Allure of black pepper in stir-fry dish


By IAN LAU

Black pepper beef is a simple, easy to make stir-fried dish.

BLACK pepper beef is a classic Chinese stir-fry dish that is amazingly easy to prepare.

With the availability of black pepper sauce in a jar, it is even

easier to cook this dish at home.

I am particularly nostalgic over this dish because it brings back memories of my parents teaching my sister and I to cook at home.

Our first lesson in cooking beef was slicing the meat.

We learned to identify the direction that the muscles grow and to slice against the grain.

We also learned how to trim off the tough tendons and silver skins that ran at odd angles all over the meat.

What we ended up with were usually shredded bits of beef and only a few whole chunks that we could use.

Then we realised that my parents bought the more economical cuts of beef that were meant for cooking stews and rendang.

These days, we buy tenderloin cuts or batang pinang from the Malay butcher which gives a straight grain so we can make clean slices.

If you are using high-grade premium beef with nice marbling of fat, it is recommended that the meat is diced into one-inch cubes instead of slicing.

Regardless of which cut of meat is used, it is important that beef should only be cooked briefly, preferably medium-rare.

It is imperative to just barely sear the beef when using a cheaper cut because the meat gets tougher the longer you cook it unless it is braised for hours.

Although most home cooks usually add the beef after the ginger and garlic, this recipe calls for a two-step cooking method, where the beef is seared in hot oil and then its jus strained before returning it to the wok after sauteing the aromatic vegetables.

This procedure that my mom taught me is known as velveting. This helps ensure the beef is not overcooked and there is flavourful gravy from the strained beef jus.

If you have not tried this method before, do proceed with caution because there tends to be quite a splatter from the amount of oil used.

Be sure to also skim off the excess oil or else it may come across as oily for some folk.

Black pepper beef

Marinade

300g fresh beef tenderloin, sliced against the grain

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp cornstarch

Ingredients

Cooking oil

3cm old ginger, sliced

5 cloves garlic, minced

½ stick carrot, sliced

1 red onion, diced

3 sprigs scallions, diced

3 red chillies

2 green chillies

Seasonings

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp black pepper sauce

1 tsp cornstarch in 1 tbsp water

Method

Cut beef into 1x2-inch blocks and slice thinly against the grain.

Marinate beef in sesame oil, light soy sauce, black pepper and cornstarch for 30 minutes.

Heat ½ cup cooking oil in frying pan.

When oil reaches smoking point, add beef and toss until partially cooked, about one minute.

Strain the jus from the beef and skim off excess oil.

In a clean pan, heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté ginger, garlic, carrot, onion and scallions.

Return beef to the pan and sauté until cooked.

Add in red and green chillies before adding in seasonings.

Toss all the ingredients in gravy to ensure an even coating.

Serve hot with a garnish of freshly ground black pepper.

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