Back when I made black pepper beef in Beijing, flank steak was surprisingly difficult to find. Sure, black pepper beef is more of a Cantonese stir-fry, and the Chinese eat pork way more than beef, but somehow I just didn't expect to have to buy all my flank steak at a gourmet market for expats. Luckily, now I'm back in Brooklyn and living within walking distance of at least five big grocery stores, all of which have flank steak in abundance.
Over the years I've altered my recipe (first published July 27, 2008) to include ground black pepper in the sauce instead of the marinade, so the flavor is now more pronounced. The proportions of the sauce ingredients have also been updated; this sauce has less sodium, less sugar, less oil, but still maintains plenty of flavor. Try it out and let me know what you think!
Flank steak is something I hardly ever cook in China, mostly because I am almost never in the vicinity of a good butcher. But last weekend, I decided to treat myself to a massage to help with a sore back. Walking out blissful and somewhat painfree, I realized I was near Boucherie Michel, the only place in town where I could find quality cuts of meat and imported cheeses and wine and pricey organic food. (How I miss the days when I could pop down to the Fairway in West Harlem for all my grocery needs.)
I bought 200 grams of flank steak and made a stir-fry with peppers and onions. The sauce is relatively easy: soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and most importantly, a copious amount of freshly ground black pepper. In fact, the only thing tricky about this dish in slicing the beef thin enough, which is made easier if you pop the meat in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes beforehand. Then just slice at an angle, perpendicular to the grain; doing so shortens the muscle fibers and makes the meat less chewy when cooked.
Black Pepper Beef Stir-fry
- 1/2 pound flank steak, cut against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- Marinate the beef: In a large bowl, combine the flank steak with the soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, and black pepper. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and set aside.
- Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Swirl in the oil. Add the beef in one layer and allow it to sear on one side for 1 minute. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes, until the outside is no longer red but the beef is not yet cooked through. Remove from the wok and set aside.
- In the same wok, add the garlic, onions, and peppers and stir-fry until the aromatic and the edges of the onions begin to caramelize, about 1 to 2 minutes. Return the beef to the wok. Add the sauce and stir well to coat. Transfer to a large plate and serve.