The truth is, a good stir-fried beef dish is deceptively simple to make. Skipping certain important steps before or during cooking, you are more likely to end up with chewy or dry meat at the dinner table.
Now, the good news: by following the steps outlined below, and with some practice, you will achieve the desired tenderness and juiciness right in your kitchen.
Step 1: cut the beef properly. You want to slice the meat across the grain and into bite-size pieces to maximize their contact with the marinade.
Step 2: marinate the beef properly. This is an important step before cooking. By using a mixture of egg and potato starch (or cornstarch), you create a coating that protects the meat from drying out during cooking. Adding a little baking soda helps tenderize the meat. For best results, you need to marinate the meat for last least 2 hours, so plan ahead.
Step 3: cook the beef properly. One of the secrets to Chinese cooking is a technique called velveting: you precook the marinated meat by blanching it in medium-temperature oil or boiling water. Velveting insures that moisture is trapped inside the meat by the egg-starch coating, and stays there during the subsequent stir-frying.
My recipe below will show you how to apply these steps to create an elegant stir-fried beef dish that will impress even your most discerning guests.
By using these techniques, you do not need to use the most expensive cut of beef. Sirloin or flank steak would be a good choice. Tougher cuts such as round and chuck would also work.
As for the green peppers, Chinese chefs like to use a small and slender variety called Hang Jiao (杭椒), which is not available in the US. Shishito peppers, with their small size, thin skin and faint spiciness, are most similar to Hang Jiao. You can find shishito peppers at Japanese food stores or gourmet grocery stores. Or, you can substitute with other varieties such as Anaheim peppers (aka New Mexico peppers) or longhorn peppers (if you like it spicy).
Stir-fried beef with green peppers
Makes 2 servings
10 oz (285 g) flank steak, trimmed
5 oz (140 g) shishito peppers, tops removed
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 one-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon Zhenjiang (Chinkiang) vinegar
¼ teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil for velveting
1 tablespoon vegetable oil for stir-frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the marinade:
½ teaspoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (60 ml) water
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon potato starch or cornstarch
- Cut the flank steak along the grain into 2-inch strips. Cut each strip against the grain into 1/3-inch (8 mm) slices. Further cut each slice into 1/3-inch (8 mm) matchsticks.
- To marinate the beef, mix the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the beef. Mix and stir by hand while gradually adding the water. When the beef mixture becomes sticky, about two minutes, add the egg and potato starch and continue to mix until well incorporated. Marinate the beef for 2-3 hours. Stir the beef from time to time during marination.
- To velvet the beef: drain excess liquid from the beef. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. When the oil reaches about 270 °F or 130 °C (when tiny wisps of smoke start to rise), add the beef in a single layer and stir quickly. When the meat just turns color, about 1 minute, transfer to a strainer to drain. Alternatively, you can velvet the beef in gently boiling water.
- To finish the dish, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a hot wok or skillet over high heat. Add the ginger, scallion, garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the green peppers and stir-fry until the peppers start to blister, about 90 seconds. Return the beef to the wok. Add the Shaoxing wine, dark and light soy sauces, vinegar, and sugar. Stir-fry until the beef is just cooked through, 2 – 3 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Plate and serve with rice.
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