Oriental Beef – Nearly there, nearly…

Stir fried beef with chinese spice and chilli (1 of 10)

…but, not quite. No, I thought I had done all I needed to do but, I have a bit to learn just yet.  Let me give you a little back story. I had been glued to the computer for a long morning’s work. When I looked up, it was nearly 2:00 PM and I had a growing headache. Hunger had come, been ignored and gone away. I decided that a walk around the Sandyford business district was needed to clear my head. 

As I wandered past the various cafes and eateries in the district, the headache slowly departed and the hunger quickly returned. I decided that my morning’s work had earned me a quiet, late lunch in my favourite Oriental restaurant, the China Sichuan, run expertly by my friend and all around good guy, Kevin Hui. I was reviewing the menu and trying to choose when Kevin hovered into position at my table, took my menu and whispered something to the waiter. A few minutes later, a dish of Oriental Beef arrived.

It was totally delicious and carried a complex and subtle punch of flavours. Later, Kevin explained that he was experimenting with some new dishes and was thinking of adding this to the menu. I decided that I needed to add it to the menu in our household. I tried to put the ingredients list together in my mind. So, here’s my take (for 4 people) on Oriental Beef.


  • 400 grammes of prime beef (I used Cap of the Ribeye)
  • 2 teaspoons of 5 spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 hot chilis
  • 3 onions
  • 150 grammes of baby spinach leaves

Firstly, dry fry the cumin and Sichuan peppercorns until aromatic and delicious.

I have dozens of shots of cumin frying. I shoot it each time.

I have dozens of shots of cumin frying. I shoot it each time.

Grind the peppercorns and cumin in a mortar.

The flavour release is fantastic. Well worth doing.

The flavour release is fantastic. Well worth doing.

Slice the meat, across the grain, into bite sized pieces.

Don't use cheap meat. You will end up with a poor dish.

Don’t use cheap meat. You will end up with a poor dish.

Slice the onions into pieces, about the same size as the beef. Slice the chilis. Wash the spinach. Add a little oil to a wok. Fry the onions until nearly soft. Remove and reserve. Then add the beef a few pieces at a time and stir fry. Stir like a mad thing as the beef will over-cook if you don’t.

We want the spices to stick to the beef.

We want the spices to stick to the beef.

Add the spices as the beef cooks. Keep stirring. When the beef is nearly cooked, add the chilis. Keep stirring.

It's not called stir frying for nothing. Stir, stir, stir...

It’s not called stir frying for nothing. Stir, stir, stir…

Just before serving, add back the onions and then the spinach. Keep stirring until the Spinach begins to wilt.

The spinach takes almost no cooking. Don't over-cook it.

The spinach takes almost no cooking. Don’t over-cook it.

Turn off the heat and serve the beef on boiled rice, decorated with a nice little bit of coriander (cilantro).

This was about as good as I could do. Excellent. but good enough?

This was about as good as I could do. Excellent. but good enough?

This was delicious. Truly delicious. However, I didn’t manage to get the level of complexity and depth of the original. Kevin might have specified six spice powder (yes, there is such a thing). He might have used additional spices. His master chefs may have employed their years of experience and talent in a way that this amateur can not. Who knows? The restaurant is entitled to its secrets. However, if you manage to make this and it tastes as nice as my version did, you will be very happy. I will try it again, and modify it again, and again, until I get it right….


Written by
Latest comments
  • This is a highly aromatic dish, Connor. Unusual spice mix, 7 spice powder 😉. If it works, why not?

  • This looks delicious Conor. I have to ask though…. was the smiley face on the cutting board intentional? 😉

  • Thrilled to see you trying more than a few SE Asian recipes and I’ll make yours soonest step by step! Thru’ the years Szechwan has become my favourite ‘fast food’. Flavour, ease, health, excitement galore! Many ways from pan to plate 🙂 !! A wee bit of sugar is a necessity, try cayenne [not a S. spice actually!] and hoisin which most cooks use. Personally I do go with the usual carrot and celery [mirepoix around the world 🙂 !] also . . . But yours is an absolutely fascinating ‘take’ which will soon be on this table 🙂 !!

  • Looks absolutely delicious. Something i have to try. Thank you for your blog.

  • There’s only one solution, Conor. You’ll have to eat that dish in Kevin’s restaurant every single day in order to investigate it more thoroughly. Alternatively, if you want me to send the boys around for the recipe, that can be arranged.

  • Lovely Asian dish Conor! Now don’t go getting your blood sugar low that way by not eating until well after noon, that is most likely what gave you the headache. I’m making my first sous vide chicken breast tonight! I’m trying a chicken piccata… it won’t be on the blog because I have no clue how it will turn out plus taking photos is hard with one hand. I actually managed to get two thin slices from a lemon with one hand, but had to call in the troops to slice my real thick slice in half. I do hope you post your progress with this beef dish, it sounds heavenly. xo

  • You had me at 5 spice mix. It’s one of my favorites. The dish looks simply delicious! 🙂

    p.s. the Like button again doesn’t work here, but I do like it. A lot.

  • My kind of dish, Conor – in fact something very similar but with Pork and Spinach came onto our Lunch table today 🙂
    Sorry to hear you have not been well. But, allowing your blood sugar to drop so low is surely not a good thing!? 🙂 Anyhow – wish you speedy full recovery.

  • Gorgeous! I would welcome a big plate of this right now. If you fancy delivering that’d be great.

  • The way you arranged the things on your chopping board looked like a smiley face. Susan.😊

  • looks great – not clear at what point the onions go in? The text doesn’t refer to them at all and they just appear in the pictures but later than perhaps expected?

  • This looks great, Conor. Cap of ribeye is one of the most flavorful and tender cuts of beef. Wish I could buy it. Perhaps the dish would benefit from marinating the beef with the spices?

  • I tried this last week. We found it very good but must say there is something not quite right about the spice mix, to my tongue. Great smell from the five spice and good heat overall without blowing your mouth out. Marinate the beef first with a standard marinade and the five spices rather than adding it in while frying? I dunno but thank you for the thought put into this one.

Join the conversation, you know you want to....

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: