I set out to make beef with broccoli, just like the dish served in Asian restaurants. Then I got to thinking, I really want this to have lots of veggies, not just broccoli. And I want this Beef Vegetable Stir Fry to have that authentic taste, that sauce that’s not too sweet. And of course lots of colour. I think I nailed it!
The first thing I did was have a look through a cookbook. It’s called Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu. That’s not a typo, it’s really her name! The ESL staff at work gave me this awesome book as a gift and I’ve referenced it many times. Not only did I get an idea of ingredients in the sauce, I also learned a little trick to tenderize the beef. Now I know why the thin slices of beef in restaurant dishes like Beef with Broccoli are literally fork tender. They’re marinated in baking soda. Who knew? Well, now you do!
How to prepare beef for stir fry
A great tip for making Beef Vegetable Stir Fry is to slice the beef as thinly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to partially freeze the beef before slicing. Twenty minutes or so is all you need. Then, of course, a very sharp knife helps as well. Once you’ve sliced the beef into very thin strips, sprinkle a spoonful of baking soda over top and stir. Add some soy sauce and white pepper and leave to marinate in the fridge for about half an hour. It doesn’t take long. Even twenty minutes will do.
You can use different cuts of beef for stir fry, just keep a few things in mind. A cheaper less tender piece of beef like sirloin or flank steak needs to be cut across the grain to prevent it from being stringy. If you aren’t sure, look closely to see the direction of the muscle fibres, then cut in the opposite direction. I actually used a NY strip steak because it was on sale. The amount of meat you need is about 4 oz per person or a quarter pound, give or take. If your steak has fatty and grizzly parts, remove them before slicing and keep in mind that you’ll end up with slightly less beef. So basically you can make a meal for 3-4 people with one steak. Thrifty!
I actually added some thinly sliced garlic cloves to the beef so that the garlic will cook along with the meat. If you sauté garlic on its own in hot oil it could burn and result in a bitter taste.
What are the best vegetables for stir fry
The vegetables you choose to use are up to you. You can make this with just broccoli which will save you some prep time. But if you’re like me, having a variety of textures and colour makes this not only a healthy and delicious meal, but also a beautiful one. You do eat with all your senses.
Clean and slice all the veggies into bite sized pieces. Carrots, broccoli and other veggies that are harder need to be fairly thin so everything cooks at the same rate. Don’t forget to use the broccoli stems. Just peel the upper part and slice thinly. Ginger is hard too and it’s also got a bit of heat. Another thing I learned from the Thai cookbook is you can slice your ginger into thin strips and soak them in cold water before cooking to lesson the heat. I like heat so I wouldn’t normally do that but I did try it this time and it does work.
You can use onion in place of shallots but I like to use them because they’re slightly less pungent than an onion which is good in a dish where the vegetables aren’t cooked very long. They also have a hint of a garlic flavour which works well. And I like to say shallot. “Shall – OT”
Bamboo shoots come in small cans that are the perfect amount to add to this Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry. Drain them well and add them at the end, along with some stringless sugar snap peas because neither of these need to be cooked, just heated through.
The Thai cookbook recipes had lots of ingredients that most people wouldn’t have on hand. I came up with a sauce that had that authentic flavour without having to buy too many unusual ingredients like oyster sauce. I did, however, use fish sauce and since you’ll love this so much you’ll be making it again and again, go ahead and buy the fish sauce.
What can I substitute for fish sauce
If you really REALLY have an aversion to the idea of fish sauce, you can use a little bit of Worcestershire, about half the amount of fish sauce, with a touch of lime juice. It’s stronger and not quite the same but it would work. Or just leave it out all together. But I totally recommend it if you want the authentic tasting sauce. And please buy some Hoisin sauce if you don’t have any on hand. It’s kind of like an Asian barbecue sauce and you’ll use it for other things. I often glaze a pork tenderloin with it. The sesame oil can be omitted, especially if you use Hoisin sauce because it has sesame oil in it. You don’t need much sesame oil, it has a very strong flavour but really works in this dish. And I like to add some heat to the sauce so I use sriracha but that’s totally optional.
There’s no sugar in this sauce. The only sweetness comes from the Hoisin sauce. And the soy sauce in the beef marinade is enough, so you don’t need any in the sauce. There’s enough salty flavour in the fish sauce so there’s no added salt. And white pepper is used in the meat so there’s no large bits of hard peppercorn in the smooth silky texture of the beef.
Thinning the cornstarch in some water before adding it to the sauce helps prevent lumps. The cornstarch makes the sauce thicken and glisten. It doesn’t look very good when you first mix it up but as soon as the sauce hits the heat, it darkens and thickens and coats the vegetables and beef perfectly, leaving you enough sauce to cover rice or noodles if you’re using them.
Beef Vegetable Stir Fry doesn’t take long to cook so once you have all your ingredients ready to go, it’s as simple as heating a large skillet or wok quite high, along with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Don’t use olive oil, it can’t withstand that level of heat. You want the oil to be starting to smoke when you add the beef so make sure your vent fan is running before you start. Don’t be afraid of the high temperature, you want to stir fry, not simmer your meat and vegetables. They’ll take too long to cook if the heat isn’t high enough, resulting in soggy vegetables and grey meat. Yuk. Yes, you’ll get a bit of splatter but just call in the maid.
If you like a stir fry with a sweeter sauce, Sweet and Sour Pork is another favourite in our house and also super easy to prepare.
Beef Vegetable Stir Fry will be a favourite in your house. Garnish with some sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds and serve over rice. Or rice noodles.
Here’s the recipe:
Beef Vegetable Stir Fry
- 16 oz steak trimmed of fat and grizzle
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on an angle
- 1 large shallot, about 1 Tbsp or onion
- 4 large mushrooms, sliced
- 2 heads broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces use the stalk too, peel and slice thinly
- 1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
- 199 ml can bamboo shoots, drained
- 227 g package stringless sugar snap peas 8 oz
- 1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips - see note about the size of a thumb
- 2 green onions, minced for garnish
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- 1 1/4 cup reduced sodium beef broth
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp fish sauce or substitute 1 tsp Worcestershire with squirt of lime juice
- 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch stir into water before adding to sauce
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 tsp sriracha, or more if desired optional
- Remove any fat and grizzle from beef, then slice into very thin strips against the grain. Peel and thinly slice garlic and add to meat. Sprinkle with baking soda, white pepper and soy sauce. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
- Peel carrots and slice thinly on a diagonal. Cut broccoli heads into slices or bite sized pieces. Peel upper part of stalk and slice thinly. Clean and slice mushrooms, mince shallots and slice sweet pepper into strips.
- Drain bamboo shoots. Rinse snap peas and drain.
- Make sauce by combining beef broth, sesame oil, fish sauce, hoisin sauce and sriracha. Mix cornstarch with cold water and add to sauce.
- Heat oil in large skillet or wok to high temperature. When oil begins to smoke, add beef mixture and stir fry for about 1 minute. Add vegetables and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and pour sauce over mixture. Stir for 1 minute while sauce thickens. Add snap peas and bamboo shoots and cook for 1 more minute.
- Serve over rice or noodles if desired.
- Garnish with minced green onion and toasted sesame seeds.