Chinese food, but not as you know it. This crispy beef is a bit tricky, but well worth the effort.
For the crispy chilli beef
- 300g/10½oz beef rump
- vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 3-4 tbsp cornflour, for coating
- pinch chilli flakes
- large pinch toasted sesame seeds
- viola flowers, available online (optional), to garnish
For the beef marinade
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 7g potato starch
- 1g baking powder
For the pickled carrot
- 50g/1¾oz carrot, cut into very fine strips
- 180ml/6fl oz Chinese red vinegar
- 4 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp chilli oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 8g pickled red chilli, chopped
For the five-spice salt
- 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- ½ tsp salt
For the sauce
- 250g/9oz sugar
- 5 tbsp Chinese red wine vinegar
- 5 tbsp malt vinegar
- 1 star anise
For the batter
- 250g/9oz plain flour
- 50g/1¾oz tapioca flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- sparkling mineral water, chilled
Put the beef in the freezer for around 1½ hours until it is about 70% frozen.
For the marinade, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl with 50ml/2fl oz water.
Using a sharp knife, cut the partially frozen beef into 7cmx5mm/2¾x⅛in batons. Add the beef batons to the marinade, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.
For the pickled carrot, place the carrot in a sterilized airtight container. Heat up all the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Pour over the carrot strips and leave to cool. Seal the container. (It will keep for several months if stored in a cool, dry place.)
For the Chinese five-spice salt, mix the powder and salt and combine thoroughly.
For the sauce, combine all the ingredients and 400ml/14fl oz water in a pan and cook until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of honey.
For the batter, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then whisk in enough sparkling water until you have a light batter
When the beef is ready, heat the vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180C. Alternatively, heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based frying pan until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it.
Remove the beef from the marinade, coat the beef in cornflour and plunge the batons individually into the batter before deep-frying until crispy (the fried batter coating should have miniature holes throughout instead of being a solid shell). Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the beef to the sauce, season with a pinch of chilli flakes, Chinese five-spice salt and sesame seeds. Top with some pickled carrots, garnish with viola flowers, if using, and serve immediately.