seven flavor beef
This is one of our favorite recipes, and I’m actually kind of shocked to realize that we have not made it in the six-plus months since I started the blog! We got some good top sirloin on sale this week and a really nice looking bunch of chinese broccoli from the farmer’s market, and there really is no better thing to do with those ingredients than sizzle them both up in a blaze of seven-flavor glory.
When visiting friends last summer I went to Wild Ginger, an asian fusion sort of place in Seattle, and tried their seven flavor beef, which I had been told was amazing. Oh my god. It was so good. So many flavors! When I returned home, I was determined to recreate the recipe for Stephen because it had been such a revelation, and was pleased to find that Rachel Ray (yech) had done some show in Seattle and gone to Wild Ginger (yum) and managed to procure their recipe. I was a little worried it wouldn’t live up to the amazingness of my first taste of it in the restaurant, but it turns out it totally does!
So what are these seven flavors, you ask? Well, I can no longer find any confirmation of this on the internet, but I did find a list of them when I first started making this and I’m pretty sure that they are garlic, ginger, lemongrass, peanut, chile, hoisin, and basil. But you see, it’s a little hard to tell because arguably this beef has way more flavors than seven. I do remember for sure that the chinese five spice powder was not listed among the seven flavors, and it is a flavor explosion on its own, not to mention the sesame oil, fish sauce and honey! In any case, this beef is amazingly delicious, with a complex flavor. You can taste each individual component, but it is not overwhelmed by any of them– spiced but not too spicy, subtle contributions from the honey and fish sauce without being sweet or fishy, basily, peanutty, five spicey…it’s a crazy flavor trip that you MUST try. Like, even if you are vegetarian, you should probably use the same marinade on tofu and just skip the fish sauce.
The first few times we made this, I really wanted to be loyal to the recipe so it would come out just like it does at Wild Ginger, so I followed the instructions to a T. But now that I’ve made it a few times, I like to play with it just a little bit and make it a little more everyday friendly in a few ways. First of all, I do not usually have lemongrass or bean sprouts on hand, so while the recipe is great with those two ingredients (and I’ve included instructions for keeping them in the recipe), I’ve learned to live without them for weeknight purposes, substituting additional ginger for the lemongrass and vegetables of my choice for the sprouts. In the incarnation presented here I’ve used chinese broccoli as my veg, but you could also use regular broccoli, or bok choy, or even zucchini for that matter. The veg, whether it be bean sprouts or anything else, gets cooked with the onions and then reserved to be served over the rice and under the beef, so essentially you can use any veggies you want, cook them as long as they need to be cooked, and then reserve them. The other thing I often leave out in weeknight adaptations is the thai basil, because while it makes a really tasty addition, you can get along quite well without it and I hate making a trip to the asian store just to get it. The only other changes I’ve made are to slightly edit the quantities of some of the marinade ingredients, which makes the recipe simpler to follow and gives a slightly more generous dose of some key flavors without going too strong on anything.
Seven Flavor Beef with Vegetables
Adapted from Wild Ginger via Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels
Serves 2 generously, 3 reasonably, or more if you’re doing sort of a family style meal of several different asian entrees
1/2 lb flank steak or top sirloin (cheaper, equally tasty alternative), thinly sliced
1 T chopped garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger, or 1/2 tsp each minced ginger and lemongrass
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp chinese five spice powder
1 tsp salt
1 T vegetable oil
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts, or a couple cups of chopped vegetable of you choice (we used a bunch of chinese broccoli, but you could use a head of regular broccoli, or some bok choy)
2 T hoisin sauce
1 T chopped peanuts
if you have access: small handful thai basil leaves
To serve: white rice, although you could go for brown rice or asian noodles if you prefer
In a small bowl, combine the sliced beef with your marinade ingredients (garlic, ginger/lemongrass, fish sauce, sesame oil, honey, red pepper flakes, five spice, and salt). It will not be a juicy marinade, more like a spicy clingy paste that will just lightly coat the meat. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, to allow the flavors to meld.
While the meat is marinating, you can prep your other stuff. Slice the green and red onions, wash your bean sprouts or wash and chop your broccoli, chop some peanuts, get out the hoisin, and get some rice going.
When you’re ready to go, heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. When the wok is good and hot, add the red onion, green onion, and bean sprouts or vegetables (watch for hot splashy oil), and stir fry for a minute or two to get things coated in oil and starting to cook a touch. If you’re using bean sprouts, remove the sprouts and veg after this stage and reserve, and move on to cooking your meat. If you are cooking a vegetable here that needs to get tender, reduce the heat to medium, toss in a tablespoon or two of water, cover with a lid and allow the vegetables to steam until just tender, then remove them to a plate and discard any remaining water in the pan.
Return the pan to high heat (if necessary), adding a little glug more oil if necessary, and when it’s very hot toss in the meat, stirring to sear. Add the hoisin and toss until coated. Toss in the peanuts and basil (if using), and stir around another minute or two until the meat is cooked to your liking. Remove from the heat. Serve the vegetables and meat on a bed of rice, and garnish with more peanuts or thai basil if you wish. Enjoy!