Tender and succulent beef strips with a black pepper flavoured sauce, Chinese black pepper beef stir-fry can be made at home to a restaurant standard.
Once I was asked what is the difference between Chinese cuisine and Western cooking. I said:“Chinese cooks slice the food before serving whereas Western diners slice the food after being served.” I know it’s not true in all cases, but in general I think it’s correct. Take beef steak for example. Instead of cooking a large piece, Chinese prefer slicing the meat to make a quick stir-fry. Today I’d like to introduce a classic dish using steak as the main ingredient: Black pepper beef stir-fry (黑椒牛柳).
What makes a plate of black pepper beef stir-fry stand out, in my opinion, is the succulence, tenderness of the beef strips and the generous use of freshly ground black pepper. To achieve the first goal, I have a few tips for you.
- Choose a cut of beef ideal for quick stir-fry. Flank steak and skirt steak are the best candidates.
- Slice the beef against the grain. Otherwise you will get a chewy, tough texture.
- Marinate the beef with classic Chinese marinade mixture which contains cornstarch, rice wine, soy sauce, etc.
- Keep the wok hot and move fast when stir frying. Follow the cooking sequence: First, quickly sear the beef then remove it from the wok. Fry the vegetables for a while then return the beef back to the wok. Overcooking will reduce the tenderness.
Cheaper cuts of beef (braising beef for example) are not ideal but acceptable for this dish. Just make sure to tenderize it with baking soda first (Chinese restaurant chefs usually do this). Afterwards, I always rinse the beef before marinating to reduce the unpleasant taste of baking soda.
Once you have the tender, succulent beef cooked, the last step is to stir in the sauce containing oyster sauce, soy sauce, and of course, lots of black pepper.
Compare to chilli, black pepper offers a more discreet sensation of hotness. It doesn’t burn you but its aroma will linger in your mouth for quite a while. For this beef stir-fry, be generous with black pepper and use freshly ground ones. This is what makes your dish exciting.
Onion and bell pepper are classic ingredients for black pepper beef stir-fry. However, you are free to use other vegetables too. Vegetables with a bit of crunchiness, such as broccoli, asparagus, celery and sugar snap peas, work very well.
Black pepper beef stir-fry (黑椒牛柳)
For the marinade
For the sauce
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp water
You also need
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 onion, julienned
- ½ red bell pepper, julienned
- Slice the beef into strips (against the grain). Mix with the ingredients for the marinade. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce then set aside.
- Heat up the oil in a wok over high heat. Sear the marinated beef until it turns brown (should still be pink inside). Transfer it to a separate plate.
- Add onion and pepper to the remaining oil in the wok. Cook for a minute or so.
- Put the beef back into the wok. Stir fry for another 1-2 minutes until the beef is fully cooked.
- Pour in the sauce. Stir until it becomes thick enough to coat the beef and vegetables nicely.
- Sprinkle more ground black pepper for more intense flavour (optional). Serve hot with steamed rice.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of baking soda with sliced beef then leave for at least 30 mins
- Rinse the beef in 500ml / 2 cups of water with 4 teaspoons of vinegar. Then rinse again under running water
- Drain well before adding to the marinade mixture
Hope this classic stir-fry brings you some inspiration for dinner. To discover other recipes using beef, please click links below.
Have a yummy day!