To be clear, I’m all about cooking with ingredients that are local but when they can’t be local, I want them to be at least seasonal. So when the culinary doldrums of winter arrive, citrus becomes king. Thus, as I prepared to chase away the remnants of a winter cold, I imagined the strong flavours of beef and fresh zestiness of citrus …and so I turned to the trees down south for inspiration.
The result is a stir-fry that celebrates the full flavour of great beef and, inspired by the seasonal tangerine, is married with the spice of the ‘orient’ (which I know is not an entirely politically correct noun).
I knew that recovering from my own malaise that I wanted vegetables to be strong and broccoli was top of mind. Ubiquitous, yes, but my body craved it. The tangerine? Well, it was vivid, vibrant and most truly ready: you could smell the citrus in the skin. It begged me in the store to be used. How could I do otherwise? And what could be better than to marry the spiciness of the fruit with the full flavour of the beef than fresh ginger? To be clear, I thought about marinades that would have imparted more and other flavours into the beef and which would have darkened it … but my goal and choice was clear: I wanted the full, natural, unadulterated and robust flavours of the beef to be pronounced and for the sauce to carry the other flavours. For this reason I also chose a high-quality cut of steak for the stir-fry, one with plenty of inherent flavour: strip loin.
Stir-Fry Cooking Tips:
Cast Iron Wok — I’ve had my wok for almost 20 years and while it isn’t expensive and was purchased in Calgary’s Chinatown, it is very much authentic. The cast iron gets very got and allows the heat to travel. The natural ridges in the wok from the casting and tempering process provide both a none-stick surface (from 20 years of being carefully seasoned and cleaned) and a surface that allows you to move food around.
If you don’t have a wok, no worries. You can certainly prepare all of this in batches in a large (frying) pan.
Few Ingredients — “Chinese” food like Italian food is about the marriage of a few ingredients, not a lot. Western stir-fries that have loads of ingredients are not only not authentic but the flavours get lost. Like a good pizza that has no more than 3-4 primary toppings, a good Asian stir-fry should be ‘simple’ in the marriage of a few ingredients. This is why an authentic Chinese table will have multiple stir-fries on it — broccoli one one plate, cabbage with chiles on another, green beans and peanuts on one, and sprouts with scallions on another etc. They aren’t all put together.
Work in Batches — In support of this, a wok has a “hot zone” that forms the shallow ‘cup’ at its base. The wok loses heat as you move further from the centre. As a result, if you crowd your wok with a lot of ingredients, things will ‘stew’ and not ‘fry.’ To accomplish the stir-fry method, work in batches. Stir-fry ingredients together and then either move them up the sides of the wok (which is why those ridges are so key) or move them out of the wok altogether as you do the next batch of ingredients.
Fundamentally, this is why plates/dishes come out one at a time at an authentic restaurant. The same wok is being used to build each dish, fire it, and move it out of the kitchen quickly.
Do Your Prep First — Because stir-frying is the constant addition of ingredients to the wok at high-heat, you need to do all your prep before you start to cook. The cooking is generally very fast and the prep is a lot of practice for your knife skills.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Tangerine Beef with Broccoli and Ginger
- 1½ lbs (700g) strip loin steak (roughly 2 steaks), cut into strips
→ Substitute rib eye or tenderloin if you prefer, both of which will also be tender but a bit more expensive
- 1½ lbs (700g) broccoli, florets separated into ‘bite-size’ pieces
- 1 large white onion, julienned lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) fresh ginger, sliced into match sticks
- 1-2 tangerines, segmented, and sliced in half
→ substitute mandarine oranges or clementines in a different season
Note: Zest the skin for sauce below before peeling
- 1/4 coconut oil, divided
- 3/4 cup (175mL) freshly squeezed tangerine juice
→ substitute freshly squeezed orange juice
- zest of one tangerine
- 3 tablespoons (45mL) dark soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free)
- 3/4 cup (175mL) beef stock
- 3 tablespoons (45mL) Chinese cooking wine
- 3 tablespoons (45mL) rice or apple-cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60mL) sugar
- 1½ tablespoons (22mL) fresh ginger, minced
- 1½ tablespoons (22mL) garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon (2½ mL) fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon (1mL) chile paste (optional)
- Optional for Garnish: 1 green onion, cut into 3-inch lengths, and sliced lengthwise
Serve over steamed Jasmine rice.
- If making rice to serve along with this dish, begin it now. Meanwhile, complete all the prep to begin. Start by preparing the sauce by measuring the tangerine juice and beef stock into a 2-cup graduated measuring cup.
Then, mince the garlic and ginger and zest the tangerine and add these along with the other ingredients to the measuring cup.
Add in the cornstarch and whisk until smooth and well-incorporated and set aside.
- Complete your other prep now. Julienne the onions and create match sticks of the ginger and segment the tangerine: set all aside. Prepare the green onion (optional garnish) by slicing the green onion lengthwise into thin strips and then placing them in a small bowl with cold water. They will ‘curl’ while you complete the dish.
Wash and separate the broccoli florets. Don’t discard the tough stalk — simply cut away the tough outer skin and cut then cut the tender and flavourful ‘marrow’ into strips.
Slicing the steaks against the grain, cut into strips about 2-inches (5cm) long and 1/4-inch (1-cm) thick. Set aside.
- Heat your wok (or frying pan) over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
When hot and melted, add broccoli …
… and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Remove to plate and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of coconut oil to the wok and heat until hot … then add onions and stir-fry for another 4-5 minutes, until lightly caramelized, then remove to a plate.
Add final tablespoon of coconut oil to the wok and, when hot, add the beef strips …
… after a minute or so, add the ginger match sticks …
… and continue to stir-fry until meet is lightly browned and pinkness is gone (2-3 minutes). Move beef up the sides of the wok now (or, if using a frying pan, remove temporarily) …
… give the sauce a quick stir with the whisk and then add it to the centre of the wok and heat to a simmer. The edges will start to darken and thicken as it heats … which is when the cornstarch is activated and the sauce will become a “sauce.” This will take another 3-4 minutes.
When thickened, mix in the beef, add in the onions, and the broccoli, and stir all together.
And continue to cook another couple of minutes until broccoli is hot again. Add in the tangerine segments and, voila, you’re done.
Remove from heat and serve with rice and optionally garnish with strips of green onion.