Heami Lee for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Miako Katoh.
This recipe for a simple dish of mala beef comes from Jason Wang of Xi’an Famous Foods in New York, but as Wang puts it, “You can mala anything.” Spicy chilies and tingly Sichuan peppercorns define mala, one of the many flavors of Sichuan cuisine, and though it can season beef, the same technique for a vivid, brilliant sauce can be applied to a big pile of sautéed mushrooms, or simmered tofu and sautéed greens. However you choose to make it, serve the dish over hot rice or simmered noodles and finish it with a little drizzle of Sichuan chile oil, if you’ve got it. —Tejal Rao
1 teaspoon red chili powder (preferably from Tianjin chilies)
1 tablespoon Sichuan chili crisp
Place the meat in a large pot and cover with cold water by about 2 inches; bring to a boil. Let boil for 3 minutes, then turn off the heat, drain the water and transfer the meat to a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut the meat into approximately 1-inch cubes.
In the same pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium. Add the onion, scallions, ginger, garlic, star anise and dried red chilies, and sauté for about 30 seconds. Reduce heat slightly, and stir in Pixian sauce, letting it cook until the red oil rises. Add the beef, cooking wine, soy sauce and 2 cups water.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce heat to low so the liquid holds at a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 30 minutes, until meat is tender and the sauce is reduced. If the pan starts to dry out, exposing the meat, add a splash of water as needed.
Once the meat is cooked, add the tomato, Sichuan peppercorn powder and chile powder, and stir to combine. Turn off the heat, and cover for about 5 minutes so the flavors can meld. Serve over warm rice or noodles, and finish with a drizzle of Sichuan chile crisp.