The beef cut is the key to this dish. It has to be a cut that cooks fast. Sirloin or tenderloin will also work in lieu of top round, bottom round or eye round but, seriously, a cut with good marbling of fat will yield a tastier dish.
Whether you choose a fatty cut or a lean cut, just remember that a cut meant for stewing will not work.
The batter is a combination of all-purpose flour and corn starch. Why a combination? Can’t it be just one or the other? A batter with all-purpose flour alone turns bready as it cools after frying. A batter with nothing but corn starch and water is too dense. Combining the two makes a perfect batter to dip the beef in.
The ingredients list for the sauce may seem long but each item in that list plays a role in creating a balanced sauce.
Hoisin sauce is both sweet and savory. Oyster sauce is salty and umami-rich. Sweet chili sauce is sweet, sticky and glossy. You need to combine all three with soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and ketchup — along with chilies — to create the sweet-sour-salty-hot sauce to coat the beef.
Soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and sweet chili sauce are all available in Asian groceries.
Beijing beef a la Panda Express
Marinating the beef
- 500 grams beef - top round, bottom round or eye round
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅓ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the batter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup corn starch
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- 2 bird’s eye chilies - finely sliced
To complete the dish
- cooking oil - for deep frying
- 2 bell peppers - julienned
- 1 onion - thinly sliced
- Pat the beef dry with paper towels.
- Cut the meat thinly across the grain.
- Prepare the marinade by whisking the egg white, corn starch, salt and pepper in a bowl.
- Add the beef to the marinade. Mix well.
- Cover the bowl and allow the beef to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Make the batter by mixing the flour and corn starch with enough milk to make a thick but still pourable paste.
- Make the sauce by stirring together all the ingredients.
- Heat enough cooking oil in a wok or frying pan to reach a depth of at least two inches.
- Add the beef to the batter and mix to coat each piece well.
- Drop the beef slices one by one into the hot oil and fry until lightly golden and crisp. Depending on the size of your wok or frying pan, you may need to do this in batches to prevent overcrowding.
- Drain the fried beef in a strainer or a stack of paper towels.
- Pour off the oil leaving only about two tablespoonfuls.
- Stir fry the bell peppers and sliced onion with a generous pinch of sugar until the onion slices start to caramelize.
- Add the cooked beef back into the wok.
- Pour in the sauce.
- Stir fry for half a minute until the beef pieces are glistening with the sauce.