I completely botched a stir-fry recipe earlier this week, and I'm not proud of it. I thought I had the technique down, but this meal was bland and greasy with limp vegetables and tough meat. I had obviously tried to cook too many of the ingredients at once, crowding the pan and lowering its temperature. I didn't get the kind of excessive heat needed. When I tried to correct this, the vegetables began to stick to the sides of the pan, so I added more oil, which only made it greasier. I could barely eat the meal. The next day I was so beside myself that I had to avenge my stir-fry mistakes.
I will admit that I picked this recipe almost entirely because it had Chinese five-spice in it. The flavorful spice mixture would certainly be the aromatic lift my dish needed. To solve the overcrowding problem, I stir-fried everything in batches, only combining the vegetables and meat at the last second.
The adjustments worked. The vegetables were properly seared and slightly crisp, and the meat was browned but still tender. The best part was the sauce, which I poured in at the end and thickened beautifully to cover all the ingredients.
- 1 pound beef (flank, skirt, chuck), chopped into 1-by-1/2-inch slices
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large head bok choy
- 2 cups sugar snap peas
- 2 teaspoons conrnstarch
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, sugar, five-spice powder, and red pepper flakes into a bowl and whisk until combined. Add the beef and stir until well coated. Set aside for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture every 5 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, separate the leaves from the stems of the bok choy. Slice the leaves into 1-inch slices. Chop the stems into 1/2 inch chunks. String the snap peas by pulling the little stem along the flat side of the pea.
Remove the beef from the marinade. Whisk in the cornstarch into the marinade liquid.
Set a wok or a saute pan over high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon of the oil and let heat for about 30 seconds. Then add the meat. If the saute is small, you might need to do this in batches. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until browned. Remove the beef and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of the oil. Add the bok choy stems. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Then add the leaves and cook for 2 minutes, again stirring often. Remove and set aside.
Pour in the last of the oil, and add the peas. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
Add the bok choy and beef back to the pan or wok. Pour on the marinade. Cook for about a minute, or until the sauce thickens and coats everything. Serve with rice or noodles.