Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Chinese" Beef & Broccoli

Here in the US, we have Chinese cuisine, and "Chinese" cuisine. There's a big difference between traditional Chinese meals, whether they be Szechuan, Mandarin, Cantonese, etc., and the "Chinese" options usually offered as a lunch special with a thick eggroll and fried rice in the mall food court. 

That being said, there are definitely some Americanized "Chinese" dishes that I love. We're fortunate here in Birmingham to have two restaurants (that I know of) that offer more authentic Chinese food - Red Pearl (inside the Super Oriental Market), and Mr. Chen's (now with a Tuscaloosa location on 14th St!), but a lot of cities aren't so lucky. Though I really hate any Chinese dish heavily breaded and drowned in a sticky and sweet red sauce, I'll admit to absolutely loving the completely inauthentic "Beef with Broccoli". 

Beef & Broccoli is a completely American invention; broccoli in China is known as gai-lan or kai-lan, and is nothing like the Western version. According to author Jennifer Lee, Beef & Broccoli was likely invented in the 1800s, but didn't really become popular here in the US until the 1920s or 1930s, after Italian immigrants popularized broccoli here. 

Luckily, this recipe is really easy to make at home - without any MSG! There's a little bit of prep work, but the actual cooking takes only a few minutes, and is well worth the effort! 

Chinese Beef & Broccoli
adapted from Jaden Hair via Simply Recipes

3/4 lb flank steak or sirloin, thinly sliced AGAINST the grain
3/4 lb broccoli florets
2 Tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 Tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch black pepper
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 Tbsp thin soy sauce
1 Tbsp black soy sauce
2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 cup chicken broth

Combine the marinade ingredients. Add the flank steak and stir until well-coated, then let marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. 

Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside. 

Blanch the broccoli in salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until tender but still crisp. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place in iced water to stop the cooking process. Drain thoroughly and set aside. 

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and instantly evaporates upon contact. Add the cooking oil, swirl to coat and carefully add the beef in a single layer. Fry the beef, without flipping or moving the beef, for 1 minute. Flip the beef, add the garlic, and fry for 30-60 seconds or until no longer pink. 

Add the sauce and blanched broccoli; bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch slurry and simmer for 30-60 seconds or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve with steamed rice


  1. A tip I learned from a Chinese woman at work- add a pinch of baking soda to the beef marinade. It tenderizes the meat and makes a noticeable difference. Give it a shot sometime!

    1. Great tip, jonezy! I'll definitely try that!