Bringing Mum’s traditional Chinese cooking to the far west of Australia…

Two flights and 10 hours later, we’re back in Auckland with weather so humid that it feels hotter than Western Australia, even though temperature-wise, it’s nowhere close. For our last meal before we left, I gave everyone a bit of a taste of how I do Chinese food; or rather, how my mother does Chinese food and how I try to follow her instructions as closely as I can. There were three stir fry dishes:

  1. Beef, bok choy and snow peas
  2. Black bean beef and broccoli (inspired by Gok Wan’s stir fried beef in fragrant black bean sauce recipe)
  3. Tofu and oyster mushrooms

The first and third dishes are very common in our family’s kitchen and all three are far better options than going down to the local Chinese takeaway shop. Not only are these recipes healthier and tastier but they’re also ridiculously simple to make; the hardest thing about any of these is the prep.

Note that these measurements below are rough estimates; how much or how little of these ingredients you put in depends very much on personal preference i.e. whether you want more meat or more veges, how salty or dark you want it, etc.

Beef, bok choy and snow peas stir fried with light soy and oyster sauce
(Serves 6)

Ingredients

  • 300g good quality beef steak, sliced into 2-3cm strips.
  • About 2 bunches of fresh bok choy, pulled apart at the stem. You can chop these into smaller pieces if you like but I prefer them whole
  • 500g snow peas – pretty much any other green leafy vegetable works as well though
  • Soy sauce and oyster sauce to taste – NOTE that you can use either light or dark soy; light soy is what we always use and this is saltier than the dark soy but doesn’t colour the food as much. When used in the right amounts, both give the same results in terms of taste; it’s just a matter of whether you want your food coloured darker or lighter.
  • A couple of teaspoons of water – from what I understand, my Mum does this primarily to stop the food from sticking to the wok as well as to help cook the veges through the steam that the water and heat provide
  • Vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
  • About 3cm of ginger sliced finely
  • 1 spring onion diced
  • Cornflower/cornstarch to thicken further if needed
  • Sesame oil

Method

  1. Marinate the beef in some soy sauce and cornflour/starch and leave for a couple of hours before cooking.
  2. Heat oil in a wok; the oil should just be enough to cover the bottom of the wok. Make sure the oil does not smoke.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and cook for a minute or 2, or until fragrant.
  4. Toss in the bok choy and cook for a couple of minutes before adding in the snow peas. Note that the contents of the wok must constantly be stirred and moved around to ensure even cooking. Slowly add in some water but only just enough to keep everything fluid and moving i.e. don’t let the contents become runny.
  5. Add in the beef and sear on all sides; don’t overcook.
  6. Add soy and oyster sauces to taste. Remember that the darkness of soy sauce is not an indicator of how salty it is – always taste!
  7. If you wish, you can thicken the sauce with some cornflour (around 2-3 teaspoons) mixed with a bit of water
  8. Plate up and drizzle with a little bit of sesame oil

Through the haze of my jet lag I’m not sure if all of that made sense but there really is nothing to the stir frying. The essential foundations of flavours in Chinese food lie in the “Holy Trinity” of Chinese cooking: ginger, garlic and spring onion. Get these right and it’s incredibly easy to cook a great-tasting Chinese meal.

Recipe for tofu and oyster mushrooms coming up next time!

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