My love of Oriental cooking came from a period in my working life when I ate in Chinese restaurants at least once a week. I have spent over 30 years in advertising and during the late 80s and early 90s, I would dine out, often in excellent Chinese restaurants including the Orchid Szechuan on Dublin’s Pembroke Road or in the Imperial on Wicklow Street (great for Dim Sum). In those days, it was perfectly normal enjoy a three course meal with wine (often lots of wine) for lunch on an almost daily basis. Those habits have been diminished by time, social convention and economic change but my love of oriental fare and cooking have not been eroded.
This recipe is one that I enjoy preparing. I can’t resist the challenge of turning it out in 30 minutes or less. When cooking, I try to obey the rule of Clean As You Go or CAYG. With your timing correct there are only a couple of pressure points where it can all go horribly wrong.
Based on serving 4 people, here’s what you will need:
- Sirloin steak – 750g
- 3 medium onions
- A chili or two
- 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of rice wine
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- Fermented black beans
- Thai Fragrant Rice
- Sunflower oil
Buy the soy, black beans, rice wine and rice in a Chinese supermarket or wholesaler. It is way less expensive than the supermarkets and the quality, as a general rule, is better. A note of warning, the black beans are pretty pungent. So have an air-tight jar in which you can keep them.
Set your timer and do the following:
- Put the steak in the freezer.
- Rinse the rice and put it on to boil.
- Get all your ingredients together in one place, get your wok out. Get your rice pot out. Get a chopping board and a sharp cleaver or large knife out. Get a mixing bowl, a small bowl, a fork, a desert spoon, heatproof bowl, a large plate and a small plate out. Get your serving bowls out and put them in the microwave for heating later.
(Side note: This is as close to cooking as the microwave should get. Ever.)
- Put a tablespoon or two of black beans in the small bowl. Pour on hot water.
- Peel and slice the onions. – large plate.
- Peel, mash and chop the garlic. – small plate.
- Deseed the chili(s) if you want a less hot dish. – small plate beside the garlic.
- At this stage, your rice should have just started to boil. Turn it down to minimum and set your timer to 12 minutes.
- Take the beef out of the freezer. It has been in there to make it a lot easier to cut into thin slices. Is will not be frozen, just chilled. Slice it thinly, across the grain. Put it in the big bowl.
- Add a couple of glugs of oil. Be generous, we will pour most of it off later.
- Add a heaped tablespoon of cornflower and mix until it is a gooey mess of stuck together beef strips. Do this with the desert spoon.You should have about five to seven minutes left on the clock.
- CAYG. Clean and dry the chopping board and large knife. Put everything that you have finished with away. Clean and tidy the work surface. Set the dinner table. You only need a fork or chopsticks to eat this.
- Pause for breath.
- Drain the black beans and mash them a bit with the beef mixing spoon.
- As soon as the rice has had 12 minutes, take the lid off, fork the rice around a bit to help it absorb any excess moisture. Put the pot to one side. Put the lid back on. Hit the heat button on the microwave and get on with the cooking.
- Heat the wok until it starts to smoke. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil. Add the onions. Stir them about until they get a bit soft. Add the garlic.
(Side note: Experience tells me that adding ingredients such as garlic and ginger after a main ingredient prevents them from burning in the hot oil. You still get the flavour without the danger of bitter, burnt tastes.)
- When it is softened, scoop it out leaving as much of the oil as possible. Put it back on the big plate.
- Add the beef, a few strips at a time. keep stirring. do not let it stick. Add more when the wok temperature gets back up. When most of it is cooked, it will release lots of the oil. Pour this off into the heatproof bowl.
- Add the black beans and chili. Stir it around a bit. Add the onions. Add the soy and wine. stir until it heats to boiling and thickens.
- Turn it off. CAYG. Stack the used bowls, plates, spoons and forks in the dishwasher.
- Pile rice into bowls and put the beef etc. over it. Serve.
(Side note: let somebody else clean up the wok and plates. You have earned it.)