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Szechuan Beef Stew

2 lbs. boneless beef chuck, or stew meat
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tsp. sugar
1 cup water
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
3/4 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Combine beef, garlic, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 tsp. sugar in a bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine water, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tsp. sugar, red pepper, fennel, black pepper, cloves and ginger. Set aside. Heat oil in a dutch oven or large skillet over high heat. Brown beef on all sides in hot oil. Stir in soy sauce mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours or until beef is very tender. Combine cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water; stir into beef mixture. Cook and stir until mixture boils and thickens, about 1 minute.

Best served with rice.