New York City’s Chinatown is famous for its Sichuan restaurants and Cantonese dim sum shops, but Chris Cheung says there are other dishes that deserve attention — namely the simple, satisfying combinations of meat, vegetables and sauce over rice that have fed the local working community for the past 100 years. “Before Covid we had entered into a kind of Chinese food renaissance with all the different regions being highlighted,” says the chef and FoodNetwork.com contributor. “But I grew up eating the food of Chinatown, and there’s a different level to it. I wanted to peel back a layer of Chinese food that had not really been talked about before.” In his new book, Damn Good Chinese Food, he highlights Chinese-American classics, including this beef and broccoli. “Many dishes that come from China revolve around pork, but in America, beef is king.”
Velveting: Place 4 ounces cornstarch, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.
Mushroom Water: Place 2 cups dried mushrooms (medium-size shiitakes) in a large container. Pour 1 quart of cold water over the mushrooms and cover the container in plastic wrap or top with a lid. Let the mixture rest overnight in the refrigerator. Strain out the liquid and reuse the dried mushrooms as a component in the recipe or save for another recipe.
Slurry: Pour 1/2 cup cornstarch into 1/2 cup cold water and mix well. If not immediately used, stir frequently until used.
Marinate your beef in the velvet marinade overnight.
For flash-frying the beef: You will need a pot filled two-thirds of the way with vegetable oil set to 350˚ F and large enough to dunk your spider or strainer in comfortably. That temperature is high because you will not be frying for an extended time. (Note: Be careful! Don’t bring water anywhere near the oil, and watch for any wet utensils, like the spider you used for blanching. If it gets in the oil, the oil will splatter everywhere and potentially burn you. Keep those utensils dry.)
Heat your separate wok or pot to medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and drop in the garlic, ginger and onion, cooking through for 2 minutes. Then add the broccoli and toss with all of the aromatics.
Meanwhile, drop your beef into the spider and lower it into the fry pot. Lift your spider out of the bubbling oil after 10 seconds, shake it carefully and add the beef to the wok or pan with the Chinese broccoli.
Toss everything together, then add the oyster sauce and soy sauce and reduce the mixture slightly for 2 minutes. Add the Shaoxing wine, mushroom water and MSG and reduce for another 2 minutes. Incorporate the slurry to thicken the sauce.
Remove from the heat and serve on a platter. Top with the fried shallots and scallions.