This stir-fry dish of beef and greens was served often at my childhood family dinner table, using our homegrown bounty of fresh picked gai lan, also known as Chinese broccoli. My daily job was to clean the garden vegetables for our meals, a job I disliked immensely since there were plenty of caterpillars and insects to pick out. That aside, when my mom would start cooking, I really enjoyed the scent of garlic, ginger and beef being fried and I couldn’t wait to eat! The method of slicing the beef steak thinly across the grain and marinating it ensures that each bite is quick-cooking, juicy and flavorful. The tender baby gai lan is first blanched, then added at the end of cooking for a quick reheat with the beef and savoury sauce. Be sure to have all the ingredients measured and ready to go as this dish cooks quickly. Serve with hot cooked rice.
1. Beef: Combine beef, cornstarch, soy sauce and oil in a large bowl, stir to coat beef well. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
2. Sauce: Whisk together ½ cup (125 mL) water, cornstarch, soy sauce, oyster sauce, cornstarch, sesame oil and dark soy sauce in a bowl; set aside.
3. Stir-fry: Place 2 cups (500 mL) water in a large nonstick skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add gai lan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
4. Wipe skillet dry and return to medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil and swirl to coat. Add half of the beef, spread out in a single layer and fry for 2 minutes without stirring; stir and cook for 30 seconds (the beef will still be pink). Transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining beef.
5. Return skillet to medium heat. Add remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil and swirl to coat. Add ginger and garlic; stir-fry for 10 seconds. Stir sauce mixture to combine, then add to skillet, cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds or until sauce is thickened. Return gai lan and beef with any accumulated juices to skillet. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes or until beef is cooked through.
If baby gai lan is not available, substitute with regular gai lan. Slice the thick stems into thinner strips so they cook quickly.
By cooking the beef strips on one side for 2 minutes, then a quick stir for 30 seconds, it creates a flavour that is closer to mimicking the wok flavours in Asian cooking.