Beef and Broccoli: a Chinese-American hybrid
Growing up in Seattle, beef and broccoli was always my favorite go-to for Chinese takeout. I loved the tenderized beef with broccoli florets that so perfectly soaked up all that brown gravy. It was the best to eat when it was fresh and hot but still good cold the next day for lunch or, if you are so inclined, breakfast.
As much as I love this dish, I have got to say that I never saw it on a menu in all the years I lived in China. In Beijing, most broccoli dishes consisted of the vegetable being quickly stir-fried then wok steamed with garlic and a touch of soy added next the end.
Most of the time, beef could normally be found in soups or sliced and served cold with chili oil. Sure you could find the occasional bit of beef coated in starch and fried with a vegetable or two. But other than that, beef did not meet broccoli in Mainland China. This has led me to the conclusion that this dish is a uniquely American Chinese invention.
Make it a Crispy Beef and Broccoli, please
Now, in my opinion, the best kinds of foods are just these kinds of creative concoctions. The recipes take inspiration from one culture and apply it to the food of another. No faithful loyalty to tradition that limits you down to a strict ingredient list. No, not here. Here, you can relax and have a little fun with it.
So what does fun mean to me? Coating and frying to make delicious little bits of crispy beef. Deep frying is the American way, after all. But don’t worry, adding vegetable matter to the mix makes it healthy-ish, right? Especially if that vegetable is coated in a salty oyster sauce. Serve with steamed rice or some homemade chow mein, another Chinese-American classic.
Who needs take-out? This is MUCH better!
Crispy beef and broccoli wok-fried together with ginger and garlic and coated in a salty oyster sauce. A Chinese-American classic stir-fry dish. #stirfry #beef #broccoli #Chinese #crispy
300–400 g / 10.5 oz -14 oz topside beef
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
a pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper
1 cup potato or cornstarch
1 medium-sized head of broccoli or 5–6 stalks of kailan
2 tbsp sliced ginger
2 tbsp smashed garlic cloves
oil for frying
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp black vinegar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp water
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp honey
Stick your topside beef into the freezer for 10-15 min or until it is cold and stiff. This makes it easier to cut it into thin strips of uniform size.
Using a sharp knife, cut it into thin pieces no longer than 1 in / 2 cm long. Place beef in a bowl and add Shaoxing wine, soy sauce and a light sprinkling of salt and white pepper. Toss together until everything is evenly coated, cover and let marinate for 20 min.
While the beef is marinating, prep everything else. Wash the broccoli thoroughly and remove any leaves and discolored bits. Break off florets and set aside. If you are so inclined, you can use the remaining stalk. Simply cut off the rough bottom base and peel with a vegetable peeler until smooth. Cut at an angle into thin strips similar in size to the beef strips. If you are using kailan, simply cut a little bit off the bottom and slice the base diagonally into strips. Chop loosely the flower heads and leaves.
Wash and peel ginger. Cut thinly into pieces about 1 in / 2 cm big.
Peel garlic cloves from shells. Remove the fibrous end and using the side of your knife, crush and flatten the garlic cloves as best as you can. Garlic burns easily, so try to keep the pieces big as it prevents it from burning during high heat wok cooking.
In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, black vinegar, soy sauce, water, cornstarch and honey together. Whisk until smooth and set aside.
Add one egg to the marinated beef and mix together until thoroughly combined and evenly coated.
Add potato starch or cornstarch to a medium mixing bowl. Dredge beef pieces in cornstarch and set on a plate or bowl.
In a large wok, add 1/4 cup -1/2 cup of frying oil (use your best judgment for how much oil you will need to evenly fry the beef as this all depends on the size and shape of your wok).
Warm oil over high heat in the wok. You’ll know when it is less viscous and giving off just a little bit of smoke. To test if it is read, add a bit of stray batter to the oil. When it actively sizzles, it is ready to go.
Add beef to hot oil. If it is sticking together, try to break it up with chopsticks. Cook for about 3-5 minutes or until crispy and golden. These little bits of topside don’t need a lot of time cooking so don’t think you need a lot of time frying it. Afterall, wok cooking is FAST cooking.
With a slotted spoon or spatula, remove beef and set aside nearby on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil.
Pour off oil from the wok until only 1-2 tbsp remain. Over high heat, add sliced ginger and crushed garlic. Stir fry for a minute or so then add broccoli or kailan.
Stir fry the broccoli or kailan in the wok for a minute or so with the ginger and garlic. Then add cover and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Just before covering, you can add a splash of water to the wok to let it steam together. Just be careful not to add too much otherwise you’ll have a watery stir-fry. No more than an ounce.
When vegetables are tender (and nothing is watery), add crispy beef. Stir-fry together for a minute or two. Whisk sauce once more then add to stir-fry. Mix together until everything is evenly coated then turn off the heat.
Serve with steamed rice or some homemade chow mein (another Chinese-American classic).
If you aren’t a big fan of crispy beef or simply don’t want to go through the mess of dredging it in starch, simply forego adding the egg. Instead, just add 1-2 tablespoons of potato starch or corn starch to the beef and mix together.
- Category: Beef, Main
- Method: stir fry
- Cuisine: Chinese, American
Keywords: beef and broccoli, stir-fry, crispy beef, beef, kailan, oyster sauce, broccoli, Chinese
Need more Chinese beef recipes in your repertoire? Try these: