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Monday, March 30, 2009

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry

Recipe and photos updated from the archives June 7, 2014:

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 1

I messaged lil' sis the day she was coming home for spring break to tell her I was making Chinese beef and broccoli stir-fry for dinner.

"Yay!!!" she said. "But I'll be home kinda late. :( Like 11 p.m."

No matter. She'll eat it whenever. I wasn't cooking so that we would have a sit-down dinner. I was cooking one of her favorite dishes because she was coming home.

Beef and broccoli stir-fry is a standard item on Chinese restaurant menus in America. But, it's not even a Chinese dish, or rather, it's a Chinese American invention. That's because broccoli is an Italian vegetable. And if the Chinese did have beef and broccoli, it would involve Chinese broccoli AKA gai lan.

Chinese food is such a part of American culinary culture that there are about 40,000 Chinese restaurants, more than McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Wendy's combined, said Jennifer 8. Lee, author of "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food," at a TED Conference. I highly encourage you to watch Lee's speech on youTube. At the 4:24 mark, she mentioned that beef with broccoli was invented in the 1800s, but didn't become popularized until the 1920s and 1930s.

Since broccoli and beef are two of lil' sis's favorite ingredients, I really don't need to add much else. Just marinate the beef in another of her favorite ingredients -- soy sauce -- and I was done. These days, I've been gravitating more towards kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce) because it's already slightly sweetened and thickened, so it cuts down on added work for me. Black bean sauce, oyster sauce, any of the Chinese black sauces would work too.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 2

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry

For 2 to 4 servings, you'll need:
1 head of broccoli, sectioned into 2-inch florets and blanched
1/2 lb beef, cut into strips

For the Marinade:
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup water
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil

For Cooking:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch sliver of ginger, finely minced
2 tsps sesame seeds

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil the broccoli. Wash broccoli and cut into 2-inch florets or sections. When the water boils, add the broccoli and briefly cook for a few minutes until crisp-tender. Drain the broccoli and add to a bowl filled with cold water and ice cubes to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 3

Wash beef and cut into strips. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp soy sauce. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 4

In a small bowl, prepare the sauce by adding 1/2 cup water, 1 tblsp soy sauce, 2 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp hoisin sauce, 2 tsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp sesame oil. Stir until mixed and set aside.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 5

Peel and smash 3 cloves garlic. Finely mince a 1-inch sliver of ginger.

Now you're ready for cooking.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 6

In a sauce pan or wok on medium-high heat, drizzle a bit of oil and add the garlic and ginger. Quickly saute the aromatics and then add the beef strips, minus any excess marinade.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 7

When the beef is seared, remove the meat from the wok, leaving the juices in the pan.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 8

Add the sauce to the wok and let simmer for a few minutes to thicken.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 9

 Literally a few minutes. The sauce will quickly bubble.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 10

And then thicken.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 11

Add the broccoli and toss until combined.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 12

Add the beef and toss again. Hmm. Looks a little bare.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 13

Add 2 tsps sesame seeds and mix again.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 14


Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 15

This angle gives a better view of the sauce. Not too much, but just enough.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 16

Serve with rice.

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 17


When lil' sis got home, I was in my usual position -- on the sofa, in front of my laptop, reading Wandering Chopsticks, of course. ;) She wrapped her arms around me in a big bear hug and held me really tight.

"Why aren't you hugging me?" she plaintively asked. "Didn't you miss me?"

I was a little surprised is all. She's not one for hugging her old fogey big sister. She didn't like to cuddle as a baby and only crawls into bed with me when she's sick and wants to whine.

Aww. Guess she missed me after all.

Then she handed me a little heart from the Build-A-Bear store.

Beef and Broccoli 4

"Didn't you grab hundreds of those hearts to give out to everyone?" asked the older '88, after spying the heart sitting next to my laptop.

"Shhhhh!!! I only had one!" lil' sis hurriedly reassured me.


