Every foodie who enjoys spicy food is familiar with the Chinese spicy and delicious meals.
The fact that Chinese cuisine is readily accessible in all the major cities of the world means it is appealing.
Today, we look at the 2 common dishes Hunan beef and Szechuan beef.
Note that, Chinese cuisine is categorized into 8 styles with Hunan and Szechuan being 2 of the 8 styles. These oriental gastronomy meals aren’t found everywhere because of the ingredients used to make them and the method of cooking.
What Is Hunan Beef?
Like earlier stated, Hunan beef comes from one of the 8 great delicacies of China. Hunan cuisine originated from Xiang region albeit, it features cuisines from 3 regions of China: Dongting lake, Xiang river region and western Hunan province.
A common thing about these regions is that they have a massive agricultural output which makes the ingredients used when making Hunan beef vary. This further means that there are 3 styles of preparing Hunan beef. Although, the Hunan cuisine uses a lot of veggies.
Generally, the dish features a hot, spicy, aromatic and bold flavor. The dish is common for being dry or super-hot because it uses pure chili pepper and garlic. Don’t confuse this with the famous Hunan chicken. Notice that the Hunan beef is a blend of both spicy and sour tastes.
Notice that the dish is named after the famous Hunan province.
What Is Szechuan beef?
The Szechuan beef is a dish that originated from the Szechuan province. Szechuan beef which is from Szechuan region features other styles of cooking which include Chongqing, Zigong, Chengdu and Buddhist vegetarian style.
The beef features a blend of the pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, sour, aromatic and salty flavors. Generally, any Sichuan cuisine is famous for its bold flavors. The Szechuan chilis are specifically responsible for the strong flavors.
Sichuan beef like Hunan beef is made using the lots of chili but in this case, we see the use of more Sichuan peppercorn, chili peppers and garlic. Its taste is a mixture of sweet and spicy with a tingly sensation. The tingly numbing sensation is a major characteristic
The major difference between these two dishes is that Szechuan beef offers a sweet and tingly sensation while Hunan beef is hot and spicy. It’s easy to confuse the two when you first see them but notice the slight difference in the texture, composition and the spices used.
Another major difference is their places of origin. The two dishes represent two regions Szechuan and Hunan provinces.
The Chinese traditional cuisine is categorized into 8 different provinces namely: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Jiangsu, Hunan, Szechuan, Shandong and Zhejiang. All the 8 styles feature a distinct style of cooking and dishes. Nevertheless, the spicy dishes are either from Hunan or Szechuan.
It’s also referred to as Xiang and originally comes from an area around Xiang river. As earlier stated the dish uses a lot of chilis, shallots and garlic. This combination is important to the people of that region as it represents a formula for their flavoring class.
Hunan cuisine is generally prepped using fresh ingredients. This owes to the fact that the province is an agriculturally rich land due to its perfect weather. The Hunan beef is not only delicious but also easy to cook.
This is also referred to as Sichuan or Szechwan beef. The dish is native to Sichuan province and it uses a lot of chilis, Sichuan peppercorn and garlic as earlier stated. The province is famous for its richly flavored and unique dishes. Be informed that Szechuan beef is widely served across the globe.
The dish is famous for its numbing sensation that is a product of the combination of the Szechuan peppercorn and chilis. Note that, the Szechuan beef is a mixture of many tastes while Hunan beef is only a hot and spicy taste.
THE HUNAN BEEF VS SZECHUAN BEEF INGREDIENTS AND PREPARATION
As mentioned previously the common ingredients used to make Hunan are a lot of chilis, shallots and garlic. Different people may add different ingredients at one point or another but there are common ones that across the whole Chinese cuisine.
Typically they include shredded ginger, soy sauce, scallions, wine, vinegar, sugar anise pepper, beef, cumin, canola oil, corn-starch and sesame seeds. Whenever different people from different regions are prepping Hunan beef you may notice some few alterations in the ingredients used.
This is because people are experimenting to further enhance the flavors.
We had mentioned that Szechuan beef uses a mix of Szechuan peppercorn, garlic and chili but we wouldn’t say that those are the only ingredients used because there’s a list of more ingredients. This rich stir-fry dish is a mix of many other ingredients.
