This is a dish that is served all over China. In the east and southeast it is called “Muslim Grilled” and in the west and northwest it is just called “steak” or “beef”. Tender meat rubbed with onion and garlic or given a light coat of the ground vegetables mingles with crushed cumin and black cumin along with lots of black pepper, some Szechuan pepper and just a hint of ground chillies to push it over the edge. Voila – the center of a fantastic omnivore meal. It is also super simple and quick – fitting in with a long day of work and commuting and can be cooked on a inside broiler or outside over coals or on a gas grill. Since I’ve reconstructed it, it has become an instant family favorite – even with the kids. I get shouts of Yaaaay! when I tell them this is on the night’s menu.
I usually crack or only coarsely grind the peppers and cumin seed for a more rustic coating that is just short of a crust.
If you are a bit “spice shy” you can only coat one side, but if you are a lover of robust, full flavors, coat both sides and the edges as well. The coating also works with pork or lamb, but I think that this particular spice mixture is best on beef. Favorite ways to serve it are either with the Indian Ginger Potatoes or the Pakistani Tamarind Potatoes from Volume One of the Silk Road Gourmet, but a hearty Roasted Pine Nut and Garlic Pilaf works really well too and offsets the spiced steak nicely.
Chinese “Muslim-Grilled” Steak
1.5 -2 pounds of Beef steaks (to serve 4)
Onion and garlic, peeled and chopped (for rubbing), or
½ teaspoon ground onion powder, and
½ teaspoon ground garlic powder
1 – 1½ teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2-3 teaspoons black cumin seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 – 1½ teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns
¼ – ½ teaspoon ground red chili peppers
Salt both sides of the steaks and set aside as you grind the spices. In one mortar, combine the cumin and the black cumin and grind by hand until the seeds are coarsely ground. In a separate mortar, grind the black peppercorns until coarsely ground.
If rubbing the steak, rub both sides vigorously with the onion and garlic and set aside. If using the ground onion and garlic powders, coat one side with half of the powders and let sit for a few minutes. Then proceed to coat one side of the steak with half of the ground cumin mixture. Press lightly into the meat before proceeding to the pepper.
Next, press half of the peppercorns into the meat and set aside. Grind the Szechuan peppercorns until finely ground and coat the steaks with half of the powder. Lastly, add the ground chili powder to the steaks and let sit for at least 15 minutes for the spices to flavor the meat.
Flip the steaks carefully and if using the powdered onion and garlic coat this side with the remaining mixture and let sit for a few minutes. Then press in the cumin mixture, wait a few minutes before adding the crack black pepper and then the ground Szechuan pepper and chili powder.
Grill over high flame for no more than 5-6 minutes per side for medium-cooked meat. Flip gently or the cracked spices may fly off to the detriment of the flavor. When cooked to desired state, remove from flame, plate and let rest for 5-6 minutes before serving to let the meat’s juices well up as the meat cools.
Pairs well with a hearty Georgian Mukuzani or a mild Chinese red depending on your point of view. (Words and recipe by Laura Kelley)