April 30, 2012

Asparagus and Beef in Shacha Sauce

The fragrance, the sizzle, the chop, and the heat, they are what make chow, or stir-frying, a beautiful action. Unlike stir-fries in most American Chinese restaurants—mostly vegetable and meat concoction dressed in heavy gravy—or as prepackaged frozen meals in supermarkets, I like my stir-fry to be minimalist, clean with only a few but distinct ingredients. Pair and cut two ingredients diverse in colors and textures into various shapes—big or small, long or short, plump or slender—and in a matter of minutes, you'd be singing about the joy of turning raw ingredients into aromatic bites of contrasting yet complementing textures, as in this dish, crunchy asparagus and velvety beef, held together by shacha sauce, a pungent, savory and slightly spicy sauce popular in southern China and Taiwan.

From left to right: Shacha sauce, marinated beef, asparagus, aromatics (ginger and garlic)

Before you read on, here are my tips to basic stir-fry:
  1. Size matters: cut ingredients into uniform size to ensure even cooking.
  2. Marinade: This is not optional. It's a stir-fry, which means quick cooking; a marinade not only tenderizes the meat but also brings out the flavor in little time.
  3. Heat: Start your wok/pan in medium or high heat. Make sure oil is hot before adding ingredients.
  4. Aromatics: Everything get a lift in flavor; the wok/pan, the oil and of course, the ultimate dish.
  5. Keep the rhythm: Be patient with quick cooking by adding ingredients one by one. Listen to the sizzle.  Don't crowd the wok/pan. 
  6. Finishing touches: Cover to steam. A slurry helps seal in the juices and thicken the dish to a nice body.
Here's a quick stir-frying 101 introduction by Grace Young, James Beard award-winning author of the book, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge.

Asparagus Beef Stir-fry in Sacha Sauce
Time: 20 minutes 
Yield: 1-2 servings 
4-6 oz beef, sliced, cut against the grain (click on the link to see a guideline for cutting and choosing the right cut for beef for stir-fry)
1 cup asparagus, cut to 1” inch length diagonally
1 clove garlic, 
slices of ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
1 tablespoon of shacha sauce 
Marinade for beef:
1 tablespoon water

½ teaspoon soy sauce 

½ teaspoon cooking rice wine 
a pinch of sugar and salt
½ tablespoon cornstarch
½ tablespoon oil

Slurry (optional):
½ teaspoon cornstarch 
1 teaspoon water  
  1. CUT the beef into thin slices against the grain. The meat is easier to cut half-frozen.
  2. By hand, MIX the beef with 1 tablespoon water until all water is absorbed. STIR in the remaining marinade and mix well.
  3. CUT the asparagus into 1-inch length diagonally. MINCE 1 clove of garlic and cut ginger into thin slices.
  4. HEAT 1 tablespoon oil in a pan over medium heat.
  5. BROWN the beef slices until 70% done, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan.
  6. ADD garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce to the remaining oil and stir-fry until aroma is released, about 30 seconds.
  7. STIR in asparagus and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  8. STIR in beef. Add a pinch of salt. Stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  9. COVER to steam until beef is done and asparagus is tender, approximately 1 minute. (While waiting, you can prepare the slurry, which is optional. POUR the slurry into the pan and quickly stir to thicken. Cover again.)
  10. REMOVE from heat and let sit for 30 seconds. Serve with rice!

1 comment:

Ralph Madden said...

I love eating delicious food because it always make my day and this blog gave me the best food that I can eat later for my lunch. Thanks for sharing this.

Easy Stir Fry