Hunan Beef

Here’s another one of the recipes I’ve been trying from the terrific website, TheWoksOfLife.com. The best part of this dish was the cooking technique for the beef: incredibly flavorful, light and crispy and – much to my surprise since it was made with a relatively tough cut, the flank steak – extremely melt in the mouth tender.

[Their article about how to make stir-fry attributes that tenderness to the water in the marinade – who knew?!]

My first try resulted in a dish that was a bit … pungent for my taste. But I realized that the recipe had called for me to rinse my fermented black beans, which I didn’t do; and also that I had made my dish with only used green pepper, because that’s all I had. It started to occur to me that maybe the variety of peppers would add more to the dish than simply some heat??

So the following night I did a second batch, but without any meat this time (I had only bought the one steak). For the peppers I used one poblano, one red pepper, one jalapeno and one red finger pepper. I carefully removed all the seeds and ribs from all of them, and honestly my finished combo was hardly spicy at all! But when I stirred them into the leftovers from the previous night – WOW did it improve the flavor!!

And oh yeah – instead of garlic I used garlic scapes. Kinda like super-long, extra-thick chives, except they’re garlic? Or super-long, kinda skinny green onions… except they’re garlic?? I was dubious about how to cook them; but Woks of Life told me to snap off the woody ends and then chop the rest into like 3-inch pieces. I did, and they were terrific!

The Meat:
1lb flank steak – sliced thinly, and across the grain (my mom taught me this when I was a kid!)
1/4t baking soda
2T water
1t oyster sauce
1/3c cornstarch – for tossing the meat in, after it marinates
Peppers:
• 1 holland pepper
• 1 green bell pepper or poblano pepper
• 1 red bell pepper
• 2 banana peppers or 1 jalapeno
• 8 dried whole chili peppers
The sauce: (combine all ingredients and set aside to stir in at the end)
1/2 t sugar
2T hot water
1/2 t Chinese black vinegar
2-1/2 T soy sauce
1/4t ground white pepper
The aromatics:
canola oil, for frying
1T fresh ginger, sliced
1/2 c shallots, thinly sliced
2T shaoxing wine
5 cloves garlic, sliced
2T fermented black beans, rinsed (I missed that part – rinsed! – the first time I made this dish)
2 scallions, cut at an angle into 2-inch lengths

Combine water, corn starch and oyster sauce; massage it with your hands into the meat strips so that all the water is absorbed by the meat. Marinate for 30 minutes. Just before you’re ready to cook, toss the meat in the cornstarch.

HIGH HEAT:
Pour 2T of oil into your “wok” (I used my extra-large stainless-steel pan, and it seems to work pretty well) and sear the beef in 3 batches. Push the cooked pieces to the side of the pan before removing, to let some of the oil drain off. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom and remove them before continuing.

MEDIUM HEAT:
Fry the ginger for about 30 seconds. (You want about 2T of oil in your pan – add some if there’s not enough left from the meat)
Add the shallots for another 30 seconds.

HIGH HEAT:
Add the bell peppers – the high heat is so they get a nice sear on them.
Pour the wine around the perimeter, add the garlic & black beans for 30-60 seconds.
Return the beef to the pan, add the sauce and the scallions and fry everything for 20 seconds, or until all the sauce has evaporated.

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