Spicy Hunan Chinese stir-fry with tender beef, oranges and broccoli using the technique of velveting.
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
Orange beef has always been a favorite stir-fry for me. I first enjoyed it back when Bill and I were dating and we visited many of the more interesting Chinese restaurants around St. Louis. I think I may have first tried it at a restaurant near Chesterfield. After that I really set out making most of these recipes at home, since we lived on the Illinois side of the river near Parks College of St. Louis University. There weren’t really many places near there, except for Lee Lam who ran a place on Rte. 3 near Sauget. He really didn’t do much outside of Cantonese. But he was great at fried rice. It seems to me, as I recall, around that time, there was an explosion of “Chinese Express” type restaurants. But one place we found that we really enjoyed was Tom Hsu’s Hunan Cafe out on Hampton Avenue south of the zoo. I am sure I had orange beef there as well, along with everything else on his menu.
In those years, stir-fries were drier in nature with a bit less sauce, and also would come with something like broccoli. Today, many recipes like these will float in sauce and come from the restaurants with no veggies at all. I actually prefer my stir-fry with a bit less sauce so if you peek at the pic and it seems light, that’s why. If you want yours that way, cut back on the sauce by half.
I also use copious amounts of red peppers, which add to the aesthetic appearance of the dish without adding too much heat if you can manage not to break them open. Seeds will heat up a dish enormously because of their proximity to the membranes, where most of the Scovilles in hot peppers are located. I’ve been known to eat quite a few of the peppers with my dish but I wouldn’t expect many to do so, so you can even leave some out if you like.
You might wonder about the part where the beef is coated in egg white with starch and salt. It’s a process called Velveting where coating it like that makes it incredibly tender and keeps it moist while frying, so the meat will not be tough. I don’t see a lot written about that, although I sometimes see the technique in recipes here and there. They don’t mention what it is or why, but there it is. I read about it years ago. And if you see a recipe that uses “Velvet” in it’s title, that’s probably what it means, like Velvet Chicken (but not Velvet Freeze Ice Cream. 😉 )
The cornstarch coating over the velvet coating makes a really thin crispy coating during the fry that is much lighter than other types of breading.
The orange is easy to process the peel if you lay it flat and cut away the pith with a knife. You can get nice zesters which will do pretty much the same thing, but I was never lucky enough to have that years ago. So that is orange peel 101 if you don’t have that. Be careful of the fumes from the oil when you cook the zest and peppers. They are both full of very fragrant oils, and the pepper ones can be potent, so keep the exhaust fan on.
I serve my beef with steamed rice, but you might want something different- I don’t know. Putting some in Boston lettuce leaves sounds nice too. Or maybe a Chinese beef wrap in a tortilla or Mandarin pancake. You choose. I still enjoy rice.
Today Sunday Supper is doing their Citrus Recipes thing. Ellen Folkman of Family Around the Table came up with the idea- since she is lucky enough to live in Florida and has citrus growing and ripe. I recall when Bill and I were moving to Florida years ago, my imagination thought I would have citrus trees out the wazoo. But being near the beach, and on Air Force property, our yard didn’t even have a tree. Well, I did have a holly tree growing funny which I cut down. It refused to die and sprang up again and again like a weed. Eventually a hurricane took it out, but that was long after we departed for Ohio. The hurricane took everything, including the house. Now only memories remain. But my memories of Florida citrus still remain, especially visiting the groves. They make me smile.
- Servings: 4
- Time: 30mins
- Difficulty: easy
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine
- pinch salt
- 1-1/2 pounds beef top sirloin steak, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup potato starch or corn starch (coating)
- 2 cups peanut oil (frying)
- 1 orange
- 1/3 cup dry red chilies
- 8 ounces broccoli florets, steamed
- steamed rice (optional)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon starch (potato or corn)
- Whisk together the egg whites, rice wine and pinch of salt and toss with beef slices.
- Peel the orange, trimming away as much of the white pith as possible, then thinly slice remaining zesty parts.
- Steam broccoli and set aside. Also steam your rice if using.
- Whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Drain off excess egg white if there is any and coat pieces in potato starch shaking off excess.
- Heat the oil in a skillet or wok moderately hot and fry pieces of beef until brown and crisp; drain.
- Drain off all extra oil and have just one tablespoon left in the wok.
- Heat the oil again until moderately hot and fry orange pieces and peppers until fragrant (keep your area ventilated with an exhaust fan).
- Add the sauce to the pan and as it thickens a little bit add the fried beef pieces and broccoli, tossing stir-fry until it is coated and hot.
- Serve with rice.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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