Classic Stir-fried Beef with Oyster Sauce

This was perhaps one of the most popular dishes served at our family restaurant. Oyster sauce made the mundane sliced beef appealingly exotic. Our patrons, of course, did not really know precisely what it was about oyster sauce that made it so appetizing and savoury. Perhaps they thought is was a Chinese-American ‘surf and turf’ (lobster and steak).

Oyster sauce is made from stewed oysters enlivened with various seasonings, such as garlic and chilli, adding up to a taste that is meaty and not at all fishy. It goes extremely well with meats, especially beef. For many Americans, this dish was their first exposure to Chinese cuisine. When properly prepared and served, it always leads one satisfyingly deeper into authentic Chinese cookery.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) rump or entrecôte steak
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 2 medium-sized onions, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce

Method

Cut the steak in half lengthways, then into thin slices 5 cm (2 in) wide and 5 mm (¼ in) thick, cutting against the grain. Mix the beef with the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of rice wine, the sesame oil 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 but 1 tablespoon of oil.

Reheat the wok, toss in the garlic and onions and stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until the onions are wilted and lightly browned. Then pour in the chicken stock, remaining rice wine and sugar and bring to the boil over a high heat. Pour in the oyster sauce. Mix well, then return the beef to the wok and continue to cook for another minute.

Transfer the contents to a large platter and serve at once.

Variation

This classic stir-fried beef dish could easily have asparagus, mushrooms, cucumbers, julienned courgettes, carrot batons, leeks, peas or spinach added to it.

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