The ingredients normally include beef, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, peanut, chili oil, chili paste, crushed chili soy sauce, wine, corn-starch, peanut, egg whites, ginger, Worchester sauce, sesame paste, onions and more. Different people use different ingredients.
For the chilis in the case of Hunan are often fresh but the Szechuan chilis are processed.
Hunan features several veggies that give it a crunchy taste but Szechuan has fewer veggies and more nuts that also make it crunchy.
Hunan has a dark brown sauce while Szechuan has a red sauce. These sauces determine the color of the dishes.
Hunan is best described as pure hotness since it has more chilis and garlic then Szechuan is hot and sweet or sour. Its hotness is also not the same as the one found in Hunan. It has a tingly numbing sensation.
THE PREPARATION METHOD
Hunan uses cured beef and the above ingredients in their fresh forms. Now, it’s notable that the ingredients used in the preparation of Hunan differ at different seasons of the year. Nevertheless, the meal is mostly prepared by frying, braising, pot roasting, marinating, stewing and smoking.
Szechuan beef, on the other hand, tends to make use of the same ingredients regardless of the seasons of the year. It mostly relies on pickled and salted ingredients. The style of cooking used when making Szechuan is steaming, stir-frying and braising.
How to make the Szechuan beef
Its very easy to make Szechuan beef and it consumes less time, to say the least.
To begin, slice the beef as thinly as possible.
- Seclude 15 minutes for marination. Some of the ingredients you use for the marination include chili paste, chili oil, hot mustard and red pepper flakes. Remember, you are aiming at making your dish hot but delicious so add some chili paste.
- Don’t forget the wine which will accentuate the taste of chilis and peppercorn. The wine sugar or soy sauce helps to brown the meal. It’s the intention of the cook to make sure that you feel every heat.
- Meanwhile, combine your veggies which include celery, carrots and green onions. Place them in a skillet and cook for about 4 minutes.
- Make your Szechuan sauce which is a mix of all the spices and veggies.
- Add the meat to the skillet together with the ginger and stir-fry for a few minutes then add the sauce. Looks so nice and rich in color but the meat is tender too.
Preparing Hunan beef
- Cut your beef into thin slices like the ones you use when making Szechuan beef. For those who don’t know how to slice the beef, freeze the beef first for about 15 minutes to make cutting easy.
- Transfer your beef cuts to a large bowl, add your marinades which may include the cooking wine, soy sauce, starch, salt and pepper then mix up. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Heat the wok and place oil in it to fry the beef cuts for about 30 seconds. Place the fried beef in a clean bowl and take the wok with its remaining oil and use it to fry the ginger, garlic, and the chilis notice the unique fragrance. Add the celery, spinach and any other veggies you may have.
- Bring back the beef to the mixture then add your soy sauce to fry shortly. Then serve with your steaming hot rice.
THE COOKING TIPS
- When it comes to the beef, you must choose the best quality. For example, don’t take the fillet mignon rather choose a flank, skirt steak or sirloin because they work best for stir-frying.
- You ought to slice the beef into very thin slices and for this to work, consider freezing the beef first.
- Sometimes finding the supplies is normally tricky but if you can visit a large Asian store, you will find all the ingredients you need. This includes rice wine and hoisin sauce.
- Consider using only a wok for the stir-fries. Because its design lets the high heat cook the beef.
- The preparation of Szechuan is convenient because it takes only 30 minutes dish. The time is shorter when you have prepped the required ingredients ahead of time.
- Some places will give you the pre-cut beef for your stir-fries.
You can serve over white or brown rice but you could also serve it over the noodle.
- Substituting the beef for pork will work just fine. Although you may need to buy the tenderloin part or butt of the pork. Slice them as thinly as possible because you must stir-fry.
- To get a rich tasting beef, focus on its marination.
- Hunan beef is tender and velvety in taste.
- The marination process should take about 10 – 20 minutes.
- Learn to set everything ready before the cooking begins because the moment you begin to cook, it will move fast.
- Before you begin to marinate the meat, ensure you pat dry it.
- You expect some greasy splatters with this cooking method but make use of the wok and splatter guard.
- When stir-frying your meal always wear protective gear.
