I LOVE Chinese food, especially really good Chinese food. Growing up in New Jersey, I had no idea how lucky I was to be able to eat some of the best Chinese-American dishes in the U.S.A. It wasn’t until I moved to West-Central Florida that I found out what really bad Chinese food is. So many places here dumb it down for the uninitiated American palate where it has no flavor and no spice.
It’s not hard to make great tasting Chinese stir fry. One of the keys is to use authentic ingredients from China. Ironically, I do have some good Asian markets nearby that I like to shop at. If you don’t have an Asian market in your area, there is always Amazon, and The Mala Market.
The authentic ingredients that make this recipe sing are oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and Shaoxing rice wine. Notice that there are two different types of soy sauce – light and dark. You can think of “light” as “normal” soy sauce, and dark as a thicker, sticky, sweet version of soy sauce. I recommend the Lee Kum Kee brand. (Lee Kum Kee was established in 1888 when its founder Mr. Lee Kum Sheung invented oyster sauce in Nanshui, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province of China.)
In addition to using the authentic ingredients, there is another trick to making this as good as, or better than Chinese takeout. It may seem quite odd, and you may even be resistant to doing it. I actually refused to do it as I thought it sounded so dumb, but then my fake wife, Lori told me to do it, and I did. Wow!
I learned this from the book, The Wok: Recipes and Techniques by J. Kenji López-Alt. This is a copy / paste from his recipe for Beef and Broccoli …
Place the beef in a medium bowl, cover with cold water, and vigorously agitate it. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer set in the sink and press on the beef with your hands to remove excess water. Return the beef to the bowl, add the baking soda, and vigorously massage the baking soda into the meat, lifting the meat, throwing it down, and squeezing it about for 30 seconds to a minute. Add the salt, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine,
sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch and roughly work the marinade into the meat for at least 30 seconds. Set aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.
Sugar and sesame oil is crossed out as we do not use it in this recipe. The above technique makes the meat melt-in-your-mouth tender, and quite reminiscent of Chinese takeout.
Another trick is to put the meat in the freezer for 15-30 minutes so it is partially frozen, which makes it easier to slice thin.
The last trick is to pour the finishing sauce down the sides of the wok instead of over top of the food. It really does make a difference in getting that restaurant wok flavor, or wok hei.
Hunan Beef Stir Fry
- 1 Carbon Steel Wok
- 1 Wok Chuan also called a wok spatula
- 1 Infrared Thermometer Digital Temperature Gun For Wok temp, optional
- 1 Microplane
Beef & Marinade
- 1 lb Flank Steak Sliced into ¼" strips on a bias
- ½ tsp Baking soda
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- ½ tsp Corn Starch
- ¼ tsp White Pepper
Stir Fry Ingredients
- 2 Fresh Serrano Peppers sliced into disks (leave seeds for very spicy, remove seeds for less spicy, but still spicy.)
- 2 Fresh Fresno Peppers sliced into disks (leave seeds for very spicy, remove seeds for less spicy, but still spicy.)
- 4 Pickled Tabasco Peppers from Texas Pete Hot Sauce
- 1 Celery stalk julienned
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- 2 inch Knob of Ginger grated on a microplane
- 2 Scallions sliced white to light green parts, dark green parts reserved
- ½ tsp MSG
- 3 tbsp Grape Seed Oil, divided or other high heat cooking oil, like Avocado
- 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
- 1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Shaoxing Rice Wine
- 1 tsp Corn Starch
- 2 Scallion tops (dark green parts) ¼" cut on a bias for garnish
- Put steak in freezer for 15-30 minutes to make it easier to cut thin slices (optional)
- Slice into ¼" strips on a bias against the grain.
- Place the beef in a medium bowl, cover with cold water, and vigorously agitate it. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer set in the sink and press on the beef with your hands to remove excess water. Return the beef to the bowl, add the baking soda, and vigorously massage the baking soda into the meat, lifting the meat, throwing it down, and squeezing it about for 30 seconds to a minute. Add the salt, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and cornstarch and roughly work the marinade into the meat for at least 30 seconds. Set aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.
- Heat up a wok with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil to 400. Check temperature with infrared temperature gun, or heat until oil is shimmering.
- Add the beef to the wok and do not disturb for 30-40 seconds. Sprinkle a couple of pinches of MSG onto the meat, Stir fry for another 30-40 seconds.
- Remove the beef from the wok and into a bowl. Set aside.
- Clean the wok using tongs and a bunched up wad of paper towels. Heat it up with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Add in the ginger, garlic and scallion bottoms and stir-fry until light brown or aromatic. About 30-40 seconds. Push aside.
- Add the Serrano, Fresno and Pickled Tabasco peppers and stir-fry for 30-40 seconds, then mix in the ginger, garlic and scallion bottoms with the peppers. Sprinkle a couple of pinches of MSG, and stir-fry for 10 seconds.
- Add the beef back into the wok, and stir-fry all ingredients for 10 seconds.
- Re-whisk sauce, and pour down the edges of the wok so it slides down the sides. Do not pour over top.
- Continue to stir fry making sure everything is well blended with the sauce and all of the ingredients, about 30-60 seconds.
- Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowls.
- Garnish with scallion tops and serve with rice.