Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hao You Niu Rou (Oyster Sauce Beef)

Beef has been a part of Chinese cooking since the 12th Century BC, but the popular sauce made from oysters is relatively new, arriving in the late 19th century.  Many Westerners unaccustomed to the cuisine approach this concoction skeptically, but are won over by its velvety texture, its mild, sweet and savory flavor.  It is found in almost every restaurant in the United States, used variously as a flavoring in Chinese-American dishes, and is an important garnish to simple vegetable dishes such as gai lan (Chinese brocoli--see recipe for jie lan elsewhere on this site).  As always, many variations of this popular Cantonese dish exist, even in China, but they mostly entail differences of vegetable ingredients such as mushrooms, green peppers, carrot, bamboo shoots, snow peas, snap peas, asparagus, gai lan, bocoli, etc.  I prefer the snow peas for their sweetness and delightfully crunchy texture; otherwise, this is a beef dish, with only the textural and visual accent of a few peas, onions, and mushrooms accompanying the meat.

11 –12 oz beef (tri-tip, strip steak, sirloin)
3 green onions, white portion and green cut into 1-1/2” sections
4 - 5 thin slices of ginger
4 chinese dried mushrooms
3 oz snow peas, stem trimmed, and wiped dry
1 Tab soy sauce
1 Tab rice wine 
(Editor’s note: or dry sherry)1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tab rice wine
1 Tab soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tab chicken or beef stock
1-1/2 to 2 Tab Oyster Sauce 
(Editor’s note: Lee Kum Kee premium is best)
Sesame oil and Slivered carrot or red pepper for garnish
Slice the meat across the grain, 1/8” thick, into small strips, approximately 3/4” by 2” or so.  Combine the meat with the marinade ingredients and set aside for at least a half hour.
Submerge the mushrooms in hot tap water for at least 30 minutes to hydrate them, then squeeze the water out with a towel.  Cut the stem out and slice the mushroom into two or three pieces; mix the pieces with a splash of soy and rice wine to enhance the flavor.   Finely shred a small piece of carrot or red pepper for garnish.
Heat 4 Tab of oil in wok until smoking; stir fry beef for one or two minutes, allowing it to rest occasionally on the sides of the wok, until it begins to brown, remove with bamboo strainer or slotted spoon and set aside.  Reheat wok to high, and as soon as it begins to smoke, add green onion and ginger slices and quickly stir fry until onion just begins to brown on the edges, then toss in mushrooms and snow peas, frying for 30 seconds or so.  Splash in wine, then soy sauce, vinegar, stock and oyster sauce.  Toss the mixture until it is boiling vigorously, then, as it begins to reduce, add back the sliced meat.  Toss, and when sauce has reduced enough to coat the ingredients without too much puddling in the bottom of the wok, pour onto a small platter and garnish with sesame oil and slivered vegetable.

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