It’s unusual for me to cook Asian cuisines. It’s not a lack of respect or interest in them. In fact, it’s more the opposite: it’s not part of my culinary culture and I don’t feel I have a good grounding in the techniques.
I’ve been pretty happy with take-out Chinese and it’s Americanized tastes. I actually enjoy most Sweet-and-Sour Chickens with their overly thick, overly sweet sauce (not to say there aren’t bad versions out there). I knew there was more to Chinese food than that but it’s hard for a westerner to know what is “authentic” and what isn’t. Or would I even want to eat something that is authentic?
I decided that it was about time that I actually learn about Chinese cuisine. I’ve made stir fry’s in the past but I was either improvising which yielded mediocre results or I was simply following a recipe without really understanding the underlying techniques.
The techniques seem to be a bit different but also the same to what I’m used to. Marinating is common in western cuisine as are the making of sauces; however, the ingredients are quite different. The cooking steps are a bit different in Chinese cooking but not radically so. Even in western cooking, multiple cooking steps are common. Most meat is browned and then cooked fully to develop flavor. The same is true in Chinese cooking.
This recipe was, for me, a good place to start, not least for the fact that I had flank steak that I needed to use. It’s also a pretty simple recipe to make. The first cooking of the beef is referred to as “slippery-coating” in the cookbook. Obviously that’s a translation from the Chinese but I’m not entirely sure what it means. The meat does obtain a somewhat liquid texture after the first cooking but I’m still not entirely clear on what this does to the meat.
I did substitute in sugar snap peas because I had them and like them. The original recipe called for bamboo shoots. I’m not sure I’d recommend the sugar snap peas as they didn’t cook completely. They weren’t bad but perhaps not the best choice in this recipe. You may want to revert it back to the original.
Adapted from The Key to Chinese Cooking
1/2 lbs. flank steak
4 dried red chili peppers
2 quarter-sized slices of peeled ginger, shredded
1 garlic clove, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups shredded celery, in 1 1/2″ long pieces
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
1 1/2 tsp oil
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
2 tsp sesame oil
- Cut the steak along the grain into 2″ strips. Cut against the grain into 1/8″ slices. Combine the beef with the marinade ingredients and mix well. Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
- Mix the sauce ingredients together.
- Heat 1 cup of oil in a wok over high heat until it reaches about 350°F. Add the meat and stir it 5 to 6 times in a circle. Immediately remove from the heat and drain the meat from the oil.
- Return 2 tbsp oil to the wok and heat over low heat. Add the chili peppers and cook them until they are black, about 3 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium and add the ginger and garlic to the wok. Stir fry until it begins to brown.
- Increase the heat to high and add the sugar snap peas and celery. Stir fry for 1 1/2 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften.
- Add the beef and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour the sauce ingredients into the wok and simmer until the sauce has thickened.
- Serve with white rice.