A week later, after she had returned to school, lil' sis sent me a text message. "Haha. I was reading old blog entries about me... I love you!!"

And then, "I hate reading ur blog cause I get hungry. :("

Beef and broccoli stir-fry, not only is it American, this dish apparently causes unusual outpourings of sisterly emotion. ;)

Now, let's take a look at the original photo that urged me to re-do the photos and the recipe. The original picture wasn't as bad as some of my early blog posts, but you have to admit that the newer pictures are much better.

Beef and Broccoli 2

I'm submitting this recipe to Regional Recipes, a food blogging event created by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok, in which a different culture and cuisine is explored each month. Please read the Regional Recipe rules to see if you'd like to participate. JS and TS of Eating Club Vancouver are this month's hosts and we're spotlighting American cuisine.

Some of my other American recipes:
Apple Crumble Pie
BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) Sandwich
Brown Sugar/OJ Turkey Brine
Buttermilk Biscuits
Cajun Vietnamese Shrimp Boil
Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) Pot Pie
Cherry Lattice-Crust Pie
Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken Fingers
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie with Cilantro Biscuits
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Cinnamon Rolls
Cobb Salad
Coke Float
Cranberry Sauce
Cream of Tomato Soup
Croutons with Garlic and Seasoning
Doughnut Bread Pudding
Even Easier No-Knead Bread
Fried Green Tomatoes
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Ham, Tomato, and Sprout Sandwich
Homemade Frozen Yogurt
Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bleu/Blue Cheese Dressing
Lemon Pepper Baked Salmon With Broccoli
Macaroni and Cheese
Mango Bread
Mashed Potato-Stuffed Potato Skins
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Bars
New England Clam Chowder
No-Knead Bread with Whole Wheat
Okra and Tomatoes
Perfectly "Peachy" Nectarine Pie
Persimmon Bread
Pickled Grapes
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cranberry/Pumpkin Butter/Walnut Filling and Maple Icing
Pumpkin Pie with Chai Spices
Salt Rub and Butter Turkey
Southern Baked Beans
Southern Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Spam Musubi
Sriracha Buffalo Wings
Strawberry Shortcake
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Turkey Tetrazzini
Waldorf Salad

1 year ago today, Luscious Dumplings, Inc. - San Gabriel redux.
2 years ago today, nectarine flowers, freesia, and primroses blooming in my old garden.


  1. she didn't give ME a heart...

  2. I love this blog. All of your recipes show such thought and care. I know your sister will appreciate the meal you're preparing for her. As Martha would say..."Family, it's a good thing." Easter blessings...Mary

  3. You make it sound so simple (which it is) and makes me wonder why I don't make this more often! I love that your sister enjoys your cooking :-)

    BTW, I just visited my aunt today and she showed me how "my" roses are faring. I was amazed how well they survived being dug up and moved. So nice to see them thriving.

  4. I always like these simple, but delicious dishes that are easy to make but still taste great!

    As usual, great pictures :). I especially like the photo with the rice and chopsticks. Everything's good with rice :).

  5. I love that you made this. People are always harking on Americanized Chinese food as if it's not authentic (a word I dislike, BTW). News flash: it is "authentic". Chinese-American food is a cuisine in it's own right, (just as Thainese cuisine is).

    Besides, who doesn't like broccoli beef? Looking for a way to get your kids to eat broccoli? Well here you go!

  6. I got to the bottom of the post and saw that you're submitting this to the Regional Recipe Roundup for American food and was confused for a split second. That Chinese label is so ingrained that I forgot everything I just read about the American origin of the dish.

  7. Aww, so sweet! I've always wanted a sister (only have a brother) as it seems like the bond is so special as is evident from this post. I love beef & broccoli and will have to try it with kecap manis; I always just use soy sauce (my husband doesn't like oyster sauce).

