Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CSA week nine - Chinese greens and beef with oyster sauce

I had every intention of making this recipe straight, but I figured one young bok choy doesn't make a meal. So I maybe I could add a little meat to make it a main dish and as long as I was adding that I may as well add a few other things. You know how it goes.

I did keep the method which is an interesting way to compose a Chinese dish that could as easily been a stir fry. Let's see if it's worth the extra trouble...


1 smallish bok choy or a couple servings of some other Chinese greens

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 hot red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 drizzle sesame oil

4 ounces firm tofu, sliced into 1/4 inch thick squares
4 ounces beef, sliced into strings
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice wine
2 more teaspoons cooking oil

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 dashes white pepper

0. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

1. Mix oyster sauce, water, sugar and white pepper in a small bowl. Set tofu and beef marinating in soy sauce and rice wine in two more small bowls.

2. Heat a pot of water to boiling. On another burner turn on the heat under a wok. Drop in the greens and blanch for 30 seconds or so; just long enough to take a picture or two. Drain greens, arrange on a plate and place into the oven to wait.

3. Add the 2 teaspoons cooking oil to the wok along with a tiny piece of garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle add the rest of the garlic and the red pepper. Cook momentarily until the garlic starts to brown. Remove to a fourth small bowl. Add a little sesame oil.

4. Reheat the wok until smoking. Add another 2 teaspoons cooking oil. (As Martin Yan says: "Hot wok, cold oil: food won't stick!" Drain the tofu and add to wok. Cook until slightly crispy. Don't stir fry or this will take forever. Do shake the pan and flip them occasionally to make sure they're not sticking. Drain and add the beef and cook for a minute until beef is cooked. Add the oyster sauce mixture and mix. Retrieve the greens, pour the wok contents over top and pour the chili-garlic oil over that.

Serve with white rice, drink some rice wine and contemplate washing all those bowls.

You know how well oyster sauce goes with beef and greens so you already know that this was pretty tasty . But was it worth the extra trouble over a stir fry? Yeah, I think so. There's no way you're going to get from a stir fry this sort of light fresh flavor and slight crunch from the greens, garlic and chile. And, if you stir fry the greens you get a thin layer of oil that would keep the sauce from sticking to the leaves the lovely way it does here. If anything, I think I made a mistake over-complicating the original recipe; the beef and tofu were just a distraction from the pairing of the barely-cooked greens and the sauce. Best to leave it as a simple, but well-designed, side dish.


kat said...

I do love the the flavor of this dish. I like the idea of cooking the greens separately so they don't get that oil.

billjac said...

What I thought was interesting about this method was that it wasn't any lower in oil than a straight stir fry, but the oil in it is smartly utilized: infused with flavor and made a component of the sauce. Yes, there's an oil slick on the plate, but it's there on purpose and for the best possible reason.