This Beef Vegetable Stir-Fry is one of those quick and easy dishes that you can throw together in minutes if you prepare properly ahead of time. Tender beef, crunchy vegetables, and that perfectly flavored sauce you expect from really solid Chinese food (the right amount and the right consistency!) make this stir-fry an ideal weeknight dish.
Use Whatever Vegetables You Have
Chinese bok choy is the primary vegetable in this dish. Back in the day, a classic, old-school Chinese restaurant menu item was “beef with bok choy.” This recipe was inspired by that dish, but other vegetables can definitely be thrown in—carrots, celery, peppers, snow peas, mushrooms, onions—whatever you’ve got in the refrigerator that looks good (or that has to get used before it goes bad!).
We decided to use bok choy, bunashimeji mushrooms, and whole snap peas, but the flexibility and simplicity of this dish is the beauty of it!
A lot of people would agree that bok choy is crunchy, sweet, and healthy to boot, but most probably don’t realize how many varieties are available today. The various bok choy varieties are differentiated by texture and flavor.
Read more in our Chinese leafy greens ingredient page, and try the different types to find your favorite. (Pro-tip, keep our ingredients pages bookmarked for easy access the next time you are wandering in a confused daze through your local Asian grocery store!)
Preparation Is Key!
The key to success for this beef vegetable stir-fry (or any stir-fry for that matter) is preparation! I remember when Sarah and Kaitlin were young, and Judy and I were balancing our career ambitions, family time, household responsibilities, and meal prep. It was challenging, if not completely exhausting!
To make meals easier, I used to get the cutting board out the night before the week started and prepare at least two plates each of cut vegetables and marinated meat.
They would sit, covered and stored neatly in the refrigerator ready for the wok. Then, when I got home the next day, I started the rice in the rice cooker, and when the rice was almost ready, I would heat up my wok. Minutes later, we would have hot beef with bok choy over rice, the perfect comfort food after a hectic day in the “jungle.”
In case you’re wondering, yes, feel free to substitute in pork, chicken, or even tofu. The end result is a healthy weekday meal that ends your day right!
Beef Vegetable Stir-fry: Recipe Instructions
Mix together the marinade ingredients (water, baking soda, cornstarch, and oil) with the beef until well-coated, and set aside for 30 minutes or overnight. For more information on preparing beef, see Bill’s post on How to Slice and Velvet Beef for stir fries.
Next, prepare your veggies and set aside. We used bok choy, mushrooms, and snow peas, but use whatever you like or have available.
In a small bowl, mix the water (or beef stock, if using), sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar, and set aside.
Heat your carbon steel wok on high heat and spread 2 tablespoons of oil around the perimeter to coat. Once the wok and oil start to smoke, add the beef, and use your metal wok spatula to spread the beef in one even layer. Sear for 30 seconds.
Turn the beef to sear the uncooked sides for another 30 seconds. At this point, the beef should be about 80% done. Turn off the heat and transfer the beef back to the marinade bowl.
Next, with the heat back on high, add the ginger and 1 tablespoon of oil to the wok. Cook for 10 seconds, and add the garlic.
After 5 seconds, add the mushrooms and stir-fry for another 15 seconds, giving them a good sear. Add the Shaoxing wine.
Next, add the snap peas and the bok choy, and stir fry on the highest heat for another 20 seconds until the bok choy begins to wilt.
Stir in the beef and your prepared sauce mixture. Gather everything in the center of the wok.
When everything comes back up to a simmer, and the sides of the wok begin to super-heat, Stir fry everything in a circular motion so the beef and vegetables hit the sides of the wok-this gets you that wok hay flavor!
Pour the cornstarch slurry in the center of the wok while stirring. The sauce will immediately thicken, so work fast to stir everything together for another 20 seconds to evenly coat the beef and vegetables in the sauce.
There should not be any standing sauce – everything should be clinging to the beef and vegetable stir fry. This is the classic restaurant-style preparation, but you can add more stock and salt or soy sauce to taste if you like a saucier stir-fry.
Turn off the heat and transfer your beef vegetable stir-fry to a serving plate; you can also dish it out individually on a bed of rice for a great one-plate meal.
Enjoy immediately. Though you probably don’t need us to tell you that.