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Sichuan Red-Braised Beef

4 to 6 Servings

3 hours 45 minutes active

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Fuchsia Dunlop taught us to make spicy Sichuan red-braised beef during a visit to her home in London. She explained that red-braising is a common Chinese cooking technique, but in the Sichuan kitchen, instead of soy, toban djan is the ingredient that lends both flavor and color. Dunlop demonstrated her recipe for hongshao niurou from her book “The Food of Sichuan”; this adaptation is our simplified version. Toban djan, a fermented paste made with salted chilies and beans and sometimes other seasonings, supplies deep savoriness and loads of umami. Look for it in jars in the international aisle of supermarkets or in Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find it, ¼ cup red miso mixed with 3 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce is a decent substitute. If you’ll be shopping at an Asian market, also look for black cardamom pods. With smoky notes and hints of menthol, the spice has a flavor that’s markedly different from more widely available green cardamom and white cardamom, so do not substitute with these varieties. If black cardamom is not an option, simply omit it—the stew will still be delicious. Serve with steamed rice or, Dunlop says, even mashed potatoes.

4 to 6



Don’t forget to uncover the pot after 1½ hours of oven-braising. Simmering without the lid toward the end of cooking allows the braising liquid to reduce, resulting in a richer consistency and concentration. Uncovered cooking also encourages surface browning, for greater depth and complexity of flavor.

3 hours

45 minutes active


  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • cup chili-bean sauce (toban djan; see headnote), plus more if needed


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Hugh D.
April 8, 2024
Excellent dish
Bold and assertive flavor; well worth searching out the Toban Djan.
Mark S.
March 6, 2024
Was Great!
Will Do it again