Beef Fried Mint: Stir-fried beef with mint is one of my personal favorite dishes, and you can find it at Yunnan restaurants all around China, from Beijing to Shenzhen – there’s just something about fresh mint that seems to go really well with ground beef and chilis.
But. Interestingly, while this dish is practically synonymous with Yunnan food over here in coastal.
China, in the mountains of Yunnan itself, it’s not really that much of a thing.
You see, Yunnan restaurants outside of Yunnan have an herb problem. The issue?
Well.. that pocket of China ends up making pretty liberal use of these sorts of fresh herbs that you might actually associate less with Chinese food and a bit more with Southeast Asia: sawtooth coriander, laksa leaf, Thai basil.
And while in big cities you can find them around at wholesale restaurant-supply markets here or there, they’re never cheap, and, you know, restaurants gotta pay rent.
So against that backdrop, enter the aggressively herbaceous classic Yunnan dish, Dai flavor fried beef. As the name suggests, it’s
a Dai people’s dish that features – you guessed it – sawtooth coriander, laksa leaf, and Thai basil.
So for a small restaurant potentially thousands of clicks away from Yunnan, that can be a bit of an ask.
So, they do what any one of us would do in their position, and substitute.
And the sub of choice, mint? Honestly?
I love it. So this week, we will show you the true blue Dai Yunnan dish with all the herbs included, of course, but we also wanted to show you this version that uses just mint.
Because of this guy?
Not only has the benefit of being coastal-Chinese supermarket friendly but with another sub or two, western-supermarket friendly as well.
So. Right, herbs. This dish uses a lot of herbs, one part herb to two parts beef by weight.
It’s gonna feel like a lot, just trust –after picking and prepping, we’ll be using 40 grams each of sawtooth coriander and juice Chinese chives, both chopped into one-centimeter sections… together with the same amount of laksa leaf and Thai basil, both picked.
Then, for the mint route? Just swap all of those all with 160 grams of fresh mint, and that’s pretty much it.
Just pick it, and set it aside.
Second flavor component – spices.
A spice is a combination that you see again and again in Yunnan the cuisine is this mix of star anise and Chinese black cardamom, both toasted for a quick five minutes, the cardamom de-seeded, and both ground into powders – these will season the stir fry.
That said, I do know that a lot of people in the west seem to struggle to find this Chinese black cardamom, so taking some sub-related inspiration here for this specific dish we felt that swapping in the solid grating of nutmeg also did the job. Not a universal sub, but it’ll hit the same notes for this stir fry.
Then finally? let’s talk beef.
Now. We’re gonna be mincing 320 grams of chuck here, and like we pretty much always do on this channel we’ll be doing so by hand.
Now, I know. Whenever we call for a hand mince, we’re pretty much immediately greeted with a chorus of commenters saying that we are obnoxious, and they are not going to do that. Which, like, fair enough – in the kitchen, laziness can definitely be a virtue, and if the only way you’ll actually make this recipe is using supermarket ground beef, go ahead and use supermarket ground beef.
But at the very least, let me make my hand mincing case.
So. In Guangdong, our supermarkets don’t really carry ground beef, so forgive a quick illustration with pork. the problem with stir-frying this stuff direct is that the fat is too finely ground.
When you fry it, those smears of ground fat will quickly render off, leaving you with a dryer mince sitting in a bunch of rendered grease.
On the flip side, a hand mince has much larger chunks of fat which don’t render off nearly as aggressively.
Further, the pounding motion of the cleavers also helps develop this sausage-like springiness in the lean also leading to a
superior meat texture in your final stir fry.
But again, if you don’t feel like walking that mile, I do get it. Not mandatory.
But I do promise that it does make a tangible difference at least.
Either way, now just marinate your beef with a half teaspoon salt, a half teaspoon cornstarch, one teaspoon soy sauce, half teaspoon dark soy sauce, and just skip this if you don’t have any, and a quarter teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn powder.
Give that a thorough mix – really get in there – then coat with about a half tablespoon of oil.
And now, we can fry.
Ok, herbaceous version up first, even though the process is basically the same.
First longyau – get your wok piping hot, shut off the heat, add in the oil – here about two tablespoons – and give it a swirl to get a nice nonstick surface.
Heat on high now, toss in your marinated beef and break it up a bit. Just fry that until cooked through, about two minutes, and if using a hand mince you might need to add in another tablespoon of oil.
Then just swap your flame to low, and go in with two cloves of minced garlic together with four sliced heaven-facing chilis.
If abroad I imagine that you’ll likely have to swap those chilis for some Thai bird’s eye, which would also work great.
Then after a quick fry, up the flame to high, mix that all together, and swirl a teaspoon of soy sauce over your spatula and around the sides of the wok.
Toss in your seasoning, which I’ll list on the bottom of the screen, and after another quick mix hit it with a quarter cup of water and cover.
Let that bubble away for about a minute to let the beef absorb some of that moisture, then uncover and toss in all your herbs.
Immediately shut off the heat, give it another good mix, and out.
I do know this looks a little crazy, the herbs will continue to wilt.
Mint version now. Again, basically the same.
To review, longyau with a couple of tablespoons of oil, fry the beef, scooch it up the side of the wok, fry the garlic and the chili, fry it all together, then hit it with the seasoning.
Again, to make this is a bit more western supermarket friendly, for this version we opted for nutmeg in place of that black cardamom.
Then simmer with that quarter cup of water and for this one because mint loves to shrivel so much, we’ll go in with a third of the mint at first, give it a quick mix, shut off the heat, another portion of mint, good mix, final third of the mint, a super brief gentle mix, and out.
And again, this will wilt a bit more on the way to the table.
So Beef and Mint are not like an unheard-of combo in Yunnan. Mint is often eaten with some kind of beef stews… or sometimes the mint is deep-fried and mixed with beef. As for this dish?
Dai flavored stir-fried beef? There’s basically nothing out there to look online, so I actually learned this dish from my fried in Kunming.
She shared her husband’s family recipe with me – so, a big thank you to them.
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