Gan Guo

Gan Guo

Dig into the sizzling red chillies of this signature dish
from central China to get to the main attraction – beef,
cooked gan guo or ‘dry wok’ until caramelised and crisp.

Thousands of years ago, the culinary tradition known as Xiang arose in response to the hot and humid climates of China's central region. To help sweat it out, fiery Xiang dishes rely on liberal amounts of chilli and garlic cooked in lashings of oil. Though simple, gan guo requires mastery to ensure everything is cooked at just the right times and temperatures to bring out flavours.

You’ll need
1 tbs Shaoxing wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbs cornflour
Pinch of salt
1 tbs water

Gan guo
340g (12oz) beef
5 tbs peanut oil
1 cup Chinese celery, very
finely sliced
6 dried bird’s-eye chillies,
coarsely chopped
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbs garlic, peeled and finely
1 tsp sesame oil
2 spring onions (scallions),
very finely sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Method
1 In a bowl, combine the wine, soy sauces, cornflour, salt and water to make the marinade.
2 Slice the beef across the grain into thin slices, then toss in the marinade.
3 Heat a wok over a high flame until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two of contact. Add 1 tbs of oil, then the celery, chillies, chilli flakes and cumin and stir-fry briefly until fragrant. Transfer the celery to a plate.
4 Add the remaining oil and heat until hot. Drain any excess marinade then add the meat.
5 Cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute, letting the beef begin to sear. Then stir-fry for 1 minute, until the beef starts to release its juices andpan is sizzling as the liquid evaporates.
6 Reduce the heat to medium and continue stir-frying for a few minutes until the beef is well browned and the wok is almost dry.
7 Swirl the soy sauce into the wok and stir-fry for a few seconds until well combined.
8 Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds until fragrant.
9 Add the celery again and stir-fry until warmed through and combined.
10 Add the sesame oil and spring onions, then salt and pepper to taste.
11 Remove immediately from the heat and serve.

Tasting notes
For a full gan guo experience you will need one extra ingredient: an unbearably hot day. You’ll already be sweating when you perch on your stool at a street stall, ready to dig in. Wait until the sizzling plate quiets, then take a bite. You’ll be bowled over by the intensely savoury, sweet and spicy flavours of the beef, the crunch of celery, and the lingering kick of chilli. This is the magic of cooking over fast, high heat; dry-wok cooking drives out the moisture from ingredients without burning them, lending a uniquely crisp and chewy texture. And as the sweat drips down your face and your eyes water, you’ll have forgotten all about the scorching weather.

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