The secret to this Chinese version of beef stew, brought to us by Martha's friend Lily Mei, is to cook the meat three times. It's first boiled, then sauteed in a hot wok, and finally simmered until tender.
Fill a large pot halfway with water, and bring to a boil. Add cubed beef, stirring often to prevent sticking. Cook for 1 minute. Drain beef into a colander, and shake to remove excess water.
Heat wok over high heat. Add olive oil, swirling to coat the sides of wok. Add drained beef, and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, white wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, star anise, and cinnamon. Continue to saute until evenly browned, about 5 minutes, stirring to combine.
Add 1 cup water, and transfer beef mixture to a large pot. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook until meat is almost tender, 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt, and continue to simmer until meat is tender, 1/2 hour. Serve with steamed rice.
This traditional Hunan dish is flavored with star anise and cassia, a close relation to cinnamon that's available in Asian food stores.