This Ginger Beef’s got Soul.

My first experience with ginger beef happened quite by accident.

It was my 10th birthday, and my mother was going to take me out for dinner to celebrate. It just so happened that I had come across a review in the local newspaper for a Chinese restaurant named “The Mandarin”. (That’s right, I read the newspaper when I was 10. Precocious little scamp, don’t you think?)

Anyway, the reviewer was so descriptive, and effusive, about the dishes he sampled, especially the signature ginger beef, that there was no point in my mother even suggesting  another establishment! (Sorry Yelpists, but you will never take the place of a professional food critic IMO.)

The meal we had was indeed as good as advertised, and the ginger fried, shredded beef the highlight. Compared to my mothers’ crude attempts at Chinese cuisine, (her sweet & sour beef was borderline inedible), this was like eating sunshine and rainbows! From that point on, anytime we could afford it, (which wasn’t very often), we would get some takeout food from “The Mandarin”. And my test was trying to sneak extra ginger beef, without my mother noticing.

Even today, the Chinese-Canadian dish known as ginger beef is one of my dirty-little- secret food crushes. But, since I moved from Calgary to Edmonton, it’s difficult to find a really good example. So I determined to create my own…

(You can use a large frying pan to prepare this dish, but you will get the best results by using a wok. The shape of the wok, and the way it distributes heat evenly,  will allow you to get the beef nice and crispy.)

(Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 1 hour. Serves 4-5)

Ginger Fried Beef with Vegetable Fried Rice

Part A:

  • 1 lb flank steak, cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 cup canola oil (for frying)

Part B:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced radially
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soya sauce (use Tamari wheat-free soya sauce for gluten allergies)
  • 1 tsp dark soya sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Part C:

  • 3 cups cooked long grain white rice
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 tbsp soya sauce (or Tamari wheat-free soya sauce for gluten allergies)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

This recipe is actually pretty easy, but it pays to be prepared. Whisk the cornstarch and water together in a bowl. Crack the eggs into the cornstarch slurry, and beat them until it forms a batter. In a shallow dish, dredge the beef strips in the batter. Let the beef strips soak in the batter for a little bit, and mix them around to coat every surface.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, over medium-high heat, until the oil is about 350 degrees fahrenheit. (A trick for checking the oils’ temperature if you don’t have a digital thermometer, is to place the tip of a wooden chopstick into the oil. If it the oil forms little bubbles around the chopstick tip, the oil is hot enough.)

Carefully place the strips of beef, a few at a time, in the hot oil, and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning them halfway through. Work in batches to keep the oil from cooling off too much. Remove each batch to a plate lined with paper towels as they finish cooking.img_4330

When the all the meat is done cooking, drain the oil into a container for later disposal, and quickly rinse and dry the pan. Return the pan to the burner. Saute the onion, ginger, and garlic for 3-4 minutes, over medium-high heat, until the onion is soft. Stir and toss often to prevent the garlic from burning. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and continue to saute for another minute. img_4331Now add the pepper and carrot strips to the pan. Saute the vegetables until the peppers begin to soften. img_4332To make the sauce, add the sugar, vinegar, soya sauce, and sesame oil to the pan. Toss the ingredients around in the sauce until it starts to boil. Add the dark soya sauce, and continue stir frying until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Now you can bring the beef to the party!img_4334Stir fry the beef in pan with the veggies for about 1 minute, until that delicious sauce coats everything. Remove your ginger beef to a serving dish. Sprinkle the sliced green onions on top of your ginger beef. Wipe away the drool from your mouth. Repeat to yourself, “Just a little bit longer now”.img_4335

Now for the fried rice! Clean your pan, and heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into the pan. Break the yolks with a spatula, and mix the eggs around, as if you were making scrambled eggs. Let the egg set up a bit, then dump in the cooked rice, and the frozen vegetables.

(You can begin cooking the rice when you start cutting up your ingredients. It’s a good way to use up leftover rice as well.)

Stir the rice with the spatula, and add the salt, pepper, soya sauce, and sesame oil. continue to turn and toss until the rice is completely coated, and the vegetables are cooked, about 4-5 minutes.

You’ve been so patient, and now you can claim your reward! Marvel at the balance of flavours, sweet, sour, and salty, all working in perfect harmony to cause your tastebuds to weep with joy. The contrast of the slightly chewy beef, crisp veggies, and toothy softness of the rice.

And the best part is, no contemptuous looks from snooty restaurant staff if you choose to shovel the goodness into your mouth with a fork instead of chopsticks! (You probably still have to share with someone though…)

 

 

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