This a hot one. Not only a top favorite when I eat in a Chinese restaurant, but truly outstanding for serving at home. Beef in oyster sauce is fast to prep and simple to cook. But make no error. This is seriously bowl-licking good.
I can’t remember when it began. But I do know this. It’s a food love story that’s been running in my life for several decades. Beef in oyster sauce. Tender, thin slices of barely rare, good steak, fiery chilies (in this instance, cayenne), silky mushrooms, and some chunky bell peppers. All cooked sizzlingly hot and fast.
Add the big umami flavors of oyster sauce, plus some buttery rice noodles and just-cooked, garlicky greens. It’s all outstanding. So, make plenty. You’re going to need it.
Choosing the right beef for beef in oyster sauce
As the name implies, a lot depends on the beef. Most recipes I’ve read for beef in oyster sauce call for filet steak. To me, that’s really weird.
Filet steak is ridiculously over-priced and notoriously under-flavored. Tender? For sure. Booming with taste? No way.
But sirloin or rib eye? These are proper steaks that consistently knock filet right out of the park. For our beef in oyster sauce, sirloin headlines the billing. Go for the best you can find. And remember, for this dish you don’t need huge amounts. Quality always trumps quantity.
Oyster sauce? Oh, boy! Big, big flavor. Much oyster? The panda-featuring brand I buy apparently contains 11% ‘oyster extractives’. Am I really bothered what those extractives might be? Or by another of the ingredients? I have been eating it for years. And, when you enjoy two big martinis early evening — believe you me, your intake-worries do lie elsewhere.
Once again, a decent oyster sauce comes with a pretty high price. That’s ok. You won’t be using much and it seems to have a wallet-pleasing shelf life. I buy one pint bottle every year more or less.
The greens and the noodles
If I can find really fresh bok choy, that’s my preference. More often than not, I’ll turn my nose up at what’s on offer. Too wilted, too yellow. If that’s the case, I’ll then happily go for a pack of fresh spinach. My preference for the choy? It’s got a lot more body than the spinach and gives you more crunch.
For the noodles, I use very pale, almost transparent rice noodles that look a lot like tagliatelle — flat, and about 1/4 inch wide. Their bland flavor and chewy texture works well with the chili-spiced oyster sauce. And, though it might not be traditional, they’re grand with a little butter melted into them.
Stir Fried Beef In Oyster Sauce
The beef, its marinade, and the sauce
- 3 red cayenne peppers finely chopped, seeds and all
- 1 10 ounce sirloin steak fat removed and sliced thinly lengthwise
- 1 red bell pepper de-seeded and cut into bite-size chunks
- 1 yellow bell pepper de-seeded and cut into bite-size chunks
- 8 medium-size brown mushrooms thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar heaped
- 1 teaspoon cornflour heaped
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil divided (osme for the steak’s quick marinade, some for stir-frying)
The box choy
- 6 heads bok choy stems removed but otherwise left whole
- 3 cloves garlic finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 8 ounces rice noodles
- 2 ounces salted butter
Cooking the beef and vegetables
- First, set the oven to very low so that a serving dish starts to warm.
- In the meantime, you need to marinade the steak for 30 minutes. So, in a mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, cornflour, and sugar. This lot will take a fair bit of stirring to dissolve the sugar and flour. Stir in the chilies and then add the beef, making sure it gets a good coating of the marinade.
- Add a tablespoon of sesame oil to a big skillet on high heat – you can use a wok if you have one. As soon as the oil starts smoking, add the chopped bell peppers and stir fry on high heat for 3 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the peppers and mushrooms to your serving dish in the oven.
Cooking the bok choy and the noodles
- In a medium-sized saucepan, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil until it’s smoking hot. Immediately add the sliced garlic, give it a good stir for 15 seconds and then add all the choy. Stir well so that the choy gets coated in the oil and garlic mix. Turn off the heat, add the lime juice and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.
- For the noodles, fill another medium-size saucepan a third full of water and bring it to the boil. Add the noodles and turn off the heat.
- In the skillet you used for the peppers and mushrooms, heat another tablespoon of sesame oil over high heat until it smokes a little. Now add the beef and the marinade. Stir fry on a high heat for 3 minutes, then transfer the beef to the serving dish in the oven.
- Drain the noodles in a colander, return them to their pan, add the butter and cover the pan.
- Add the oyster sauce and two tablespoons water to the beef’s skillet on a medium heat until it just starts to boil. Give the skillet a really good stir and remove from the heat.
Time to serve
- Add the choy, garlic and all the juices in their pan to the serving dish. Pour in the oyster sauce. Stir everything so that it gets mixed with sauce, and serve. I like mine plated over a bed of the noodles, but you can serve them on the side.