Black Pepper Beef

Here’s the second in my series of sharing recipes I learned from my cooking class in China.  To read about the first entree check out the post on Canton Style Braised Ribs.

Man, I’m hungry already just thinking about those ribs, but for this recipe, I’m preparing black pepper beef.  So gather up your ingredients, we’re going back to China!


1 Pound of Beef

1 Medium Red Pepper

1 Medium Green Pepper

1 Small White Onion

4 t Julienned Ginger

4 t Minced Garlic

2 Leeks – White Part Only (Or one leek with white and light green part)


2 T Vodka

1 t Sugar

2 t Dark Soy Sauce

2 t Light Soy Sauce

4 t Oyster Sauce

2-3 t Black Pepper

2 T Canola Oil

1/4 C + 2T Water


1/2 t Salt

4 t Vodka

2 T Corn Startch

4 t Water

Ingredient Notes:

  • Virtually any beef will do as long as you can see a grain pattern in the meat.  For this post I chose flank steak because it has such a distinctive grain pattern.  But I’ve also had great luck with sirloins and tri-tips as well.
  • You’re basically shooting for an equal amount of green pepper, red pepper, white onion, and leeks.
  • Don’t forget to use your Lee Kum Kee soy sauce.  I’m a soy sauce snob after this class and the Kikkomon’s just won’t cut it!
  • Chunyi’s recipe calls for Chinese white wine which is more than 30% alcohol by volume.  She said that vodka was a good substitute if we couldn’t find Chinese white wine.  I think I will continue to play around with this to see if bourbon or another spirit will work better.

I know you’re exhausted after gathering that extensive list of ingredients, but carry on to slicing your peppers and onions.  Slice all three about the width of a chopstick.

Next prepare your leeks, ginger and garlic.  You can see I’ve got too many leeks, but I used ’em anyway!  Be sure to soak your leeks in water and drain before use.  They are grown in sandy soil and you want to get that grit out.  Mine are a jumble on this plate because I used my salad spinner to soak and clean them off.

This recipe is all about how you cut the ingredients.  The peppers, onions, leeks are all sliced in the same julienned style and we’ll do the same to the meat.  The cutting is the key to taking a tough piece of meat like flank steak and making it super tender.  First, identify the direction of the grain.  It’s easy to see in this picture the grain runs from left to right in this cut of flank steak (not to mention I labeled it for you).

Make your first cuts with the grain of the meat.  And you’ll see, I’m slicing about the width of a chop stick.

Rotate your meat 90 degrees and slice against the grain.  Again, the width of a chop stick.  If I’d chosen a cut that was a bit thicker you’d see the beautiful strips we just produced with this slicing.

Now, let’s marinade the beef.  Add the salt, vodka, corn starch and water.  At first it will seem like too much water.  Continue stirring in the marinade until all the water is absorbed.

When all the water is absorbed, you’ll see the meat change colors to a light pink.  All the meat to sit for at least 15 minutes.  If it sits longer and the water separates out again, stir it in before adding it to the wok or skillet.

Add a tablespoon of canola oil to a medium hot skillet and sauté your peppers and onions just until you smell the onion, about 1-2 minutes.  Then remove peppers and onion from the pan.

Next, add 1 T of canola oil to the pan and sauté ginger, garlic and leeks until fragrant.  Add the beef and allow to cook until it separates and browns on all sides.

Add vodka, sugar, light and dark soy sauces, oyster sauce, black pepper, and water and combine peppers and onion back into the pan.  Stir until amazing (about 30 seconds) and dish up!

This dish works wonderfully with a side of rice and some black tea.  I’m always amazed that it tastes SO MUCH like Chinese food.  The chopping is a bit of work, but trust me, it’s all worth it in the end!



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