- Cooking the Hunan beef shouldn’t consume a lot of times since it’s also a stir-fry. It takes not more than 30 minutes.
- When using ginger make sure you don’t expose the remainder because that will spoil them sooner. Consider using a high heat level for this meal.
- Use only a wok for this cooking. Since it has a large surface area and can stand high heat.
The ingredients to use include:
- Use flank steaks for stir-fries.
- Canola oil is the most appropriate for the process although if you have peanut oil that works.
- You will need the Shaoxing wine for the process. Buy it on Amazon if you can’t get it elsewhere.
- For the perfect color, use the red chili sauce and never forget cumin to add flavor to the dish.
- Hunan Beef
Since the Hunan beef is marinated before the cooking process begins, it becomes tender and full of spices. The ingredients that you use gives the beef some unique flavor. Nevertheless, if you find it too spicy you can adjust the tastes by altering the flavors a little bit.
- Szechuan Beef
Like Hunan beef above, the beef is a mix of flavors from the ingredients you use to marinate it. It’s a spicy dish that has a numbing sensation. But, it’s popularly known as the complicated dish.
There is no clear-cut information on this because it differs depending on the ingredients you use. Consider reading the information on the package of your ingredients. Although both dishes are tasty and rich you will consume a lot of calories and carbohydrates.
Since you probably know that while Chinese restaurants have delicious meals, its not the place where you source low carb dishes. I say this because rice, noodles, and other ingredients that make the dishes are a minefield for carbohydrates.
If you are concerned about the nutrients, avoid corn-starch because it has a lot of carbs and yet the beef is already thick without it. Some people use arrowroot powder for substitution because it’s gluten-free and has low carbs.
Consider using the wok to make the stir-fries. The Chinese know that this is your best way to make the high-protein, low carb meal. You may consider serving the dishes without rice or noodles.
Though if you are like me who wants the full nutrients and flavors but are concerned about the nutrition, consider the following alternatives.
Buy the broccoli rice in your shops or make it yourself. You can stick a few heads of rice on your food processor to cut them to the size of rice grains. This assures you of the presence of only about 6 grams of carbs which is low compared to the normal 46 grams of carbs in the rice.
This features the same concept as the broccoli rice and it will give you between 5-6 grams of carbs. For more nutrients consider mixing the two together.
Miracle rice and noodles
From its name, it’s a miracle kind of noodles. The noodles contain no calories and few to no carbs. The idea is to create an illusion that you are eating noodles because these ones contain no nutrients.
The miracle noodles are traditional and were used as dietary fibers. Nevertheless, its feared that the flour used to make it may cause diabetes.
Like the cauliflower and broccoli rice, these spiralized veggies have taken the carbs meals to the next level. It’s easy to think of it as the squash, zucchini, beets or sweet potatoes in the form of noodles. It’s made using veggies only.
THE HUNAN BEEF AND SZECHUAN BEEF IN THE US
We can’t talk about the two dishes without understanding how they are consumed in the US. This is because they are just as popular as they are in China. Although they are different from the kind served in China because of the ingredients used and method of cooking involved.
The Chinese love pork and while they too use beef and fish to make Hunan beef, the US uses only beef for this. Additionally, the Chinese restaurants in China serve vegetarian options because the vegetarian tofu dishes are commonly used in China. But, the US option has its standard as either beef or chicken.
In China, the Szechuan beef uses either the beef, pork or rabbit. Rabbit is popularly used in Szechuan province when prepping their authentic cuisines. This isn’t popular in the US and so the meat used is either beef, pork or chicken.
Now, you may have noticed that when making Hunan beef the Chinese also use fish because they have access to fish but the Szechuan cuisine doesn’t use fish. This might be a result of the province being landlocked.
The Szechuan beef in the US is milder than the one served in China.
You should see a notable difference by now. It’s easy to think that the Hunan beef is a hotter version of Szechuan beef. But this is not true because there’s a difference in taste, color and fragrance.
They are similar in some ways but the distinction is also clear. One thing is sure that you can’t say which one is the best because it all depends on what texture, flavors and tastes you are after in a meal.
The Hunan beef cooking is elaborate and it appears oilier than Szechuan beef. On the other hand, Szechuan beef cooking is standard, sweet and spicy with less oil.