As with other Chinese-American dishes, beef with broccoli probably has its roots in a more traditional dish, such as beef with gai lan (Chinese broccoli). The original version almost certainly used a small amount of meat to flavour a larger portion of vegetables, but in its move to the United States, it has morphed into a dish with almost equal quantities of both. In an effort to eat more vegetables, I’ve dialled back the beef. It’s healthier but no less flavourful.
Choose a tender cut of beef for this dish, not something that’s meant for stews. I like flank steak and rib eye; filet mignon is too lean (and too expensive).
If you want a more colourful dish, add some carrot. At restaurants, they carve the carrot into cute shapes, but you don’t have to do this at home. Just slice the carrot into thin discs or batons and add the pieces to the boiling water when you are blanching the broccoli. Add the carrot and broccoli to the wok at the same time.
Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and place over a high flame.
While the water is heating, prepare the beef. Very thinly slice the beef against the grain into one-bite pieces. Put the beef in a bowl and add the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well, then add the cornstarch and cooking oil. Combine thoroughly, then set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
Remove the broccoli florets from the stalk and cut them into two-bite pieces. Peel the tough fibres from the stalk portion of the broccoli. Cut the stalk into one-bite pieces. (The stalk is tougher, so cutting it into smaller pieces means it will take about the same time to cook as the larger pieces of floret.) When the water boils, add the broccoli, stir once, then cook for two minutes. Drain the broccoli in a colander.
Slice the onion in half, then cut each half into six pieces in a crosshatch pattern. Halve the garlic cloves. Cut the banana chilli on the diagonal into thin pieces. Pour the oyster sauce into a small bowl, add 80ml ( ¼ cup and 4tsp) of hot water and stir to dissolve.
Place a wok (or large skillet) over a high flame and when it’s hot, pour in about 15ml (1tbsp) of cooking oil. Swirl the wok to coat it lightly with the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about 10 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about a minute, then mix in the chilli. Stir-fry for about 15 seconds, then put the ingredients in a bowl, leaving behind as much oil as possible.
Place the wok (no need to wash it) back over a high flame and when it’s very hot, add the beef and its marinade. Stir-fry constantly for about 45 seconds, or until the meat starts to lose its red colour. Remove the beef from the wok and put it in the bowl with the onion and other ingredients.
Place the wok (again, no need to wash it) over a high flame and when it’s hot, pour in 15ml (1 tbsp) of cooking oil. Add the broccoli and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add the beef, onion and other ingredients back into the wok and mix well. Stir-fry over a high flame for about a minute, then pour in the oyster sauce/water mixture.
Mix well, then lower the flame to medium, cover the wok with the lid and simmer for about two minutes, stirring occasionally. Lift the lid and taste the sauce and add more seasonings, if necessary. Taste a piece of broccoli - should be crisp-tender; if it’s too hard, cover the wok again and simmer for another minute or so, until the vegetable is cooked to your liking.
Transfer the ingredients to a dish and serve with steamed rice.