It is always exciting to talk about chow fun, which is a Cantonese recipe with special rice noodles and fried beef. I find this dish worth sharing with everyone.
In fact, all the traditional and regional recipes take a corner of my heart, and there is this immense value I give them because of the cultural significance and culinary importance they have. Beef chow fun noodle is such a recipe, and it gives me great pleasure to bring it to your dinner tables.
Not all Cantonese dishes are that popular as the Hong Kong chow fun, that is because of many reasons, from its taste, a combination of sauces to its aroma. You can find the best Authentic beef chow fun at the yum cha chain in the Guangdong, Hong Kong and that is where I first tried the chow fun. I admired those ho noodles, and the juicy beef never had experienced such a mild and soothing flavor.
Before I go on talking about the beef chow fun ingredients, all the steps of its making and the goodness of the recipe, I really want to share the story of its origin, which I assume is quite interesting and a bit of dramatic of course!
So back in Hunan China, a chef named Mr Hui was forced back to this place, and he became a chef. It was during the days of World war II when a military commander came to his shake of food and asked for a saucy dish which required cornstarch. Since Mr Hui was out of the cornstarch at that time of the night, he could not make it.
Being threatened by the soldier, Mr. Hui was able to make a stir fry using the dumpling sheets his family was making at that time. One thing led to another, and the dish came out was beef chow fun. At least this is what the history says about the dried fry chow fun. So that’s how Mr Hui in saving his life, saved the day and gave us one of the most delicious Cantonese recipes.
If you know more of such stories regarding beef chow fun, do let us know.
Now getting back to the actual recipe. A beef chow fun is made out of three basic ingredients. First comes the noodles, then the beef and then their combined mixture with other ingredients including spices, sauces, and few vegetables.
I try at least one extra vegetable to make the dish more nutritious. Like beef with broccoli or sliced mushrooms, these are two of my most favorite options, and I will tell you later how can you add them to the basic recipe, but after sharing the actual recipe itself. Creating new varieties from a single dish is all in your hands and depends on your creativity, so let loose your thoughts and keep experimenting as I do.
What to Look for in Cantonese Style Chow Fun
Here I am going to share the basic components of this recipe in greater detail. So, hang on and keep scrolling! Firstly, there is this juicy and saucy beef you need to make for the chow fun. First, you dip the beef slices into a light and dark soy sauce mixture which seasoned well with spice and sugar. This beef is later marinated for some time.
In my opinion, longer marination always gives better result especially when you are dealing with the beef. Plus, the marination time also depends on the thickness of the beef slices. The thicker the slices, the longer the marination time has to be. Cornstarch is added to the marinade to make it smoother and creamier, whereas later during the cooking, it gives chow fun’s beef that glazy outlook that makes your mouth water.
Ok! You cannot sit aloof while the beef is marinating. We got to do something. So, I prepare rest of the ingredients of this recipe during this time. This preparing includes chopping of the vegetables, and cutting off the ho noodles and keep the stir sauces aside for late use.
Ho fun noodles are a major ingredient of this recipe, and it is what defines a beef chow fun. Don’t go easy on this one and be careful while selecting and preparing it. Using other noodles will not give you the same taste and result in you looking for in the chow fun dish. Here is a little ho fun guide, to tell you how to pick the right noodles for this recipe and what shape and size suits it the best:
Pick Fresh Ho Fun
Since Beef chow fun is not cooked without the Chinese ho fun noodles, we need to discuss more these not-known to rice noodles. Ho fun comes in market bought packets marked with a variety of labels and sizes. I recommend to always pick fresh ho fun. Such noodles are specially marked with letters SA meaning they are suitable for stir-frying.
These noodles are commonly used in Cantonese cuisine, so they are available in many forms. Most suitable for the chow fun is the fresh one. Not all brands provide English translation on the packets so ask for help to identify fresh ho fun. If you are pro at making noodles at home, you can even make these at home
Ho Fun Noodles- Shapes & Sizes
Keep in mind that not all fresh ho fun noodles are suitable for stir-frying. Those ting bags with smushed noodles inside are only good for noodle soups but they make the worst beef chow fun. So, cross them off your grocery list and try noodles available in sheets or sliced strips.
