Saturday, May 2, 2009

Silk Road Cumin Beef Sprouts

I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient. The host this month is Kits Chow. If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month.

My favorite sprout dishes are probably tahu telor or banh xeo. In both those the sprouts add texture and lighten the density of the dishes. They are counterpoints, foils, to the dishes rather than central to them. Each dish would be diminished without them, yet they are not the focal point of the dish. For my first Weekend Wokking event, I wanted to come up with a recipe that more fully featured the sprout.

One of the benefits of being an ESL teacher is the occasional potluck party. Having students from as many as fifteen different countries in one class, I get to taste dishes from all over the world. One of the drawbacks of being the teacher is that I can't pass up the Shuba (a herring and beet salad loaded with mayonnaise) for shrimp ceviche without hurting some student's feelings. In recent years the area has become to a large number of ethnic Russian immigrants from the "Stans"--Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. There are several dishes from these countries I always look forward to, my favorite being plov. Plov is a rice dish from Uzbekistan featuring beef or lamb, carrots, onions, and cumin. The cumin-carrot connection brings a wonderful freshness to this dish. As I am also fond of Xinjiang beef with cumin, I decided to try to incorporate the flavors of plov in a southwestern (China) stir fry. Xinjiang borders Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and so it's natural their food would share an affinity. The robustness of soybean sprouts make them a better choice for this dish than the more common mung bean sprouts.

Silk Road Cumin Beef Sprouts

1 TBS shaoxing wine
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 TBS tapioca starch
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 lb flank steak, sliced thin
1/2 lb carrots, sliced thin
3/4 lb soybean sprouts, hairy roots pinched off
1 onion, sliced (I used a red onion because that's what I had in)
2 tsp slivered ginger
1 TBS chopped garlic
2 tsp ground chili flakes
4--6 dried red peppers
1 TBS cumin seed, ground
2 green onions, finely sliced
salt to taste
1 tsp sesame oil

Marinate the beef for half an hour or so. Drain and oil blanch the beef briefly in peanut oil heated to around 275ºF. Drain beef and pour off most of the oil, reserving perhaps 3 tablespoons.

Heat wok over a high flame. Add ginger, garlic, chilies and cumin. As soon as you can smell the spices, add carrots and chow briefly. Next add onions and cook for thirty seconds or so. Then add drained beef and sprouts. Stir and cook just until sprouts are fully incorporated. Add salt to taste and sprinkle in green onions. After removing from heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.


  1. This looks so delicious, most defiantly I will try to make it!!

  2. Thanks. It seems inadequate compared to the feast you prepared. If you like the ingredients, you will probably like the dish.

  3. I tried plov at an Uzbekistan restaurant and loved the flavorful rice. What a great idea to add sprouts to a cumin beef dish.

    How fascinating and multicultural your school must be. Growing up, I met some Russian immigrants, but none from the Central Asian countries.

    Thanks for submitting to Weekend Wokking!

  4. Wandering,
    Thanks for your comment, for your help in telling me how to participate, and for initiating Weekend Wokking. The odd thing about my hometown is that when I graduated high school in the seventies it was virtually segregated, overwhelmingly white, with one or two Japanese and no other ethnic markets, and then a few years ago it was promoted by Time as the most ethnically diverse city in the US. While a lot of people resent the changes, I think the infusion of new blood and new cultures has been a great addition.


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