Cantonese tomato beef is one of those dishes that make me nostalgic for Hong Kong. They can be found on the menus of western-style cafés all over the city, next to other east-west classics such as wok-fried spaghetti and macaroni with canned meat in Chinese chicken broth. While it’s also a fast dish that families whip up at home, I can’t help associating it with a cozy, slightly worn, Formica-laden interiors of Hong Kong diners.
Sometimes, your tomato beef comes to the table still hot on sizzling platter. Those were the best, the kind that reminded me of sizzling fajitas at stateside Tex-Mex restaurants. But even if you don’t have a cast-iron skillet at home to serve this in, the dish will still come out great. The recipe is rather fool-proof, and great for nights when you need a fast dinner.
The best kind of beef to use is flank steak, which stays incredibly tender if you marinate it with the cornstarch mixture below, and stir-fry it for a few short minutes. (Be sure to slice against the grain. Also, freezing the beef for 15 to 20 minutes slicing the beef a lot easier.) Tomato beef is usually served with white rice, but try some boiled or pan-fried egg noodles if you’re in the mood.
Cantonese Tomato Beef
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal, or 2 as a main dish
- 1 pound flank steak, cut against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pound tomatoes, cut into wedges
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- Marinate the beef: In a large bowl, stir together soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Toss the sliced beef in the marinade to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes to let the flavors absorb.
- Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl the pan to coat the base and sides. Add the beef and sear until light brown on the outside but not yet cooked through, about 2 minutes. Scoop the beef from the wok and set aside.
- Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of the oil to the wok and swirl to coat the sides again. Add the onions and garlic and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes; they should soften but still be sturdy enough to hold their shape. Stir the sauce into the wok. Return the beef to the wok and stir-fry for another minute until the beef is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and serve with rice or noodles.