Ginger beef – The famous take out dish consisting of deep-fried, marinated beef strips coated in a crunchy batter and covered with a sweet, spicy sauce has been a staple of Alberta Chinese restaurants for many years now, surprisingly large numbers of people from here believe it to be a normal Chinese dish that has been around forever. However, it’s difficult to find the true origins of this popular recipe and several stories exist, each seemingly as plausible as the next. One story seems to stand out as the most likely. It is said that in 1975 the husband of the owner (also the cook) of Chinatown’s Silver Inn restaurant in Calgary came up with the crunchy “Westernized” ginger beef with sweet sauce that is so popular today. This is a claim also made by the owner of the Ginger Beef restaurant chain, although he says he created it in 1983 I’ve found a recipe for it published in 1981 by the Calgary herald that puts that claim to rest . It can still-even after 35 years- be difficult to find the Alberta style of ginger beef outside of that province, although it can be found on the menus of restaurants in other large Canadian cities and is making inroads into the US via inclusion in cookbooks and internet recipe sites.
So, does the ginger beef that Albertans have come to know and love truly represent Chinese cooking? and for that matter, is ginger beef made using any of these recipes a truly authentic Chinese dish? Short answer: no, Long answer: sort of. Ginger beef appears to have it’s origins in a northern Chinese dish called Geung Ngao Yuk that is traditionally drier and less sweet than the popular restaurant version we find today and it’s this recipe that seems to be what was used to create the modern version. Whatever its origins however, ginger beef is a great dish to add to your take-out order.
This recipe by Rhonda Parkinson is one of the many variations on ginger beef that can be had in Calgary, and although they all share the same basic ingredients they can taste somewhat different from each other. If this isn’t tasting like what you get from your local take away store just play with quantities a little and you should get close. Another version can be found at the site for the popular restaurant Home Food Inn HERE
Tips for Making Restaurant-Style Ginger Beef
- To make it extra crispy, deep-fry the beef twice. This technique is often used in restaurants: staff prepare a batch of ginger beef and set it aside. When a customer places an order, a portion is deep-fried again.
- To make the ginger beef extra tender, use only cornstarch for the batter (instead of half cornstarch and half flour).
- Don’t put all of the meat in the wok at once – that will lower the wok temperature. Start with adding about 1/4 of the meat mixture.
- Mix the batter thoroughly. Test with chopsticks or a wooden spoon – it should just drop without sticking.
Ginger Beef Recipe
- 1 pound beef (rouladen)
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 carrot
- 3 hot chili peppers
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons ginger juice
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon hot chili oil (optional)
- 1 tablespoon wine
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- chili oil to taste
4 to 5 cups oil for deep-frying
- Slice beef into matchstick strips, cutting along the grain. (The meat is easier to cut if it is partially frozen).
- To make ginger juice for marinade, peel and grate ginger. Squeeze out juice.
- Mix four marinade ingredients. Add to beef and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Begin preparing vegetables. Cut carrots, celery, and pepper into thin strips. Mince garlic. For ginger, use the leftover minced ginger from the preparation of ginger juice.
- Mix the sauce ingredients. Set aside.
- Beat the egg white and add water. Add flour and cornstarch. Mix the batter thoroughly. Drop the batter into the marinated meat. Heat wok. When heated, add 3 – 5 cups of oil. When the oil is ready, add about ¼ of the meat/batter mixture. Deep-fry the beef until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Let oil come back to original temperature and add more meat.
- When meat is cooked, clean the wok. Heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. When oil is ready, add the vegetables and begin stir-frying. Pour in the sauce and let come to a boil. Add the deep-fried beef. Toss quickly, and remove.
- Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve hot.