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Hunan Beef: A Spicy and Flavorful Stir-Fry

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Creating a delicious Hunan Beef dish at home allows you to enjoy the bold flavors and spicy kick characteristic of Hunan cuisine. Hunan Beef, a staple in Chinese-American restaurants, features tender strips of beef stir-fried with colorful vegetables in a savory and spicy sauce. This dish is known for its use of fresh ingredients and intense flavors, making it a favorite among lovers of Chinese food. Here’s how you can prepare Hunan Beef from scratch in your own kitchen:

Ingredients

For the Beef Marinade:

  • 500g (about 1 lb) flank steak or sirloin, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Stir-Fry:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1-2 red chilies, thinly sliced (adjust to taste)
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snow peas or sugar snap peas
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (shiitake or button)
  • 2-3 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or water
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water (for thickening)

For Garnish:

  • Thinly sliced green onions
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

1. Prepare the Beef
  1. Marinate Beef: In a bowl, combine thinly sliced beef with soy sauce, rice wine or dry sherry, cornstarch, sesame oil, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well to coat the beef evenly. Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes.
2. Make the Sauce
  1. Combine Ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together chicken broth (or water), soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch slurry (cornstarch mixed with water). Set aside.
3. Stir-Fry
  1. Heat Oil: Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté Aromatics: Add minced garlic, minced ginger, and sliced red chilies to the skillet. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Cook Beef: Add the marinated beef to the skillet in a single layer. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until beef is browned and cooked through. Remove beef from the skillet and set aside.
  4. Stir-Fry Vegetables: In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced bell pepper, snow peas (or sugar snap peas), sliced onion, and sliced mushrooms. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until vegetables are tender-crisp.
  5. Combine Everything: Return the cooked beef to the skillet with the stir-fried vegetables. Stir the sauce mixture again to recombine, then pour it over the beef and vegetables in the skillet.
  6. Thicken Sauce: Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and coats the beef and vegetables, about 1-2 minutes.
4. Garnish and Serve
  1. Garnish: Transfer Hunan Beef to a serving platter or individual plates. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds for added flavor and texture.
  2. Serve Hot: Serve immediately over steamed rice or noodles.

Tips for Success

  • Beef Slicing: Slice the beef thinly against the grain for tender and quick cooking.
  • Adjust Heat: Control the spiciness by adjusting the amount of chili garlic sauce or red chilies used.
  • Vegetable Options: Feel free to customize the vegetables with your favorites such as broccoli florets, baby corn, or bok choy.
  • Sauce Consistency: Adjust the thickness of the sauce by simmering longer for a thicker consistency or adding more broth or water for a thinner sauce.

Variations

  • Protein Substitutions: Replace beef with chicken, pork, tofu, or shrimp for different variations.
  • Vegetarian/Vegan: Substitute beef with tofu or tempeh, and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Ensure all sauces are vegan-friendly.
  • Gluten-Free: Use tamari instead of soy sauce and ensure hoisin sauce and oyster sauce are gluten-free.

Conclusion

Hunan Beef is a flavorful and spicy stir-fry dish that combines tender beef, vibrant vegetables, and a savory sauce with a kick. By following this recipe, you can recreate the bold flavors and textures of this classic Chinese-American favorite at home. Serve Hunan Beef over steamed rice or noodles for a satisfying and delicious meal that will impress your family and friends. Enjoy the rich flavors and spicy heat of homemade Hunan Beef, and savor the taste of authentic Chinese cuisine in the comfort of your own kitchen!

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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