Cantonese cuisine is what Americans typically know as “Chinese” food-whether it’s take-out or fine dining. That’s simply because of the large number of immigrants who arrived in the United States from the Guangdong region of China on the South China Sea. Its vast trading port makes seafood a staple in Cantonese cooking, but there’s so much more.
Beef, pork, and poultry are plentiful as well, and so are sauces. Rich, lush, typically very dark sauces adorn meats, vegetables, and grains in countless dishes. Soy, oyster, hoisin, black bean, and plum sauces are five of the most prevalent-and most tasty.
Fermented black bean sauce has a pleasantly pungent taste and aroma, with sweet and sour overtones. It’s available in bottles at Asian markets and in the international sections of some supermarkets. Its bold flavor and thick consistency-think tomato paste-means a little goes a long way.
For this recipe, I stir-fried tender beef and crunchy bell peppers along with spicy chiles and tossed everything in a blend of soy, black bean, and oyster sauces to add flavor depth without overpowering the meat and vegetables.
A couple tips: Look for “oyster sauce” on the label-not “oyster flavored sauce.” Makes a big difference. And have all your ingredients ready to go-once you’re ready to cook, this dish goes fast.
A note about side dishes: Rice, of course, is a staple in Chinese cuisine, and so are simple cooked greens-with an emphasis on simple. Garlic, oil, a little broth, and a bunch of greens. Done in five minutes, and absolutely delicious. Good for you too! Recipe below.
For the Beef
1 lb flank steak, cut across the grain into thin, 2-inch strips
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp peanut oil, plus more for brushing pan
2 tsp black bean sauce
2 tsp sugar
For the Sauce and Peppers
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp black bean sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp white sugar
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp peanut oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin slices
6-8 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
3 scallions, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
steamed white rice and stir-fried greens (recipe below), for serving
For the Beef
Place the beef strips in a heavy, sealable plastic bag.
Combine the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons peanut oil, black bean sauce, and sugar in a small bowl, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.
Pour the marinade into the bag with the beef, seal, and toss several times to coat. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 8.
Heat a grill pan over high heat and brush with peanut oil. Remove the beef from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Grill, turning or stirring occasionally, until browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
For the Sauce and Peppers
Combine the soy sauce, black bean sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl.
Combine the chicken broth and cornstarch in a bowl, stirring well to dissolve the cornstarch.
Heat a wok over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, swirling to coat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry 30 seconds.
Add the soy sauce mixture and cook 1 minute.
Re-stir the cornstarch-broth mixture and add the to the wok. Stir until the sauce has thickened, 30-45 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the wok.
Re-heat the wok over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the chiles, scallions, and all bell peppers and stir-fry until crisp-tender, 4 minutes.
Add the grilled beef to the wok and stir-fry 2 minutes.
Return the sauce to the wok and stir well to incorporate. Cook until hot throughout, 1 minute.
To serve, divide the beef and pepper mixture on the side of 4 plates. Spoon sautéed greens (recipe below) on the other side and divide steamed rice in the middle. Serve hot.
Chop 3 stalks of baby bok choy (including leaves). Remove thick stems from 1 bunch of turnip greens and chop the leaves. Chop 1 large garlic clove. Heat a wok over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the garlic and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the bok choy and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the turnip greens and 2 tablespoons of chicken broth. Cook until wilted, 1-2 minutes.
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