Traditional Pepper Beef

This was among the most popular dishes served in the old-style Chinese restaurants. Its appeal was so great that even non-Chinese eating places featured it on their menus. I recall its being on the school cafeteria menu as well.

It is one of the few dishes that at once appealed to the Western taste and yet followed the Cantonese Chinese preference for simple, clear, balanced dishes. The savoury green pepper pairs nicely with the hearty flavour of beef. A touch of oyster sauce, some onion slices, a clove or two of garlic, with rice on the side, and you had a delicious, well-balanced, complete meal. It was and is a very Chinese dish, except that in the West the individual portions are much bigger!


  • 450 g (1 lb) rump steak
  • 4 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce


Cut the steak in half lengthways and then into thin slices 5 cm (2 in) wide and 5 mm (¼ in) thick, cutting against the grain. Mix the beef with half the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of rice wine, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, the bicarbonate of soda and cornflour. Let it sit for 20 minutes.

Heat a wok or deep pan until it is very hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and smoking, add the beef and stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and drain off all except 1 tablespoon of oil.

Reheat the wok and oil, toss in the garlic and onions and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Then toss in the peppers and add the chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of rice wine, the remaining soy sauce and the sugar, salt and pepper. Cook over a high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in the oyster sauce and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Mix well, then return the beef to the wok, and continue to cook for another minute. Stir in the remaining sesame oil, transfer the contents of the wok to a platter and serve.