Savoury Beef Chow Fun with Black Bean Sauce

While the Western diners ordered pork fried rice, chop suey and chow mein takeaway, we Chinese-Americans preferred such dishes as this one, made with generous portions of soft rice noodles stir-fried with bits of beef in a black bean sauce. This take-away dish was one of our family’s favourites, and is in fact a traditional and very popular southern Chinese noodle classic. We would order it from a restaurant because, although we could cook this at home, a large quantity was hard to achieve in a home wok. We usually ordered two or three boxes, and the rice noodles were always smoky and fragrant. I had the dubious honour of calling in the order; my mother stood by my side to make sure I insisted on the very freshest noodles, and I would have to ask when the noodles were made and how long they had been sitting in the kitchen. The pungent aroma of black beans and the sauce redolent with garlic and ginger made this a fragrant dish and a very satisfying meal. I remember that my mother liked to eat this dish during a break in the mah-jong games she played at home with her friends.

Fresh rice noodles are widely available from Chinese grocers or supermarkets.

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  • 450 g (1 lb) flank steak
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil

For the Black Bean Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fermented black beans
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 225 g (8 oz) fresh rice noodles, separated
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce


Cut the beef into thin slices, cutting against the grain. Mix the beef with the light soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, 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, quickly toss in the beef and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and drain off all but tablespoons of oil.

Reheat the wok and oil. Toss in the garlic, black beans, ginger, spring onions and onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour in the rice wine, soy sauces and chicken stock and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Then add the rice noodles and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Finally, spoon in the oyster sauce. Mix well, then return the beef to the wok and continue to cook for another minute.

Turn the mixture onto a large platter and serve at once.