An old favorite of mine, scallion beef stir-fry, which is pronounced cong bao ngau in Cantonese and cong bao niu in Mandarin, is a meal that, in my honest opinion, the majority of recipes and restaurants don’t really get correctly. A reliable carbon steel wok and some high-quality “wok hay” can make all the difference in the world when preparing a dish of this caliber.
Unfortunately, even some restaurants in Chinatown don’t prepare this dish correctly. As a result, you end up with a dish that is a touch greasy and mushy, and you can tell that the person cooking it was just going through the motions.
There are a lot of recipes available, and many of them have photographs of a dish that is saucy, has bright scallions, has beef, and looks like Beef with broccoli. However, this is not the essence of the food––at least not what I am used to. The word “bao” in cong bao ngau can be translated as either “burst,” “explode,” or “crack.” For this beef stir-fry meal, that means you have to make those onions “crack” with some blistering heat and get them to crackle with as much wok hay as you can conjure!
Additionally, there should not be any standing sauce on top of this meal. The Beef gets a lot more taste and texture when you dredge it in cornstarch and then fry it until it’s browned and just a little bit crispy. If you like our Mongolian Beef, you should definitely give this recipe a shot!
FOR THE BEEF MARINADE:
- 450g of flank steak (sliced thinly against the grain)
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons of oil
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
FOR THE REST OF THE DISH:
- 4 cups of scallions (cut into 2-inch lengths)
- ¼ cup of vegetable or canola oil
- 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon of finely julienned ginger
- 2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon of hot water
- ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper
- In a bowl, mix the oil, soy sauce, and cornstarch before adding it to the meat. For best results, marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Mix the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, boiling water, and white pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle three tablespoons of cornstarch over the steak and spread it out on a platter. Shake off any excess and toss the steak so that it is lightly coated.
- Spread a quarter cup of oil around a hot wok and heat it until it begins to smoke. Cook the beef for 30 seconds on one side in the oil before flipping it.
- After 30 seconds, turn the meat over and sear it on the other side. Turn the heat down to medium, drain or dispose of all but about 2 tablespoons of oil, and return to the wok.
- Toss in the ginger and sauté for 15 seconds or until it reaches a caramelized state. The white parts of the scallions should be added at the highest possible heat. While still cooking, add 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine to deglaze the wok.
- Toss in the meat and the remaining scallions. For about 30 seconds, toss everything in a wok with some oil, and then add the sauce you made beforehand. Keep cooking in the wok. In a perfect world, the scallions would be nicely scorched by the time they reached the wok. Maintain stir-frying until all liquid has disappeared and the beef and scallions are coated with sauce.
- Coat the rim of the wok with 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine. It needs to sizzle and vanish quickly; toss the dish again until the wine is cooked off, at which point you can add more wok hay. Finished cooking? Commence plating and serve the delicious Scallion Beef Stir-Fry!