1.Combine the water, stock, wine, sauce, sugar, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, pepper and onion in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil; reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan; fry beef for 1 minute each side or until browned. Remove beef from oil; reserve oil in wok or pan. Drain beef on absorbent paper.
3.Add beef to simmering stock mixture; simmer, covered, for about 1 hour 30 minutes or until beef is tender. Remove beef from stock. Return stock to heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Strain stock mixture into large jug.
4.Heat reserved oil; fry brisket in hot oil for 2 minutes each side or until crisp.
5.Using a vegetable peeler, peel ribbons of cucumber, lengthways.
6.Slice beef thinly; arrange on serving platter. Spoon stock mixture over beef; top with cucumber and capsicum.
Beef brisket is an inexpensive cut of meat. Ask your butcher to remove most of the excess fat from the beef. This recipe can be prepared two days ahead, up to the final frying stage. This recipe is based on one from Tai Woo Restaurant in Hong Kong, winter of the beef category in the 2004 best of the best culinary awards, which the Weekly’s food director, Lyndey Milan, judged in Hong Kong. Not suitable to freeze. Not suitable to microwave. Sichuan pepper, also known as Szechuan pepper or Sansho, has a slight numbing effect on the lips and tongue, so use it with care!