Heart meat works really well with Chinese stir-fry because it’s dense enough to slice into uniformly small pieces and it cooks up quickly. In this case, you’re shredding the meat after trimming and tenderizing the heart. Any heart will work here, as will any good piece of venison, so long as it is free of fat and connective tissue.
Most of the ingredients here are easy to find. The bamboo shoots and chili bean paste will be in the Asian or “Ethnic” section of your supermarket. I’ve even found them in many small-town markets.
One word of caution: Don’t double this elk heart recipe. Stir-frying needs really high heat to work, and you kill that if you overload the pan. If you want to make a double batch, set out the ingredients for both batches and do them one after another. That’s how they do it in Chinese restaurants.
1 pound elk heart
2 tablespoons chili bean paste
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, sliced into matchsticks
4 green onions, sliced into thin discs
5 small hot chiles, sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or malt vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Start by trimming the elk heart. Slice off any fat and any veiny looking bits of the heart. Now slice off large pieces, using the chambers of the heart as a guide. Trim any connective tissue; there’s often web-like tissue on the interior of the chambers. Now you are left with pure meat. You will likely have more than the pound you need. Use this for another dish, or make a second batch of this one.
Slice the big pieces crosswise into thin slices. This is pretty easy to do because heart meat is so dense. Then tenderize them: Put the heart slabs between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or an empty wine bottle or pierce them all over with a Jaccard meat tenderizer. Once the slabs have been tenderized, cut them into thin slivers of about ¼-inch wide. If you’ve ever had Chinese “shredded” dishes—usually pork, beef, or chicken—this is what you’re going for.
To make the dish, mix all the ingredients for the sauce except for the sesame oil in a bowl. Set aside. Put 2 tablespoons of peanut oil (or some other vegetable oil) in a wok and turn the heat to high. When the oil starts smoking, take the wok off the heat and add the chili bean paste and minced ginger to the oil. Put it back on the heat and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the heart, garlic, green onions, chilis, and bamboo shoots and stir fry for two minutes. Pour in the sauce and boil furiously for two minutes. Turn off the heat, add the sesame oil, and serve with rice. Serves four.