Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rice Noodles with Beef and Black Bean Sauce / Beef Chow Fun (Gan Chao Niu He)

First time I tried this quintessentially Cantonese dish was at Sam Woo's in Hacienda Heights many moons ago and I've been hooked ever since. The tender, marinated beef slices were sautéed with fresh rice noodles, scallions, bean sprouts and sauce (presumably incorporating soy and/or oyster sauce). 

Here's a blurb about Beef Chow Fun from Wiki:
Beef chow fun is a staple Cantonese dish, made from stir-frying beefhefen (wide rice noodles) and bean sprouts and is commonly found in yum cha restaurants in GuangdongHong Kong, and even overseas, as well as in cha chaan tengs.[1]
The main ingredient of this dish is ho fun noodles, which is also known as Shahe fen, originating in the town of Shahe in Guangzhou. The most common methods of cooking ho fun are in soup or stir fried. Ho fun can be dry-fried (fried without sauce) or wet-fried (fried with a sauce).
Dry-fried beef ho fun is made by first stir frying beef strips until they are half-cooked. Bean sprouts and onions are then fried in oil. The ho fun is added and stir fried very quickly, along with soy sauce and heated oil. Finally, the beef is added.
An important factor in the making of this dish is "wok hei" (鑊氣). The cooking must be done over a high flame and the stirring must be done quickly. Not only must the ho fun be stirred quickly, it must not be handled too strongly or it will break into pieces. The amount of oil also needs to be controlled very well, or the extra oil or dry texture will ruin the flavor. Because of these factors, this dish is a major test for chefs in Cantonese cooking.
I've been on a quest to make this dish at home and, after perusing a number of recipes in cookbooks and online, I came to the conclusion that fresh rice noodles are requisite (only way you'll find these is if you have an Asian/Chinese market in your neck of the woods), tenderizing the beef slices* is essential (the secret is baking soda, which I'll share in the recipe to follow), and stir-frying over high heat clinches the deal. Fermented black beans are oftentimes used in this dish and, since I happen to to be a fan, I've incorporated them into my version, along with sliced bok choy leaves. 


2 lbs. fresh rice noodles (take the noodles out of their packages and separate the strands by hand before using)
1 lb. flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain (2" x 2") and tenderized according to the below instructions

2 tbsp. rice wine
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. rice wine
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
3 tbsp. garlic black bean sauce

6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ginger, minced
5 scallions, thinly sliced

5 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 cups bean sprouts
4-5 bok choy (cut off & remove the bottom stems, reserving the green, leafy parts)
Ground black pepper

Baking soda is a common way to tenderize sliced meat in Chinese dishes. To get rid of the alkaline flavor that may persist in the meat after marinating, rinse well with cold water. 

1. For every 1 lb. of sliced beef, sprinkle in 1 tsp. of baking soda, 3 tbsp. water and combine well. 

2. Let sit for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 hrs.), then rinse the meat thoroughly with cold running water; pat the meat dry with paper towels then use according to the recipe. 


1. Tenderize the beef slice according to the above instructions, then combine well with the marinade ingredients. Set aside to marinate for 20-30 minutes.

2. Combine the seasoning ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

3. Heat 5 tbsp. of vegetable oil in a wok or large saute pan over high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry briefly. Add the beef and saute briefly until partially cooked.

4. Add the bean sprouts, bok choy leaves, and rice noodles and toss to combine. Stir in the seasoning ingredients and stir fry briefly to incorporate.

5. Stir in the sliced scallions.

6. Time to eat!

Flank steak. 

Slice the steak thinly against the grain.  

To tenderize the beef, combine the sliced pieces with baking soda and let sit for 20-30 minutes up to 2 hours.  

Rinse the baking soda off of the meat with cold running water then pat dry with paper towels. 

 Marinate the meat with soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch.

 Sliced scallions, minced ginger, chopped garlic, and bok choy leaves.

Garlic black bean sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar.  

Seasoning ingredients: rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, dark soy sauce, and garlic black bean sauce.

Fresh rice noodles. These should be kept at room temperature (do not refrigerate or they will become hard and brittle) and use within 1-2 days after purchase. 

 Even though the noodles are already somewhat oily, they should be separated by hand before using (no, I'm not being anal, it's just that the noodles have a tendency to clump if you don't do this extra step before stir frying them. 

Briefly saute the ginger and garlic in oil over high heat.  

Add the meat and saute until cooked half way through.  

Toss in the bean sprouts and bok choy leaves.  

Add the noodles and seasoning ingredients and stir to combine. 

Toss in the scallions. 

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