Synonymous with Chinese cookery and will be a prevalent flavour in most savoury dishes, Ginger has an unmistakable taste, which for me provides dishes with a slightly sour flavour, whilst giving subtle heat. I wanted to find a dish here where ginger is the main ingredient that brings my taste buds so much joy, and I have to be honest I had a foodie block. No matter how many dishes I tried, I couldn’t find the one dish I wanted to cook.
Then, I thought of the perfect dish, which originates from my local English Chinese takeaway; crispy chilli beef. Just follow me with this idea for one second. Anytime I had a takeaway at home, I would always order this dish. Its sticky, warm, sweet and spicy sauce, coating fried beef is something most brits are addicted to… Yet, let’s face it, we all know it’s not authentic! I have been doing this column for a while now, so I thought let’s challenge my knowledge and skills I have developed and see if I can turn this dish into something which is fresh, fragrant and full of flavour!
- 300-400 grams of beef steak (preferably rump or sirloin cut into thin strips)
- A 5cm piece of fresh ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
- 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) 1 large carrot (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
- 4 spring onions (chopped)
- 2 tbsp cornflour 6 tbsp groundnut oil
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1-1 ½ rice wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
Put the cornflour in a bowl and season with a lot of salt and pepper. Mix it all together. Then add your sliced beef and coat it in the mixture. Remove the beef and make sure you shake off any excess flour; you want it to have a light coating and not a heavy batter, otherwise the coating will absorb a lot of oil when cooking and make it very greasy. Put the beef on a plate and leave to one side.
Add the oil to a wok and turn up the heat. Wait until the oil is hot. Test if the oil has reached the temperature by adding 1 or 2 pieces of the chopped spring onion into the pan; when it starts sizzling and bubbling you know it’s ready for the beef. When hot enough, add the beef and cook until it’s crispy on the outside. I would cook the beef in batches, if you add all the beef at the same time, the beef won’t crisp up. So a few slices at a time is the best option. Once cooked, lay the beef on some kitchen paper to drain excess oil. Clean out the wok.
Add a drop of oil to your cleaned wok. Then add your ginger, spring onions, garlic, and carrot and fry for 1-2 minutes until slightly softened. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar and around 4 tbsp water to help create a sauce. Heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Taste your sauce, and add more sugar, vinegar or soy sauce if you like.
Return beef to your wok and mix into the sauce. Then remove from the wok onto a serving plate and add chilli flakes for a little garnish.
From prep to table this whole dish took me around 30 minutes; a bit longer than other dishes but it was worth it! You really sense the fragrant hum of ginger in the background and the beef was so crisp yet tender. It had the base of the takeaway dish I know and loved, but the full flavour I want from true authentic Chinese food. Why don’t you try and revamp your takeaway classic? You won’t regret it!