Beef in Oyster Sauce

A proper cantonese dinner. You’re only really serving this with plain rice. Maybe a light vegetable side dish. Inspired by Kenneth Lo’s Sliced Steak in Oyster Sauce.

oystersauceWhen it comes to shopping in asian supermarkets, much as I love them, sometimes I feel a little set adrift. I simply have no idea what the right brand is to get… I am sure that in a lot of cases it is the difference between Daddy’s and HP sauce, personal preference, hardly matters. But the two shops I frequent, are probably used to me, and people like me, bent over in the aisle, eyes straining to read a list of ingredients,  the contents of which are similar, and often meaningless to the gweilo that are trying to deciper them. Maybe if I set up an european deli in China, the residents there would have trouble deciding over the different types of mustard or vinegar I would stock in much the same way.  But what does one do, when faced with 8 different types of oyster sauce? The clue is in the question, I ‘spose so I’m looking for the percentage of oyster derivatives – 9% in the bottle I bought, but 3% to 5% in comparable bottles. I’m guessing that oyster is fairly important. I will also look where phrases like ‘flavour enhancer’ and ‘modified corn starch’ appear in the list. I don’t care to know what modified corn starch is and I want as little as possible in my dinner. So, yeah, the nasties, as low as possible on the list, as things are always listed in terms of quantity. If its all fairly equal, I look at the price, and I buy the most expensive (and its never much money in a chinese supermarket) – here, the most expensive was just over twice the price of the cheapest – but had three times the amount of oyster. If I still can’t make a decision, I go for the best looking label. Really. The label  method has never, ever failed me yet.

Anyway, time ticks on. Serves 2  as a single main , or 4-6 as part of a range of dishes.

beef in oyster sauce

  • 45og rump steak (fat removed) or fillet steak if you are rich
  • 4 tbsps chinese rice wine, or dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 80 ml chicken stock
  • 4-6 spring onions – depending on the size of the onions. White parts of the onion only.
  • 3 slices fresh ginger

Cut the meat into thin strips, roughly 3 cm across. Mix half the sherry, half the cornflour, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and water and half the oyster sauce in a bowl and then add the strips of beef. Mix thoroughly into the meat with your hands. I did this about two hours before I planned to cook, for convenience really. I don’t know enough to know if it makes any difference when you do it.

In another bowl, add the remaining cornflour, the oyster sauce and stock. Cut the onions into one inch pieces. Heat your wok on a high flame, until smoking slightly, and then pour in around four tablespoons of vegetable oil, swirling it around the pan slightly. Put it back on the heat and when very hot, put in the beef and stir fry for 30 seconds. Remove the beef  to a plate and discard any excess oil. Put the pan back over the heat and fry the spring onions and ginger slices for the count of twenty.

Replace the beef in the pan and pour in the remaining sherry. Spread out the beef evenly in the pan and pour in the oyster sauce mixture. Cook for another 30 seconds and quickly serve with the rice. Scoff.