Succulent beef slices stir-fried with soft, springy rice noodles then seasoned with soy sauce, beef chow fun is a classic Cantonese delicacy not to miss.
When I was working in Beijing, I always loved visiting Hong Kong-style Cha Can Ting/Cha chaan teng (茶餐厅, literally meaning Tea restaurant) for lunch. I’d order a plate of beef chow fun and a cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea. Simple, tasty and very satisfying! While there are no local outlets serving an authentic version of this dish near to where I live in England, I’m lucky enough to be able to find all the ingredients needed locally to make Beef Chow Fun (Beef Ho Fun, 干炒牛河) in my own kitchen.
What is beef chow fun
Beef chow fun consists of tender, succulent beef slices; soft, springy rice noodles; crispy beansprouts and aromatic Chinese chives. It’s tasty, comforting and nutritious (protein, vegetable and starch in one plate).
The Chinese name of this dish “干炒牛河” literally means “Dry fried beef and ho fun (a particular type of rice noodles)” As it suggests, the dish should look dry. That is to say, there shouldn’t be any excessive oil or sauce left on the plate when finished.
It’s not a complicated task to cook this delightful dish at home. However, I’d like to share a few tips and tricks to help you have a fail-proof experience.
Make the beef tender
- Choose the right cut of beef. This is the key to tender, tasty beef stir fry dishes. I recommend flank or skirt steak.
- Remember to slice the beef against the grain, especially if you use a cheaper cut of beef.
- Marinate the beef with soy sauce, cornstarch, water and a pinch of sugar. Massage the meat until it absorbs all the liquid. Then coat with a little oil to lock in the moisture.
Choose the right noodles
There are many types of Chinese rice noodles and they come in different shapes and forms. Authentic beef chow fun calls for a particular type named Sa-ho fun (沙河粉).
- Sa-ho fun are wide, slightly thick, non-transparent rice noodles.
- You may find them with different spellings such as Sa-ho fan, Sha he fen, etc. Show Chinese character 沙河粉 to the shop assistant if you have trouble finding them in Chinese stores.
- Use fresh sa-ho fun if available. They often come in a block pre-cut into strands. Prior to frying, gently separate them.
- Dried Sa-ho fun also work for this recipe. Follow the instructions on the package. Always remember not to overcook them and rinse under cold water right after boiling.
Use two types of soy sauce
Beef chow fun doesn’t require complicated seasoning. Two types of Chinese soy sauces are all that you need:
Stir fry in sequence
To ensure the best texture of your homemade beef chow fun, please follow these steps when stir-frying:
- Quickly fry the beef in oil. Transfer out as soon as it turns pale (Do not overcook).
- In the remaining oil, stir fry sa-ho fun using a pair of chopsticks (They work better than spatular which breaks the noodles more easily).
- Add in beansprouts & onion slices. Cook them for a short period of time to retain their crispiness.
- Finally stir in the beef, Chinese chive and the seasoning. Dish out as soon as everything is evenly coated with the sauce.
Another note: Make sure you use a well-seasoned wok or a non-stick wok.
Beef Chow Fun (Beef Ho Fun, 干炒牛河)
For the beef:
Marinate the beef
- Slice the beef against the grain. Mix with light soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, water and sugar. Coat with oil then leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Prepare the rice noodles
- If using fresh ones: Gently separate the sa-ho fun by hand into long strands (try not to break them into small pieces).
- If using dried ones: follow the instructions on the package to cook then rinse under cold water prior to stir-frying.
- Pour oil into a hot wok. Stir in the marinated beef slices. Fry until they just turn pale (do not overcook). Dish out and leave the oil in the wok.
- Put in sa-ho fun. Gently stir around with a pair of chopsticks. When the sa-ho fun begins to wilt, add in beansprouts and onion. Fry for 30 seconds or so.
- Add the beef and Chinese chives. Pour in light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Cook for a further 30 seconds.