Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The 21st Century Housewife's© Beef & Black Bean Stir Fry

Whenever I have an authentic beef and black bean stir fry in a Chinese restaurant, it always seems to be served with green peppers. Now while sweet green peppers can be lovely, and no one can argue that the green of the peppers juxtaposes beautifully with the inky blackness of the bean sauce, I like a larger variety of vegetables with my stir fry. So recently I decided to experiment with a good black bean sauce, a nice piece of steak, and some of my favorite stir fry vegetables.

There was a beautiful sirloin steak in the freezer, so I let it thaw just a bit before slicing it in ribbons. It’s so much easier to cut meat when it is a little bit frozen, and this in turn helps it to thaw more quickly. When I’m making a beef stir fry I cook the beef separately at the last minute and then add it to the vegetables afterwards. I find that in the case of beef stir fries, the vegetables need a bit more cooking than the beef, which is best if it is served when it is still a little bit pink.

I always like to choose my stir fry vegetables based on their colors as this makes the finished dish look so much prettier. This time I chose carrots, snow peas and red and yellow peppers, deciding to dispense entirely with the green ones. I like the look and taste of onion with black bean sauce so used both slices of red onion and spring onions (scallions). The layers of flavor this created were very successful.

It’s integral you start with a good black bean sauce. Although I appreciate it would be more authentic to make my own, life is just too short! Sharwoods and Amoy make good ones, as does my favorite UK supermarket, Waitrose. I used their own-brand black bean sauce for this recipe.

Stir fry is very often served with rice, but I usually serve it with noodles, mainly because we love them. I like to choose the dried ones you have to boil or soak. I find the “ready for wok” noodles often taste a bit slimy, and to be honest the only effort involved in making noodles from dried is boiling a pot of water.

Here is the recipe I developed last week. It might not be totally authentic, but it sure is delicious!

This recipe served three of us very generously and would easily have stretched to four.

3 to 4 ‘nests’ of dried Chinese noodles
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon sesame oil
half a medium red onion, finely sliced
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal, or cut in thin matchsticks (if you have the time!)
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 good handful of snow peas
1 bunch of spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
8 ounces good steak, very thinly sliced
1/2 to 3/4 cup good ready made black bean sauce

Heat one tablespoon of sesame oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok. Add the red onion, carrots and peppers and stir fry for two to three minutes. Now add the snow peas and scallions.

Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to package directions. Heat one teaspoon of sesame oil in a smaller non-stick frying pan. Lightly fry the slices of steak for about two minutes. Remember to keep stirring the vegetables in the other pan!

When the noodles are done, drain them in a sieve and divide between three to four plates. Add the cooked steak to the vegetables and add enough black bean sauce to just coat the ingredients. Stir and warm through.

Divide the stir fry between the plates, serving it over the noodles. Although this is a beef dish, I served it with a medium dry Sauvignon Blanc, which I recommend if you are drinking wine with this dish as it really complemented the flavor of the sauce. It can of course be served with a more traditional red, or try a nice Reisling, which is almost always a great choice with Chinese food.

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