  8. Ahhh you've got a sweet little sister. It's little things like bringing home a heart that are special.

  9. naturally, i find this adorable. my own sisters are not aware of my blog but my cousins are and they are a constant source of hilarity and emotional guffaw over what i cook.

    i am a major fan of this dish, but with chinese broccoli, and with black bean sauce.

  10. Simple and delicious, these easy meals-in-one are perfect!

    So, when I head out to one of the quickie Chinese-American places and order this and it's smothered in sauce which is kind of goopy sometimes...is that just more of the sauce items you mention mixed with water and thickened with a starch of some kind?

  11. Tania,
    Guess I'm just lucky then. :)

    Why thank you. Although, this recipe was really just a through-together one. ;)

    It is so quick and easy. Although, I'm not the biggest fan of broccoli. I'll have to show off more pictures of your roses so you can see how they're doing at my house.

    Thanks. I think my same bowl, same chopsticks pictures are getting a little stale...

    Haha. Yup! Authentic is only true to each person's experience. And if it tastes good, who cares?

    Haha. Well, it is Chinese, Chinese-American. :)

    Oh I definitely like having a little sister more. There's just a different kind of bond. I've been using kecap manis more and more. It's my cheat for coloring meat too.

    Doesn't your sister do nice things for you too?

    My cousins nag and nag me to update more. :P

    You can add flour or cornstarch to any sauce to thicken, but I suspect the goop at Chinese-American places might have other things added.

  12. Beautiful post. What a loving sis you are! I never thought of beef and brocolli as am American dish because all the Asian malls in Vancouver have this dish. So an American dish has now become a Cantonese dish! We love it and I cook it often with oyster sauce.

  13. I've made this before at home in our wok with limited success. Sometimes I cook the broccoli too long - other times not enough. Sometimes my beef ends up tough although I try not to overcook it.

    I noticed you've given us some choices of which sauce to use. Which do you prefer - soy, oyster, black bean or kecap manis (which I'm not familiar with)?

  14. This dish is ALWAYS a hit in American households. I actually don't remember a time when my parents have ordered Chinese food without it! Looks great.

  15. Christine,
    Thanks. My sis has her moments too. Well, since broccoli is found in Canada as well, it's probably a North American adaptation.

    My stove doesn't get hot enough for the proper wok temperature either. If you click on the link of the sauces, I have a break down of each what, flavor profiles, etc. I generally prefer oyster sauce for stir-fries because it's thicker and works better. Kecap manis is Indonesian soy sauce, sweeter. Just depends on your preference.

    Thanks. It's funny how this dish is such an ingrained part of Chinese-American culture.

  16. I am hoping to make this for my mother on Mother's day but I have a couple questions. One, is there a cut of beef that works particularly well for this recipe? Honestly, I've never been a big red meat eater, so I am unfamiliar with popular cuts. Two, what are your thoughts on using LKK's Black Pepper Sauce in this dish? Would the pepper overpower the beef and broccoli?

  17. Anj Kay,
    I usually eat black pepper sauce with a whole steak, so I think it might be too much pepper for this dish? Or you can use a few teaspoons of black pepper diluted in a tablespoon of soy sauce? Any cut of beef would work. If you have a cheaper cut such as flank, just remember to slice it against the grain so it'd be easier to chew. If you're doing it for Mother's Day though, maybe splurge a little and get a more tender cut such as rib eye or sirloin?

  18. Just wanted to say thank you for your help. My mother quite enjoyed the dish.

    Anj Kay

  19. Anj Kay,
    Yay! Glad that your mom liked the dish.

  20. For some reasons, I didn't see this blog in the original version. But it's my favorite dish too, and NOW I learned from your recipe why it's not "watering" like the way I fix it. Haha, the sauce you make. I definitely will copy this recipe and do it the "right" way very soon. It's so wonderful to see the love between sisters. You guys are great :-)

  21. Co Toan,
    The original blog post was published more than five years ago. I think that's before you started reading the blog? There's no right or wrong way to cook something, just personal preference. :)


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