Salted Chilli Crispy Beef to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Happy New Year!  

The Chinese new year starts today and this year 2014 is the year of the horse.

You probably know by now that I am originally from Northern Ireland.  What you may not know is that Northern Ireland has a large Chinese community, in fact this is its largest ethnic minority grouping.

The Chinese community is spread out all over Northern Ireland so, with no central China Town, few people outside of Northern Ireland are aware of this.  It means that, no matter where you are in Northern Ireland, there is fantastic Chinese food to be found.  My own small home town of Whitehead has had a fabulous Chinese takeaway for as long as I can remember, and at one point there were three Chinese takeaways and two Chinese restaurants.  Amazing for a seaside town with a population of just under 4 000 people!

So I have grown up with a love of Chinese cuisine and one of the things I always do when visiting home is arrange a family dinner, with a wonderful selection from our local Chinese takeaway.  We always order lots of different dishes so we can all have a taster of each but for a long time my absolute favourite has been their salted chilli crispy beef.  When I’ve ordered this elsewhere it has been doused in sticky sauce which, for me, defeats the purpose of the dish as the “crispy” is lost and it is more like soggy chilli beef!  So, with no trip home planned for a few months, I decided to celebrate Chinese New Year by trying to recreate this much-loved dish from home.

I am very excited by the results!

Salted chilli crispy beef

Salted Chilli Crispy Beef – recipe
– 300g beef
– 3 tbsp cornflour
– 3 tsp coarse sea salt
– 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (or black 
– 1½ tsp Chinese 5 Spice
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp crushed dried chilli
– 3 fresh chillis (any colour you like but red is good luck for New Year)
– 3 spring onions
– 1 onion
– oil for deep-frying

1) Cut beef into very thin strips.  Toss in 2 tbsp cornflour.  Use a fork and spoon to toss, pulling apart any strips stuck together until all are separate and coated in cornflour.

Beef strips

Beef in cornflour

Beef coated in cornflour

2) Toast salt in a dry wok over a medium heat until starts to jump and crack.  Remove and then crush roughly with a pestle in mortar.  Do the same with the peppercorns (but keep separate from the salt).

3) In a bowl mix 1 tsp of the toasted salt, 1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice, 1 tbsp cornflour and all the ground peppercorns.  Beat the egg and then beat into the cornflour spice mix.

Salted 5 spice mix

Chinese batter

4) Cut onion into wedges and slice the spring onion and fresh chillis.  De-seed the chills if you prefer it not so hot.


5) Heat 1-2 inch depth of oil in a wok over high heat, until hot enough to crisp a cube of bread nicely golden.  Toss the floured beef strips in the spiced batter, then add to the wok one by one.  You will likely need to cook in 2-3 batches, depending on the size of your wok.  Wait for 10 seconds before stirring, so they don’t clump together.  Fry for about two minutes until crispy and golden.  Then drain on kitchen paper.

Beef in Chinese batter

Deep fry beef

Drained beef

6) Mix the remaining salt and Chinese 5 Spice with the crushed dried chilli.  Add the hot crispy beef and toss to coat the beef in salt and spice.

Chilli salt

Toss beef in chilli salt

7) Fry the onion wedges for about 2 minutes until starting to crisp, then add the spring onion and chilli and fry for another minute.

8) Serve the salted chill crispy beef with a sprinkling of the fried vegetables on top.

Salted chilli crispy beef

Actually, you should serve it in a circular dish, for good luck!

Salted chilli crispy beef


Will you be having something special tonight for Chinese New Year & will you be having fireworks, firecrackers and fortune cookies?




  1. What a fantastic recipe! I was thinking this could be a perfect beef recipe for anytime, not just the Chinese New Year. I rarely eat beef but this would be great for the special occassions I do!!!

    • Thank you Heidy. Yes, indeed – although I developed this for Chinese New Year, it is most definitely a year-round recipe for me – for when I am craving Chinese food but want to skip the takeaway. 🙂

  2. And now I am craving Chinese food! That looks SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ha – thanks very much Brandi! I was so delighted with my recipe – it has been a few months now and I still get excited thinking about it! x

  3. Happy Chinese New Year Vohn! This looks delicious 🙂 My mum makes something similar but with a sauce at the end and we always look forward to it 🙂

    • Happy Chinese New Year to you too Lorraine! Thank you – it means a lot that you, of Chinese-parentage, thinks it looks delicious. Vohn x

  4. No fireworks here sadly but we did have sweet and sour battered chicken which was amazing!

    • Yum Sinead. Love sweet and sour battered chicken, or as they call them in NI chicken balls! Vohn x

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