Stir-fries have never scared me. Chop up some meat and a handful of interesting vegetables, sizzle everything in a hot pan, toss it onto a plate full of rice, and pass the soy sauce, please.
And, you know, that's a fine way to make a perfectly passable meal.
But after my delicious visit to Malaysia, and particularly, my afternoon at Baby Boy's stall, I realized that stir-fries are an art form and it was time to up my game.
So all summer long, I have been working to take my stir-fry technique from good to great. This ginger beef recipe is my new hands-down favorite, and I've discovered a new passion for this cooking style.
1. Stir-fries make me feel so organized.
First, I set my beef to marinating several hours before dinner, and what's not to love about getting a big head start on my meal prep. Then there is plenty of time for all the chopping and sorting and arranging the ingredients just so, so that when the cooking is happening, every little thing is just where I need it. I love to put each neatly prepared element in its own bowl, and arrange the whole lot on a tray. So satisfyingly cute.
b. cornstarch and water
d. serrano pepper
e. green onion
2. Stir-fries are a delicate balance of texture and flavor.
Sure, I can just throw random veggies in the pan and call it good, but the best stir-fries, like this one, are carefully constructed compositions of delicious. I appreciate the way the bold flavors of the ginger and serrano pepper are softened by the sweet cilantro and crunchy onion; the ingredients of a good stir-fry work together instead of competing for my taste buds' attention.
3. Stir-fries are a blast to cook.
I wish I had a giant gas wok, like the kind at Baby Boy's stall, but I make do with my electric skillet, set on maximum heat. When weather permits, I've discovered that it's way more fun to set up my cook station outside on the patio, and let the hot steam drift off into the cool evening air. Once the cooking begins, the magic happens quickly and in just a few moments' time, a sweet little stir-fry is born.
4. Stir-fries are as lovely to look at as they are to eat.
Because they usually include an interesting variety of ingredients, and cook so quickly that they retain their unique colors and shapes, stir-fries make an exceptionally attractive dish. And when served on a soft white bed of rice, the stir-fry is an uncommonly pretty plate full of food.
In fact, he gave it a five-star rating. So trust us both, this stir-fry is definitely a winner.
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1/4 C rice vinegar
1/2 C soy sauce
2 T honey
1 T peeled grated fresh ginger
1 T chile pepper flakes
1 1/2 to 2 pounds of sirloin, sliced thin
3 T peanut oil
1 T sesame oil
2 serrano chiles, seeded and sliced
4-6 cloves garlic, sliced thin.
1 inch nob of ginger, peeled and cut lengthwise into matchstick shapes
2 T cornstarch mixed with about 1/4 C water
6 green onions including greens, cut on diagonal into 1/2 inch bits
1/2 C cilantro, chopped
1. Blend the ingredients for the marinade; add the sliced beef. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.
2. Prep all the ingredients for the stir fry.
3. Using high heat, add the oils to a wok, electric skillet or large pan, Working in small batches, pull the sirloin strips from the marinade, using a slotted spoon to extract as much liquid as possible from the meat. Saute the beef until just brown on the outside, no more that one minute. Transfer beef to a bowl.
4.When all of the beef is cooked, add the chiles and garlic to the pan and stir-fry 30-45 seconds. Add the ginger and cook for 30-45 seconds more. Add the beef back to the pan, pour n the cornstarch slurry, and mix well. Add the green onions and mix. Cook for one minute.
5. Turn off heat. Add cilantro and mix. Serve at once with steamed rice.
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For more of my all-time homemade favorites, read: