Today I’ve got a cookbook recommendation from you, and one of my favourite recipes from it. You may already be raising your eyebrows at the title, since Gok Wan is probably more famous for his fashion tips than knife skills, but this book is fantastic. Incidentally, if you have watched his TV show Gok Cooks Chinese then you’ll know that Gok has enviable knife skills, especially with a cleaver, probably learned during his younger years when he helped out in his dad’s Chinese restaurant.
I was given this book for Christmas two years ago and since then it’s become a firm favourite in our household. The recipes that we’ve cooked have all been delicious, with easy to follow instructions and ingredients lists that aren’t too tricky to track down (a few more specialised ingredients might require a trip to the local Chinese supermarket, but I always find the products are cheaper than those from regular supermarkets anyway). Some recipes that I would highly recommend if you decide to pick up this book are his dim-sum collection (particularly the char siu pork buns and chicken and leek magic potstickers), Poppa Wan’s simple soy-glazed chicken (a quick and easy weekday dish), the unusual stir-fried cucumbers and the spicy Sichuan chicken (this one is strong in flavour, but very moreish).
I always think it’s really hard to recreate Chinese food at home that can compete with the food that you get out in restaurants, but the recipes in this book do absolutely that. In fact, they might even be better. The recipe I’m showing you today is similar to the crispy shredded beef that so many takeaways do, but without the deep-frying and the gloopy sauce. This version is sweet, spicy from ginger and garlic, and the beef is crisp on the outside but soft in the centre. Since I haven’t changed Gok’s recipe from the book I won’t take you through every step – his instructions are detailed enough to easily follow. Instead I thought I’d run you through a few tips that I’ve discovered are helpful, and then pop the recipe down below…
1. This tip applies to all Chinese cooking, not just this particular recipe, and it is to prepare all of your ingredients before you begin cooking. Weigh out your ingredients, chop all the vegetables and meat, and mix up your sauce. This is usually the most time-consuming part of Chinese cooking, but it will really help when you come to cooking, especially you are going to be cooking quickly in a very hot wok.
2. Buy good quality meat. It might seem sacrilegious to some to use good quality sirloin steak in a stir-fry recipe, but trust me it is worth it. The beef is cooked quickly at a high temperature so you need a decent cut which will still be tender after this kind of cooking. Splash out on a couple of nice steaks (they don’t need to be huge) and you won’t regret it.
3. Get your wok screaming hot and take the time to fry the beef in batches. Make sure that the steak is spread out in one layer only, don’t (no matter how tempting it is) dump it all in at once. This will ensure that the beef is cooked as quickly as possible, resulting in a crisp coating while still being tender inside. Kitchen tongs are a really useful utensil for frying the batches of steak, and make sure you have a plate with a piece of kitchen roll placed on top to lift the cooked meat out on to. I find that using a freezer bag to coat the steak in seasoned corn flour is the easiest way to do it.
4. I make one and a half times the quantity of sauce stated in this recipe, but this is simply due to our personally preference to have a fairly “saucy” dish. Excellent when you have lots of rice on the side to soak it all up.