There are all different kinds of genuine Chinese food. This is a pretty classic recipe, first introduced to me by my daughter-in-love, Rebecca, who is from Anhui Province. But some of my Guangdong friends make it as well. It is a lovely flavorful dish – one of the few Chinese foods I make well!
3 pounds short rib pieces that can be eaten with chopsticks OR 3 pounds of chicken wing pieces OR 3 pounds of beef stew meat in chunks
1 inch of ginger root sliced
1 small bunch green onion (optional) minced
2/3 cup of cooking sherry
1/2 cup of dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon of sugar
1 large piece of cinnamon stick broken into pieces
3 – 4 star anise
1-3 dried Chinese red hot peppers (depending on your personal tastes)(Optional)
1-2 bay leaves (Optional)
If you’re using ribs, wash well so that you won’t get bone chips in your dish! Add a few Tablespoons of oil to your wok along with your sliced ginger root and green onion if you are using it (I am not). Saute in wok until the oil is aromatic.
Add ribs or other meat.
Then add dark soy sauce. If all you have is light soy sauce, you may need more of it and you may also need to salt the ribs a bit. But don’t salt the meat if you have dark soy sauce. Give them a little toss to mix the sauce in there well!
Toss in your spices. I didn’t add as much spice as I prefer to this batch as I had some folks at the table who prefer milder food. My personal preference is for two of the hot peppers. If you break them in half, they permeate the dish nicely giving it a little tang but not searing your mouth. Adapt to taste. These little peppers can really give you a zing but they vary from batch to batch. It’s always a good idea to add them slowly unless you don’t care if you get it super spicy!
For ribs, simmer about an hour; for chicken wings (cut in half- remember that you want to eat this with chopsticks…), half an hour is probably enough; for beef stew meat, you might need an hour and a half depending on the size pieces and the toughness of the meat. Chinese beef is usually from water buffaloes and is tough and stringy, so we probably simmer beef for closer to two hours. Every now and then, give it a little taste to see if you need to adjust flavorings. Soy sauce varies greatly in saltiness so you may need to add more of it or salt. You may also decide to toss in more star anise or cinnamon. This is not a science- it is highly subjective based on personal tastes! I prefer chicken wings cooked this way to the other meats, but at this meal we were also serving coca cola chicken wings so made ribs for variety.
You can see that during cooking I have continued adding a bit of water because we enjoy having extra sauce to put on our rice. If you prefer your sauce thicker, simply mix cornstarch with some of the broth, then stir it into the juices and stir until thickened. We prefer the sauce thinner so that it incorporates with our rice more easily.
This is a classic blend of Chinese flavors and smells wonderful as it cooks! It is usually redder, but that day I only had light soy sauce so mine is lighter. Some of my friends take pieces of pork that are larger- perhaps 5 inches x 2 inches x 2 inches- and simmer them slowly for several hours in a pot until they are tender enough to be sliced without falling apart. At the end of the cooking time, they might peel a few boiled eggs and let them simmer in the juices for a while. They serve these two things together on a platter, cutting the pork into thin slices and the eggs into quarters. Sometimes they even toss some fennel seeds into the mix with the other spices! So you see, this is a versatile and adaptable recipe!
Soon I’ll post a “recipe” for how I make a Chinese green vegetable that makes a nice accompaniment to this dish.
But for now, give this a try! Enjoy!