When I first dabbled in the world of cooking, I used to rely heavily on pre-made stir fry sauces from the supermarkets. It makes cooking less intimidating as all I had to do was to cut up some fresh meat and vegetables, tossed them in the pan with the pre-made sauce. No sweat. Although each time the cooking process was almost identical, the results,on the other hand, were hit and miss depending on the sauces I used. Actually when I think about it, I had more misses and hits. One of my bad experiences is the extreme thirstiness I felt after trying out a X#@X sauce which was an indication of too much MSG.
Nowadays, I might give in to pre-made sauces on some rare ocassions given that old habits die hard, I began to concoct my own stir fry sauces as often as possible.
I came across this beef stir fry recipe from a post written by Andrea Nguyen published on MarkBittman.com. I like the idea that this recipe is inspired by airline food despite the fact that we all had our fair share of unpleasant experience with airplane food unless you’re flying first/business class. I love the use of simple ingredients that are readily available in my pantry. Moreover, does anyone not have a weakness for dark, sweet caramelised and savoury sauce with a spicy kick?
That said, although the recipe calls for the use of lemongrass, I personally prefer a more pungent herb like cilantro in a meat dish. Also it got me thinking: this recipe can work really well with fish and squid (lemongrass will be preferred in this instance).
Beef with Lemongrass & Chiles Stir Fry
(adapted from Andrea Nguyen)
Enough to feed 2 hungry people
1 12 ounces (about 340g) beef steak (tri-tip/bottom sirloin, flank, etc.)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon kecap manis sweet soy sauce (or dark soy sauce)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
About 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Fresno or cayenne chiles, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and very thinly sliced on diagonal or minced
1 large scallion, green part only, thinly sliced on diagonal (this is missing in my dish as I didn’t have this in stock)
1. Thinly slice the beef across the grain into strips. Combine the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, and cornstarch and marinate the beef for 15 minutes or longer.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile, and lemongrass. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
3. Add the beef, spreading it out to one layer. Let it sear for a minute, then stir-fry it for another 2 minutes, or until cooked through.
4. Taste for salt before adding the scallion. Cook for another 15 seconds until the scallions soften. Transfer to a serving plate. Best served with rice. Add a simple stir-fried or boiled vegetable and you’re done.