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Rule No. 68: Finish the Dish the Way You Start
Milk Street Bowtie Spicy Chinese Beef Skewers (Niu Rou Chuan)

Spicy Chinese Beef Skewers (Niu Rou Chuan)

Appears in July-August 2022

45 minutes

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Spicy Chinese Beef Skewers (Niu Rou Chuan)

Free

Street vendors in China sell sizzling skewers of meat hot off the grill, rich with cumin and chilies. Some of the heady spice mixture goes onto the beef just before cooking; the rest is sprinkled on at the end. To make lamb skewers instead of beef, called yang rou chuan, substitute boneless lamb shoulder or leg; make sure to slice the meat against the grain. Though these are typically enjoyed as a snack, if served with some steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables, the skewers make a satisfying dinner.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t trim the fat from the beef before cooking. The fat adds flavor and helps keep the meat succulent. If you're using a gas grill, make sure to give it at least 10 to 15 minutes to heat before cooking the skewers. This ensures the meat gets a nice surface char without overcooking the interior.

45 minutes

1½ pounds beef flat iron steak, sliced against the grain into ¼-inch-thick strips
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, plus more for grill grate
2½ tablespoons cumin seeds
2½ teaspoons fennel seeds
1½ teaspoons sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
chili oil, to serve (optional)
Ingredients
  • pounds beef flat iron steak, sliced against the grain into ¼-inch-thick strips

  • 1

    tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing wine

  • 1

    tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, plus more for grill grate

  • tablespoons cumin seeds

  • teaspoons fennel seeds

  • 2
  • Kosher salt

  • chili oil, to serve (optional)

Directions
  1. 01
    In a medium bowl, combine the beef, sherry, soy sauce and oil. Let stand at room temperature while preparing the spice mix and the grill.
  2. 02
    In a small skillet over medium-low, toast the cumin, fennel and Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and add the pepper flakes. Process until coarsely ground, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1¾ teaspoons salt. Measure out 1 tablespoon of the mix and set aside to use as garnish.
  3. 03
    Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct, high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals and let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute the coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.
  4. 04
    While the grill heats, thread the beef onto ten 8- to 10-inch metal skewers, evenly dividing the meat and pushing the pieces together. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture evenly over both sides of the meat, patting gently to adhere.
  5. 05
    Grill until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and grill until the second sides are lightly charred, another 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkling both sides of the skewers with the reserved spice mix, then drizzle with chili oil (if using).
  6. 06
    Oven-Cooking Method: Follow the recipe through making and portioning the spice mix. Heat broiler with a rack about 4 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then set a wire rack in the baking sheet. While the broiler heats, thread the beef onto ten 8- to 10-inch metal skewers, evenly dividing the meat. Sprinkle the remaining spice mix evenly over both sides of the meat, patting gently to adhere. Evenly space the skewers on the rack and broil until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip each skewer and grill until the second sides are well browned, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkling both sides of the skewers with the reserved spice mix, then drizzle with chili oil.
Tip: Don’t trim the fat from the beef before cooking. The fat adds flavor and helps keep the meat succulent. If you're using a gas grill, make sure to give it at least 10 to 15 minutes to heat before cooking the skewers. This ensures the meat gets a nice surface char without overcooking the interior.
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Reviews
David V.
July 30, 2022
I made this!
I made this recipe two times, first time the spice mixture was a bit too coarse and the second time much finer. I like the flavor of the much finer spice mixture because it was easier to chew on. Great flavors the addition of the chili oil perfect! This was a fun barbecued item. I had them all prepped took them to a friends house and barbecue them over there. They loved it. Keep up the good work

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Spicy Chinese Beef Skewers (Niu Rou Chuan)

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

45 minutes

Tip

Don’t trim the fat from the beef before cooking. The fat adds flavor and helps keep the meat succulent. If you're using a gas grill, make sure to give it at least 10 to 15 minutes to heat before cooking the skewers. This ensures the meat gets a nice surface char without overcooking the interior.

Ingredients
  • pounds beef flat iron steak, sliced against the grain into ¼-inch-thick strips

  • 1

    tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing wine

  • 1

    tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, plus more for grill grate

  • tablespoons cumin seeds

  • teaspoons fennel seeds

  • 2
  • Kosher salt

  • chili oil, to serve (optional)

Step 1 of 6

Marinate Beef

pounds beef flat iron steak, sliced against the grain into ¼-inch-thick strips
1
tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
1
tablespoon soy sauce
2
tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, sherry, soy sauce and oil. Let stand at room temperature while preparing the spice mix and the grill.

Step 2 of 6

Grind Spice Mix

tablespoons cumin seeds
teaspoons fennel seeds
teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
2
teaspoons red pepper flakes
Kosher salt

In a small skillet over medium-low, toast the cumin, fennel and Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and add the pepper flakes.


Process until coarsely ground, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1¾ teaspoons salt. Measure out 1 tablespoon of the mix and set aside to use as garnish.

Step 3 of 6

Prepare Grill

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct, high-heat cooking.


For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals and let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute the coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent.


For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.

Step 4 of 6

Assemble Skewers

grapeseed or other neutral oil for grill grate

While the grill heats, thread the beef onto ten 8- to 10-inch metal skewers, evenly dividing the meat and pushing the pieces together.


Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture evenly over both sides of the meat, patting gently to adhere.

Step 5 of 6

Grill Skewers

Chili oil, to serve

Grill until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and grill until the second sides are lightly charred, another 2 minutes.


Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkling both sides of the skewers with the reserved spice mix, then drizzle with chili oil (if using).

Step 6 of 6

Oven-Cooking Method

Oven-Cooking Method: Follow the recipe through making and portioning the spice mix. Heat broiler with a rack about 4 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then set a wire rack in the baking sheet.


While the broiler heats, thread the beef onto ten 8- to 10-inch metal skewers, evenly dividing the meat. Sprinkle the remaining spice mix evenly over both sides of the meat, patting gently to adhere.


Evenly space the skewers on the rack and broil until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip each skewer and grill until the second sides are well browned, another 2 to 3 minutes.


Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkling both sides of the skewers with the reserved spice mix, then drizzle with chili oil.

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