Chinese Five Spice Beef Stew

       The flu bug has visited our home again.  Can you believe it is the second time all four kiddos have on and off fever for 2 weeks?  When I brought them to the doctor, they were tested positive for flu and this time a different strain.  Are you kidding me?   They were just sick last month! 
         Oh well, I now agree with the news that this winter’s flu season is one of the worst we had.  Whether one had a flu shot or not, many were not spared.  Thank God none of my children have pneumonia.
          Since each child had to be off from school for about 7 days and yes, I was stuck with cracky, I want mommy babies, I rely on recipes that are easy to prepare and can be kept warm until someone is ready to eat. 
         One of our family’s favorites is this delicious Chinese Five Spice Beef Stew.  This dish gets better the longer it simmers. In fact, I like it the day after I prepared it.  It also freezes well so feel free to make the entire batch.  Though my children love this over rice, you can also have it on top of mashed cauliflower, nachos and even use it as a sloppy joe with a twist.   The best part is you can also use your trusted crock pot to make this which means, you’ll save more time. Isn’t that great?       
          So whether you have sick children like me, expecting some company over the weekend or simply short on time to cook, this hearty and versatile dish will surely be a big help.  Give it a try and let me know how it turned out.    

2 Tbs Bacon grease
3 lbs ground beef
1 Tbs garlic minced
1/2 cup onions chopped
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 pcs star anise
3 pcs bay leaf
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
1 Tbs sea salt
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
2 Tbs Sriracha or hot sauce
2 cups potatoes diced
1 lbs frozen peas
2 cups water
1/2 cup red bell pepper diced

1. In a big dutch oven or heavy pan, brown the ground beef in bacon grease.
2. Once the meat has browned, add the garlic and onions and sautee for 4 minutes.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes, water, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, chinese 5 spice powder and 1/2 Tbs of salt. 
4. Bring to boil and simmer for at least 45 minutes or until the sauce is reduced in half.  The longer you simmer it, the more flavorful it gets.
5. Add the potatoes, peas and bell pepper. 
6. When the potatoes are soft, check if you need to add the remaining 1/2 Tbs of salt. 
7. Stir in the sriracha or hot sauce. 
8. Turn off heat, remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. 
9. Serve over steamed rice or cooked rice noodles. 


Note:  This recipe can be made with a slow cooker.  After browning the meat, transfer it to a crockpot, add the remaining ingredients except for sriracha and reduce the water to just 1 cup.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Stir in the sriracha just before serving. 


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