Szechuan peppercorns are a spice produced from the husks of seeds of two species of the prickly ash shrub. Szechuan peppercorns can be used whole or ground into powder. The spice is one of the five ingredients that comprise five-spice powder (the others are star anise, fennel, clove, and cinnamon), and it’s used in many savory Szechuan dishes. Check the peppercorns and discard any twigs, leaves, and any tiny black seeds in the package. Then heat the peppercorns in a frying pan over medium-low heat until they become fragrant. Remove them from the heat and grind them or crush them when cool. The roasted peppercorns can also be saved in an airtight jar to grind when needed in a recipe.
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon crushed Szechuan Peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup Szechuan sauce (store-bought or homemade- see recipe below)
2 cups shredded napa (Chinese) cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
2 scallions, sliced
Chinese noodles or rice for serving
Reconstitute mushrooms with boiling water to cover. Drain and slice.
Gently mix beef, onion, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, five-spice powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Shape the mixture into 15 meatballs (use about 2 tablespoons each to make 1½-inch meatballs).
Whisk broth and the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet or nonstick wok over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning once, until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring for 15 to 30 seconds. Add the reserved beef broth mixture, ginger. Szechuan sauce, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until the cabbage is just wilted, about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to a simmer, return the meatballs to the pan, cover and cook until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through 8 to 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with scallions over noodles or rice.
Keeps for 10 days in the refrigerator
1/2 teaspoon Szechuan Peppercorns (or substitute black peppercorns)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, brown sugar or sugar alternative
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced ( or use ginger paste)
1 tablespoon garlic chili paste (like sambal oelek)
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch, to thicken
Toast Szechuan peppercorns in a hot dry skillet over medium heat, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Crush.
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl or small jar and whisk until well combined.
Whisk in 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
Makes a little over ½ a cup.
1 pound top sirloin steak or flank steak, cut into very thin strips
1/4 cup soy sauce (divided)
1/3 cup Shaoxing wine (divided)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 green bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch squares (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch squares (about 1 cup)
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 scallions, whites only, finely minced
4 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
Kosher salt to taste
2-3 tablespoons Sriracha
Combine beef, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine in a bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature or up to 3 hours in the refrigerator.
Combine remaining soy sauce with cornstarch and stir with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining Shaoxing wine, chicken stock, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Set aside.
Combine peppers and onions in a bowl and set aside. Combine garlic, ginger, and scallions in a small bowl and set aside.
When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or a large deep skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half of the beef and cook without moving until well seared, about 1 minute. Continue cooking while stirring and tossing until lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon oil and half of the peppers and onions. Transfer to the bowl with the beef. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining peppers/onions.
Return pan to high heat and add the peppers/onions/beef and the garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring until incorporated about 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until thickened, about 45 seconds longer. If you like your Chinese recipes with spice add several tablespoons of Sriracha.
Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve with rice