I recently bought Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge on half.com. I think that it’s one of the best $4 I’ve ever made. The author, Grace Young, has a whole bunch of really interesting stir fries from all over the Chinese diaspora, including Chinese-Indian, Chinese-Peruvian, and of course Chinese-American stir fries. The book is a great lesson about capturing the spirit of a stir fry, which is supposed to be a quick, hot, small-portioned dish. She also points out that Chinese stir fries usually highlight either the meat OR the vegetable, making my go-to stir fry an inauthentic, if delicious, concoction.
One of the first recipes I tried was the Stir Fried Beef with Tomato and Ginger. My mom makes a dish very similar to this – a quick, gingery beefy stir fry with abundant gravy-like sauce (Young says that this kind of dish is an exception to the not-too-saucy rule in Chinese stir fries). I like it because it relies on canned tomatoes, which are always in our pantry.
The ingredients are all pretty straightforward, with the possible exception of dark soy sauce. Dark soy is less salty and slightly thicker than regular soy sauce (which is “light”). Many stir-fries use a combination of the two, which gives a really great depth of flavor. I recommend visiting an Asian market to find dark soy sauce, but if you can’t find it, you can substitute an equal amount of light (regular) soy.
The dish also calls for flank steak. Flank steak used to be a pretty cheap cut of beef, but it’s been gaining in popularity lately and the price has been going up. I can usually find it for about $6 a pound, which isn’t great but it’s not terrible if you only need 12 ounces. You’ll probably have to buy it in a 2-pound slab, but you can put half of it in the freezer for a rainy day. It’s really important to cut flank steak AGAINST the grain, not with it. I usually like to cut the whole thing in half with the grain, so I have two slabs of meat that are about 4″ wide, then cut against the grain in 1/4″ slices. Remember, you want even slices of meat so everything cooks at the same rate.
As with any stir-fry, things move quickly once you start cooking. Make sure you have all your ingredients prepared ahead of time. I like to set things out in little prep bowls – it looks a little goofy but I think it really is worth it.
Finally, a word on pan selection. I used a 12″ stainless frying pan (not nonstick). This worked fine, since the burned on bits from the beef ended up being released in the juice from the tomatoes. However, I would use a nonstick skillet next time I make this dish. Make sure that it’s no smaller than 12″, though, or you will be stewing instead of stir-frying.
Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef
from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, by Grace Young
serves 3 as a main course with a salad or other vegetable side
12 ounces lean flank steak
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon light (regular) soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
One 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in juice [you can also use diced tomatoes in juice]
4 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch sections
Cut the beef with the grain into two or three wide strips, then cut each strip across the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices. You should have small, bite-size pieces.
In a medium bowl, combine the beef, ginger, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and marinate for 5 minutes or up to an hour. In another bowl, combine the dark soy sauce and rest of the rice wine.
Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and then the beef, spreading it into one even layer. Let it cook, undisturbed, for one minute, then cook another minute, stirring frequently. Transfer to a plate.
Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pan, and add the rest of the sugar. Bring to a boil, breaking each tomato into a few pieces if you used whole tomatoes. Add the dark soy sauce mixture and cook for one minute. Add the beef back into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the beef is cooked through and the mixture is thickened (about 1 minute). Stir in the scallions and serve with plenty of rice.