Dried flat rice noodles can also be used instead if you can’t get your hand on any of the two described above. I try to find pre-cut fresh ho fun to make the dish at home. sometimes when you use rice noodles instead, separating them from another becomes a pain. That is why I usually avoid using those and always go for flat sheet and ho fun strips.
After selecting the noodles, you need to prepare them for the big show- stir frying I mean. Before the stir-frying, the noodles should be separated and loosen up. There is two methods to do that. Either you microwave them, or you steam them for a while. It is just a little softening.
Do not overcook them, just heat them for few seconds or steam for 1 minute. Remove the noodles from the packet and place them in a bowl. Microwave them for 1 minute at most at medium heat then immediately take them out. Separate the noodles gently and carefully then toss them into the stir fry.
Speaking of the stir fry, let’s switch to the next step!
Remember that marinating beef? Well, its time to cook it. it only requires some searing in a tablespoon of oil; sesame oil is great to enhance the taste, its light and healthy. Remove the beef from the marinade and shake it to remove the excess then place it in the preheated oil. After searing the beef, other ingredients are added to the cooking wok. These may include garlic and the sauces.
The Secret Ingredient
The chow fun sauce has a secret ingredient which gives this recipe its distinct taste. It is the Chinese black bean sauce, in which beef is cooked first before adding to the stir fry.
The black bean sauce is often available in the market in bottles like other sauces. Most commonly it is available at Asian grocery stores. However, it can also be made at home if you couldn’t find it in the stores. This sauce is made from fermented black beans and mostly used in a range of Chinese recipe.
So, I would suggest to keep it ready at home in your refrigerator if you are a Chinese food lover. Make it in a single session then store for weeks. The black beans used in this sauce are not those ordinary beans but the black soybeans.
So, the sauce is also full of nutritional value.
The black soybeans are first rinsed and washed then they are soaked in a brine containing mold spores of Aspergillus. After few days of fermentation, the beans turn sticky and slimy. This mixture is either crushed with a spoon or blended slightly to make a sauce.
Transfer the sauce to a sealed jar for longer preservation. This is rather a time taking a procedure, but a single session can give enough sauce to cook beef chow fun throughout the month. Else there is a number of online stores which can save you from the actual grocery store drill and provides good black bean sauces.
Beef Chow Fun Recipe – Easy, straightforward and delicious!
A basic beef chow fun recipe requires two main steps; one is the marination and making of the beef and the next is cooking and tossing of remaining ingredients with the beef. The whole combination is seasoned with simple sauces and spices. People create their own version of chow fun by adding sliced vegetables of their choice. Here I will use baby corn to add more calories and nutrients to the platter.
Spend extra time in selecting the beef and the noodles for this one. I use flank steak beef and then cut it into a slice. Try slicing it against the grain for better cooking. Following are all the ingredients. First, start by gathering the ingredients for the marinade and then do the rest.
For the Marinade
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1-pound beef flank steak (sliced 1/4-inch thick across the grain)
For the Noodles
- 8 ounces fresh baby corn
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2-pound fresh chow fun
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black bean sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- Optional: light soy sauce (to taste)
Mix soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, cornstarch, dark soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl to prepare the marinade for the beef.
Slice the beef into thin strips and place the strips in the marinade. Mix well to coat them. Let the beef marinate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and noodles for the chow fun. Thoroughly wash the baby corn and rinse them under cold water. Slice them into the half. A whole baby corn knob looks more appealing when tossed with the beef and noodles. You can, however, try the corn kernels if you like it simple and easy serving.
Peel the garlic cloves and mince them. Keep them aside. Rinse the rice noodles in warm water to let them loose. Cut the noodles into ½ inch strips.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok and sear the marinated beef until brown from both the sides. Once the meat is done, add black bean sauce. Stir cook for 30 seconds then transfers the mixture to a bowl.
Clean the same wok and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the wok. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Toss in chow fun and continue cooking for 1 minute.
Add baby corn and cook for 30 seconds. Now return the seared beef slices to the wok and stir in oyster sauce. Toss in noodles and cook for 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce or salt If needed. Serve and enjoy.
Homemade Ho Fun Noodles
There is no parallel to the stuff made at home using the fresh ingredients. And when you don’t use the market packet product you can control the nutritional value of your food well and can keep a close check on it. That is why I brought you some simple steps to even make the ho fun noodles at home. Instead of searching, selecting and picking the right one while wandering from store to store, use these basic ingredients and make some fresh ho fun noodles in no time.
