What’s cooking today: Beef and black bean stir fry
Beef is a fine and versatile meat to work with, having enough flavour of its own without needing to be enhanced by anything more than fat and salt. But it lends itself to a whack of flavour too, such as the black bean sauce used in this stir fry recipe.
Black bean sauce gives deep, bold flavours to a wok dish, with a slight sweetness. Made chiefly of fermented black beans, it is redolent of garlic, chilli, ginger, rice wine, soy, and a touch of sweetness from the likes of brown sugar or sweet soy sauce. Some recipes for it use tamari, rather than soy, for its deeper flavour.
I used a commercial brand of black bean sauce for this recipe. It is feasible to make your own, but it’s a lot of trouble to go to for a quick weeknight supper; and wok cooking is also about speed.
A note on readiness: I always set out the tools I know I will need for whatever I’m cooking, so that when I’m ready to start, everything is already at hand and I don’t have to leave something to overcook while I scramble for a fork, ladle or whatever. This is a good habit to get into.
Even when making bacon and eggs for breakfast, I set out a knife, fork and spoon and a container for any cooked items. (Knife for cracking the eggshell, spoon for spooning hot butter over the top of the eggs, fork for turning the bacon.)
(I’m not the kind of chef who holds an egg in a hand to crack on the countertop and lets the raw egg seep through my fingers; that’s unnecessarily messy, not to mention the action suggesting “see how cheffy I am”.)
So, for a wok dish, I have everything to hand as well, as it is all about getting everything done very speedily.
400 g beef fillet, trimmed and sliced thinly
4 red spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
1 red bell pepper/capsicum, sliced in julienne strips
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
80 ml black bean sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp wok oil
Have the black bean sauce and rice wine vinegar to hand at the stove, and the beef and vegetables nearby too. Place a container nearby to put the cooked items in while you work. I work with two wooden spoons when cooking in a wok; I find it the best way.
Boil a kettle, put the quantity of noodles you need in a deep bowl, and pour boiling water over it to cover. Let it steep while you cook the other ingredients.
Peel and slice the garlic, trim the red spring onions and slice them thinly on the diagonal. Remove the core from the red pepper and discard the seeds.
Trim away any extraneous sinew and fat from the beef (there may be none) and slice it into thin strips.
Pour a glug of wok oil (Woolworths sell a few good brands, or try an Asian food store) into a cold wok.
Put it on a moderately high heat and, when hot, add a few strips of beef at a time, immediately turning and tossing them for quick, even cooking. They must not cook for too long. Add some black bean sauce and toss through; ditto a splash of rice wine vinegar. Take them off and do the next batch until they’re all done, adding a little more black bean sauce as you go.
When the meat is all cooked, add a splash more wok oil and, when hot, add the capsicum, spring onions and garlic and toss for a minute or two. Add a dash more black bean sauce and a hint of rice wine vinegar and toss through.
Drain the noodles in a colander and add to the wok. Return the other ingredients to the wok and toss through. DM
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido.
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.
This dish is photographed in a bowl by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.