black vinegar, brown rice vinegar, or even a mixture of 1 tbsp soy sauce to 3 tbsp rice vinegar and a pinch of sugar. For shaoxing wine, you can substitute sake or even mirin (though mirin is sweeter, so the flavor will be different).
Vinegary Black Bean Steak with Sichuan Peppercorn OilCourse: MainCuisine: ChineseDifficulty: Easy
In this recipe, we turn sichuan peppercorns into a tingly and subtly spicy oil which perfect contrasts the salty umami flavors of the grilled steak.
- For the steak
1 tbsp sichuan peppercorns
2.5 tbsp black bean garlic sauce (looks for Lee Kum Kee Brand)
¼ cup chinkiang vinegar or black vinegar
¼ cup shaoxing wine (sake or mirin would also work well in a pinch)
2 inches of ginger, smashed
1b pod star anise
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 llb flank steak
Scallions, cilantro, and lime wedges for garnish
- For the sichuan peppercorn oil
2 tbsp sichuan peppercorns
1.5 tbsp hot chili flakes
⅓ cup canola oil
- First, make the marinade
- Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add the sichuan peppercorns. Stir regularly for about one minute until they become very aromatic.
- Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the garlic black bean sauce. Stir consistently over medium heat for about 1 minute.
- Add the vinegar, wine, ginger, and star anise and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Refrigerate until cool.
- Next, make the peppercorn oil
- Clean the saucepan and wipe dry. Heat the pan again over medium heat and add the peppercorns. Again, heat and stir until very fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pot.
- Using a pestle or the bottom of a bottle, gently smash some of the peppercorns. You don’t need to completely smash them, just enough to grind a few.
- Transfer the peppercorns to a heat proof bowl or jar and and the chili flakes to the bowl with peppercorns.
- Heat the canola oil until it just starts to pop gently. Remove from heat and let stand for about 30 seconds. Pour the hot oil over the chili flakes and peppercorns. Add a solid pinch of salt and set aside.
- For this recipe, we use very little oil so that the flavors will infuse quickly. For long term storage, add another ⅓ cup warm oil and let sit for at least a day. The chili oil will keep well in your refrigerator for at least a month.
- Finally, marinade and grill the steak
- When the marinade is cool, place the steak in a bowl and pour over the marinade along with 1 tbsp of sesame oil. Mix with your hands to ensure the steak is fully coated. Let marinade for at least 1 hour.
- After an hour, preheat the grill.
- Wipe off any large chunks from the steak (peppercorns, ginger, or star anise) and grill over high heat until medium rare, about 3-4 minutes per side. For exact temperature, use a meat thermometer.
- Let rest for 4 minutes, then slice into strips. Top with a generous drizzle of chili oil and garnish with fresh herbs and lime wedges.
- There should be enough broth for about 3 cod filets, but you can certainly keep the same recipe for just two filets.
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