Who needs to order takeout when you have a Chinese Beef and Broccoli recipe sourced from a Chinese restaurant? AND the secret for how Chinese restaurants tenderise beef? 🙂
I’ve attempted on several occasions to wheedle recipes out of my local Chinese restaurant – with little to no success.
I’m beyond the age of hair flipping and lack the lashes for batting my eyes to any effect, but I do dial up the charm – full wattage smile, laying on the compliments, hitting them up after I’ve ordered a truckload of takeout.
Alas, I’ve gotten nowhere.
So imagine my delight when I discovered a Chinese cooking blog called Woks of Life run by a Chinese-American family who used to own a Chinese restaurant! And that’s where the base for this recipe came from – the Woks of Life Beef and Broccoli stir fry. An actual real-deal restaurant recipe!!
The sauce base for Chinese Beef and Broccoli includes all the usual suspects – soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine (see recipe for subs), sugar and cornflour/cornstarch for thickening.
It also includes Chinese Five Spice Powder. It’s a spice mix made up of (surprise, surprise) five spices – cinnamon, cloves, Szechuan pepper, fennel and star anise.
It’s a common spice blend found in supermarkets nowadays that doesn’t cost any more than other standard spices. A little hint of Chinese Five Spice in the sauce is the signature flavour of Chinese Beef and Broccoli.
The Sauce serves a dual purpose – as the main Sauce for the stir fry, as well as adding a little flavour directly to the beef. It doesn’t need to be marinated, just set it aside while you prep the other ingredients.
In the video and the photos of the finished dish in this post, I’ve used an economy beef eye fillet (Australia – Harris Farms sells it for $20/kg) which is beautifully juicy and tender, perfect for stir fries.
Any quick cooking cut of beef is suited to this recipe. Basically, the rule of thumb is: if you’d throw it on the BBQ and eat it as a steak, it’s great for stir fries.
But, I also want to share with you a little known Chinese restaurant secret so you can make this with slow cooking cuts of beef that are far better value….
Ever notice how the meat in Chinese dishes is so incredibly tender, and how your stir fries at home are just never the same?
The secret is tenderising the meat. Your cheerful local Chinese restaurant is using economical stewing beef to make stir fries with ultra tender strips of beef by tenderising.
There are a few ways to do it. Marinating in a cornflour sludge then frying in oil before using in the stir fry, using an egg white mixture, and even chemical tenderisers.
I use the baking soda (bi-carb) method which I find the simplest for every day purposes. It’s as simple as this: use an economical slow cooking cut of beef, slice, sprinkle with baking soda, leave for 20 minutes, rinse, pat dry then use per recipe.
That beef which would ordinarily be super tough unless simmered slowly for hours is going to be so tender and juicy, it’s going to blow your mind.
Word of caution: The beef will turn freakishly bright red. See?
I haven’t travelled extensively throughout China but in the time I did spend there, I can say with certainty that I never saw Beef and Broccoli on any menu. So I’m not actually sure whether Beef and Broccoli is a westernised version of a Chinese dish, or whether it is in fact just a Western Chinese dish.
Either way, it’s a big Chinese takeout favourite – with good reason. Tender beef with juicy broccoli generously smothered with a savoury Chinese brown sauce with the signature hint of Chinese Five Spice Powder, this is one of those dishes that’s a crowd pleaser for all ages! – Nagi x
PS Plenty of sauce – see? Because everyone loves the sauce!
Recipe video below.
Faster than take out, healthier and tastier. This is a recipe from a Chinese restaurant! See recipe notes for how to tenderise the beef if using a stewing cut of beef.
- 2 tbsp cornstarch / cornflour
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce (Note 1)
- 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine) (Note 2)
- 1/8 tsp Chinese five spice powder (Note 3)
- 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
- 1/8 tsp tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp oil
- 12 oz / 360g beef fillet, flank or rump (Note 4 for tenderising economical beef)
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 4 - 5 cups broccoli florets (1 head), cooked (Note 5)
- 1 cup water
- Sesame seeds (optional)
Place cornflour and water in bowl then mix. Add remaining Sauce ingredients.
Slice the beef into 1/4" / 0.5cm thick slices. Place the beef and 2 tbsp of the Sauce into a bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a skillet over high heat. Add beef and spread out, leave for 1 minute until browned.
Stir beef for 10 seconds, then add garlic and ginger. Stir for another 30 seconds or until beef is no longer pink.
Pour Sauce and water into the skillet and quickly mix.
When the sauce starts bubbling, add broccoli. Stir to coat the broccoli in Sauce, then let it simmer for 1 minute or until Sauce is thickened.
Remove from heat immediately and serve over rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
1. Dark soy sauce makes the sauce colour darker and it has more flavour than light soy sauce. In Australia, you can get both at the large supermarkets (Coles and Woolworths).
You can use all purpose soy sauce or just light soy sauce in place of both the soy sauces but the sauce colour will not be lighter.
You can also substitute the Dark Soy sauce with kecap manis (if you happen to have that on hand instead). If you do, do not add any sugar because kecap manis is sweet enough.
2. Chinese cooking wine is an essential ingredient in Chinese stir fry sauces and without it, it will lack that true "restaurant" edge. Dry sherry is a terrific sub, or cooking sake. Mirin can also be used but omit the sugar.
If you cannot consume alcohol, replace 3/4 cup of the water with low sodium chicken broth.
3. Chinese Five Spice Powder is a mix of five spices. It is available in the herb and spice section of supermarkets and it costs no more than other spices.
4. Tenderising beef: Beef stir fries are best made with decent to good quality "quick cooking" cuts of beef suited to serving as steak. However, you can use chuck beef, gravy beef, round steak or "stewing / casserole beef" (which typically need to be slow cooked to break down tough connective tissues) if you tenderise the beef before using it. If you pan fry chuck beef slices without tenderising, it's incredibly tough and chewy - basically inedible. Here's how to tenderise the beef the Chinese restaurant way:
Slice beef per recipe, then sprinkle with 1 tsp of baking soda (bi-carb). Use fingers to coat beef, set aside for 20 - 30 minutes. Rinse well in colander, shake / pat off excess water. Beef will be intensely red. Proceed with recipe. Prepare to be amazed how incredibly tender that beef is.
Don't try this with brisket. I tried once and it didn't work (it was still super tough).
5. If par boiling, place the broccoli into a pot of boiling water, then when it comes back up to a boil, let it boil for 40 seconds (for just cooked) or 1 minute (for tender) then drain. The residual heat will cook the broccoli through while sitting in the colander.
6. Adapted from this recipe from Woks of Life, my "go to" resource for Chinese takeout recipes!
7. Nutrition per serving, excluding rice.
Originally published March 2015, updated with new photos, new words, slightly more streamlined recipe and a recipe video!
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
He’ll take the beef over the broccoli……