This recipe can give you about 1 pound of noodles. Double the proportions for 2 lbs. and so on. Make only as many noodles in a session as needed in the recipe. You can not store them for a day, as they have to be used fresh in the beef chow fun recipe.
Here are some of the ingredients that you will need to make a pound of noodles: about 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons rice flour (easily available in stores), 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups cold water, 3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil and some vegetable oil or non-stick spray to grease the cooking pan.
After gathering up all these ingredients, take a large measuring cup and add the flour, salt, and cornstarch to a bowl as per the given proportions. Mix the dry ingredients first then start pouring in the cold water gradually while stirring the mixture continuously. Along with water also add 3 tablespoons of oil. The oil keeps the noodles soft and tender. You can even reduce it if you don’t want your noodles too soft. Mix until the batter is free of lumps and evenly mixed.
The next part is crucial.
First boil water in large cooking which could be covered with a 10-inch bamboo steamer. You can also use other steamer baskets. This size is, however, most suitable for the size of the noodles we need to make here.
Take a 9.5-inch pie dish and grease it with half a teaspoon of cooking oil. Pour a ladle full of 3 tablespoons of flour batter into the pie plate. Spread the batter evenly in the pie plate by swirl it a bit. Carefully place the pie plate over the steamer and cover it. Let the batter steam for 4 minutes until forms a white crepe.
Now remove the pie plate from the steamer and allow it cool for a while. Once it is completely cooled, take a cheese slicer or flexible spatula to gently roll the crepe and transfer it to the cutting board or a working surface.
You can use two pie plates simultaneously. When one is cooling down, use the other one to steam more of the crepes. After a rolled noodle from the pie dish, wipe it off with a paper towel. Grease it again with the cooking oil and repeat the above steps until the whole batter is used to make the noodles.
Constantly check the water level in the cooking pot, the steamer is placed above. Add more water if needed during the session. If the pie plate gets too sticky after multiple steaming of crepes, then wash it, dry and use again. Do not continue with the sticky pie plate, as the crepes will not be rolled out easily then. These noodles are ready to add to the chow fun stir fry. Cut each of these rolls into ½ inch wide strips
That was all about the basic recipe; let’s turn to the part I enjoy the most- experiments! Since red meat does not suit many health-oriented diets, I thought of other alternatives to make this recipe suitable for those who cannot have beef in their diets. Chicken chow fun is one good option.
The entire recipe remains the same, except that the beef slices are replaced with the chicken slices. Take 2 or 3 boneless and skinless chicken breasts and slice them into thick slices. Use the same marinade and just marinate the chicken for few minutes then sear it. Сook the chicken with black beans sauce and you know what to do next!
Here is a spoiler!
This chow fun version will not exactly taste like the beef chow, but it can make the pretty good version of itself. It has its own distinct taste and originality.
About two weeks ago, I had another great version of beef chow fun. It was the beef “broccoli” chow fun. And I was surprised how my friend was feeding the same broccoli to her kids in such a fun way; they would otherwise not like to even come close to it!
So, the very next day I also ventured to add the broccoli to the recipe, and It tastes great. I first steamed the broccoli over a steamer basket, then added to the stir fry right with the baby corn knob. You can also replace the baby corn with broccoli or just keep it there. Stir fry the veggies for 1 minute or 30 seconds.
Another experiment that I did to my bowl of chow fun is that I added toasted cashews to this stir fry. I know nuts usually complement recipes like kung pao chicken, but just for a change I threw in some nuts, and the crunch suited well to the earthy flavors of the beef chow fun.
Just by changing the toppings and garnish of the recipe, you can change the theme of the flavors. That’s how good of a recipe it is! Firs go with the basic one, then turn to all these extra ingredients for a personal touch!
If you think of a perfect dinner meal for both kids and adults, beef chow fun is a great option. It is a nice festive dish, which is usually cooked at home when there is a big gathering or weekend night family dinner. In northeast China or most of its other parts, this dish is enjoyed on all the special occasions. You should not miss the chance either!
With baby corns, vegetables, and well-marinated beef, the recipe is a complete package of nutrients which you would not want to miss. To make it more health appropriate replace the high sodium ingredients with other alternatives like coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Properly marinate the meat for good taste and a juicy texture. Treat yourself with this Asian delight and share with your fam and friends.