1 head of celery (about 1 pond)
4 scallions, white and green parts
small handful of dried chilies (8-10)
1 lb. lean beef (flank steak)
1 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine or medium dry sherry
1/3 cup peanut oil
2 tsp. Sichuan pepper
3 tbsp. chili bean paste
3 cups chicken stock
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
4 tbsp. potato flour (mixed with 4 tbsp. cold water) or 6 tbsp. corn starch (mixed w/ 6 tbsp. cold water)
1.) Clean and remove fibrous outer edge of celery stalks. Chop each stalk into 3 or 4 sections, then slice these lengthwise into 1/2-inch sticks. Gently crush the scallions and chop them into 3 sections to match the celery. Snip the chilies in half. Remove any fat from the beef and cut it, against the grain, into thin slices about 1 x 2 inches. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and Shaoxing rice wine, mix well, and leave to marinate while yopu prepare everything else.
2.) Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a wok until hot but not yet smoking. Add the chilies and Sichaun pepper and stir-fry until fragrant and browned. Then quickly slide the spices out into a bowl and reserve oil in wok. When the spices have cooled down, finely chop on cutting board and set aside to use later.
3.) Return the wok to the stovetop and heat over high flame. When smoking add the vegetables and stir fry for 1-2 minutes, adding 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt to taste. Cook until hot but still crunchy. Place onto serving bowl.
4.) Heat another 3 tbsp. oil in wok over high flame until smoking. Turn heat down to medium , add chili bean paste, and stir fry for about 30 seconds until oil is red and fragrant. Add stock and dark soy sauce, season with salt to taste and return to a boil over high flame. Then add potato and corn starch mixture to beef and stir well to coat all pieces. When the sauce is boiling vigorously, drop in beef slices. Use a pair of chopsticks to gently separate the slices. Simmer for a minute or two until the beef is cooked. Spoon beef onto vegetables and pour over sauce.
5.) Swiftly rinse out wok and dry well. Heat another 3-4 tbsp. oil in wok until smoking. Sprinkle the chopped chilies and Sichuan pepper over the beef dish and then pour over the smoking oil. If you are quick, the dish will still be sizzling when you bring it to the table.
Serves 2 as a main dish; 4 with rice and two to three other dishes.
Adapted from Land Of Plenty: Authentic Sichuan Recipes by Fuchsia Dunlop