Far too often, beef with broccoli is a gloppy mess. In fact, I rarely order it for takeout as I fear the curse of over-thickened and excessively-sweetened brown sauce will ruin what would otherwise be a perfectly fine meal. But after making Diana Kuan's version from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook at home, I've learned I have nothing to fear from this dish. Her quick tricks—blanching the broccoli and marinating the beef with cornstarch—leave the beef tender and the broccoli bright green. The sauce? It's just thick enough to cling to the stir-fry without turning to sludge, and the minced garlic and ginger add bright punch to the mix.
Why I picked this recipe: I wanted to see if a homemade beef with broccoli could assuage my fears of the ubiquitous brown sauce.
What worked: Velveting the beef (adding cornstarch to the marinade) and blanching the broccoli with baking soda upped this dish from a muddled, gloppy stir-fry to a meal I'd serve at a dinner party.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: I was skeptical of blanching the broccoli salt-free, but the baking soda does indeed keep the broccoli green. The broccoli is plenty salty once stirred into the super-seasoned sauce.
Reprinted from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Quick and easy dishes to prepare at home by Diana Kuan. Copyright 2012. Published by Ballantine Booka, an imprint of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- For the Marinade:
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 3/4 pound flank steak, cut against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- For the Sauce:
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 to 4 cups broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the Marinade: In a medium bowl, stir together the soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the beef and stir gently to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
For the Sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the chicken stock, oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water for 2 minutes. (If you want the broccoli to maintain its bright green hue, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the boiling water.) Rinse the broccoli under running cold water. Drain thoroughly and set aside.
Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry briefly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry until lightly brown on the outside but not yet cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour in the sauce and bring it to a simmer. Add the blanched broccoli. Continue to cook the beef and broccoli for another minute, stirring so that everything is well coated. Season with pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.