Wok On With Black Pepper Honey Beef

Better -- and faster -- than most take-out/delivery options.
Better — and faster — than most take-out/delivery options.

I know people who subsist on food from delivery services day in and day out, and others who pilfer free food from tech campus cafes to take home even if they’re not supposed to.

Yes, we are all strapped for time these days. But not cooking at all is denying yourself one of the true pleasures in life to create something with your own two hands to enjoy with immediate joy and satisfaction.

Imagine being able to tell yourself proudly as you dig in, “Yeah, I made that!” rather than sheepishly admitting, “Uh, I pulled up an app for it.”

And honestly, a dish like “Chunky Black Pepper Honey Beef” can be put on the table faster than you can order and wait for take-out to be delivered.

This simple recipe is from “Wok On: Deliciously balanced meals in 30 minutes or less” (Kyle, 2019) of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Ching-He Huang, whom you may recognize from her Cooking Channel shows, “Easy Chinese: San Francisco” and “Chinese Food Made Easy.”

The cookbook features recipes that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less, such as “Sweet Corn Mapo Tofu,” “Thai Coconut Cod Curry,” and “Sichuan Pork and French Beans.”

“Chunky Black Pepper Honey Beef” takes all of 20 minutes to make — if that. It’s also a great way to stretch one large steak into feeding four people.

With onions, garlic, and red bell peppers, it’s got the savory-sweet-soy flavor of a favorite Chinese restaurant dish, but is less cloying than most renditions. The honey adds a lovely, subtle floral sweetness.

I made a few changes to the recipe, starting with the size you cut the beef and onions. The original recipe called for cutting them into 1/4-inch cubes. But that seemed really small to me. I wanted the dish to live up to its “chunky” name, so I cut the beef and onions into 1/2-inch cubes instead.

The original recipe also states to sear the beef in the pan after you’ve added the garlic and two onions. Even with a large wok, it seemed too crowded to sear the beef properly that way. So I reverted to the method my Mom taught me long ago: I seared the beef cubes in the pan first, then removed them to a plate to reserve, while I then sauteed the veggies. This way, the meat not only has enough room to cook evenly, but doesn’t end up being well done, either.

Next time you’re tempted to order for delivery, march yourself into your kitchen and make this instead. You won’t regret it.

I cut the beef and veggies slightly larger so that the dish lives up to its name.
I cut the beef and veggies slightly larger so that the dish lives up to its name.

Chunky Black Pepper Honey Beef

(Serves 4)

18-ounce sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch-thick cubes

Pinch of sea salt

Pinch of cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce

Small handful of cilantro leaves, to garnish

For the stir-fry:

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 garlic clove, whole, peeled

2 large white onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick chunks

1 tablespoon Shaoshing rice wine or dry sherry

2 red bell peppers, deseeded and cut into 1/4-inch chunks

For the sauce:

Scant 1/2 cup cold chicken stock

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

4 tablespoons runny honey

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Put the beef in a bowl with the sea salt, black pepper, and tamari or light soy sauce, and mix well.

Put all the ingredients for the sauce into a cup or small jug and stir to mix well.

For the stir-fry, heat a wok over high heat until smoking, add the canola oil, and give the oil a swirl. Add the beef chunks, and sear on one side for 20 seconds, then flip the meat over, and cook to your liking (for best results cook to medium). Transfer beef to a bowl; reserve.

Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a few seconds over high heat, then add the onions, and stir-fry until translucent. Add red bell peppers, and toss for 30 seconds until slightly softened. Season with rice wine or dry sherry. Remove onions and red peppers to the bowl with the beef, and reserve.

Pour sauce into the wok, and reduce on high heat until sticky. Quickly return the beef and vegetables to the wok, and gently toss together well. Garnish with cilantro and serve with jasmine rice and bok choy.

Adapted from “Wok On” by Ching-He Huang

More Quick Stir-Fry Dishes to Enjoy: Stir-Fried Chicken with Tomatoes

And: Stir-Fried Bagels with Cabbage and Bacon

And: Malaysian-Style Stir-Fried Tumeric Shrimp

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