Our cookbook of the week is Chinese Soul Food by award-winning food journalist and cooking instructor Hsiao-Ching Chou. Over the next four days, we’ll feature recipes from the book and an interview with its author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings.
Hsiao-Ching Chou’s version of this takeout favourite spares the deep fryer. In her recipe, stir-fried slices of flank steak step in for battered beef cubes. Instead of the traditional dried orange peel, Chou uses the zest of fresh winter citrus.
Tangerines are particularly auspicious for Chinese New Year, she explains. Their colour and shape are evocative of gold ingots – a currency used in imperial China. Orange juice appears in the marinade for the beef, and the zest adds a bright aroma to the sauce.
“I like this dish because of its flavours and it also gives a nod to the symbolism of oranges or tangerines,” Chou says, adding that as a dish, it contributes to the overall composition of a festive meal.
“When you have a feast, you want to have something that’s from the land, something from the sea, and something that’s rice and noodles. You’re showing the abundance of the meal by having these different types of flavours and foods, and different types of proteins.”
For the sauce:
1/3 cup (75 mL) orange juice
2 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp (37 mL) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) water
1 tbsp (15 mL) Shaoxing wine or dry Marsala wine
For the marinade:
1 tbsp (15 mL) orange juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) Shaoxing wine or dry Marsala wine
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 lb (340 g) flank steak
1 large tangerine
3 tbsp (45 mL) cornstarch
3/4 cup plus 1 tsp (180 mL) vegetable oil, divided
2 to 3 dried red chili peppers, cut in half crosswise
1 stalk green onion, cut into 3-inch segments
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
To make the sauce, in a small bowl, put the orange juice, soy sauce, water and wine, and stir to combine. Set aside.
To make the marinade, in a medium bowl, put the orange juice, soy sauce, wine and garlic, and stir to combine.
Trim the flank steak of any large pieces of membrane. Cut the flank in half or thirds lengthwise, or with the grain. Depending on the total width of the flank, you may get two or three sections that are about to 6 to 8 cm (2 1/2 to 3 inches) wide. Cut these sections against the grain into 6-mm (1/4-inch) slices. Add to the sliced beef to the marinade and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.
Using a peeler or sharp paring knife, gently peel strips of zest from the tangerine. Avoid the white pith, which is bitter. You want about five to six pieces that are roughly 5 cm (2 inches) long and about 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) wide. The pieces don’t have to be exact. Set aside.
To the beef, add the cornstarch, and mix well to coat all the pieces so that the beef will develop a thin crust when it cooks. Set aside.
Line a dinner plate with a few layers of paper towels. Set aside.
Preheat a wok over high heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add 3/4 cup (175 mL) of the oil and heat for 1 minute, or until it starts to shimmer. In two to three batches, place the beef in the oil and fry for about 30 seconds on each side, or until the beef is caramelized and crispy on the edges. The oil will sputter, so be careful. Stir-fry the beef for 1 minute more until the beef is nearly cooked through. Transfer the beef to the prepared paper towel–lined plate. Work quickly and repeat with the remaining beef. You may have to decrease the heat if the oil seems to be overheating. Once you’re done searing the beef, clean out the wok. Pour the frying oil into a heatproof container to cool, and then discard.
Return the wok to the stove over high heat and heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon (5 mL) oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the tangerine zest, chili peppers, and onions, and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to release the aromas. Add the sauce and the sugar. It will sputter a bit. Let it heat through for about 10 seconds. Add the beef and stir for a few seconds to coat. Continue to stir-fry the beef in the sauce for 1 to 2 minutes to allow it to heat through and finish cooking. Sprinkle with the peppercorns and mix well again. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.
Recipes excerpted from Chinese Soul Food by permission of Sasquatch Books. (c) 2018 by Hsiao-Ching Chou. All rights reserved.