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The Traditional and Delightful Beef Chow Fun (Beef Ho Fun) Recipe

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

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 traditional and regional recipes have a special place in my heart. The immense value I give them is 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 introduce it to your dinner tables.

Not all Cantonese dishes are as popular as Hong Kong chow fun, for many reasons, from its taste to its combination of sauces to its aroma. You can find the best Authentic beef chow fun at the Yum Cha chain in Guangdong, Hong Kong which is where I first tried chow fun. I admired those ho noodles. Juicy beef never has had such a mild yet soothing flavor.

Before I go on talking about beef chow fun ingredients, the steps to make it, and the overall goodness of the recipe, I really want to share its origin story which is quite interesting and a bit dramatic!

So, back in Hunan China, a chef named Mr. Hui was forced into an ingenious recipe. During the days of World War II, a military commander came to his food shack and asked for a saucy dish which required cornstarch. Since Mr. Hui was out of cornstarch at that time of the night, he could not make it.

But after 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 as beef chow fun. At least this is what history says about dried fry chow fun. So that’s how Mr Hui not only saved his own life, but saved the day by giving us one of the most delicious Cantonese recipes.

If you know of additional such stories regarding beef chow fun, let us know.

Now let’s get back to the actual recipe. Beef chow fun is made of three basic ingredients. First comes the noodles, then the beef and then their combined mixture with other ingredients including spices, sauces, and a few vegetables.

I try at least to include at least a few vegetables to make the dish more nutritious. An example is beef with broccoli or sliced mushrooms, these which are two of my favorite options. I will tell you later how can you add them to the basic recipe, but only 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 and keep experimenting.

What to Look for in Cantonese Style Chow Fun

Now I am going to share the basic components of this recipe in greater detail. So hang on to your hats! Firstly, there is the 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 is well-seasoned with spice and sugar. This beef is later marinated for some time.

In my opinion, longer marination always gives better results especially when you are dealing with beef. Keep in mind that the marination time depends on the thickness of the beef slices. The thicker the slices, the longer the marination time has to be. Cornstarch added to the marinade makes it smoother and creamier, and when cooked it gives chow fun’s beef that glazy look that makes your mouth water.

Ok so you can’t just sit around while the beef is marinating! You’ve got to do something. I personally prepare the rest of the ingredients of this recipe during this time. This preparing includes chopping the vegetables, and cutting the ho noodles and preparing the stir fry sauces aside for later use.

Ho fun noodles are a major ingredient of this recipe, and are what defines beef chow fun. Don’t go easy on this one, but be careful while selecting and preparing it. Using other noodles will not give you the same taste or overall result you are looking for in a chow fun dish. Here is a little ho fun guide to tell you how to pick the right noodles for this recipe, including what shape and size suits it best:

  • Pick Fresh Ho Fun

Since Beef chow fun is not the same without Chinese ho fun noodles, we need to discuss these not-so-well-known rice noodles a bit more. Ho fun comes on the market in packers 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 chow fun is the fresh type. Not all brands provide English translation on the packets so ask for help to identify fresh ho fun. If you are a pro at making noodles at home, you can even make these on your own.

  • Ho Fun Noodles- Shapes & Sizes

Keep in mind that not all fresh ho fun noodles are suitable for stir-frying. Those tiny bags with smushed noodles inside are only decent 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 separating them from one another is a pain. That is why I usually avoid using these and go for flat sheets and ho fun strips.

After selecting the noodles, you need to prepare them for the big show— by which I mean stir frying. Before stir-frying, the noodles should be separated and loosened up. There are two methods to do that. Either you microwave them, or you steam them for a while. But you want only a little softening.

Do not overcook them, just heat them for a 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 the carefully toss them into the stir fry.

Speaking of the stir fry, let’s go on to the next step!

Remember that marinating beef? Well, its time to cook it. it only requires some searing with a tablespoon of oil— sesame oil is great to enhance the taste since it’s 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 you prefer.

The Secret Ingredient

The chow fun sauce has a secret ingredient which gives this recipe its distinct taste. It is Chinese black bean sauce, in which beef is cooked first before adding to the stir fry.

The black bean sauce is often available on 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 can’t find it in the stores. This sauce is made from fermented black beans and mostly used in a range of Chinese recipes.

So, I would suggest keeping it ready at home in your refrigerator if you are a Chinese food lover. Make it in a single session and you can store it for weeks. The black beans used in this sauce are not ordinary beans but black soybeans.

Which means 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 a 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-intensive procedure, but a single session can give enough sauce to cook beef chow fun for a month. There are a number of online stores that can save you from the grocery store drill and provide 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 making of and marination of the beef and the next is the cooking and tossing of the remaining ingredients with the beef. The whole combination is then 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 cut it into slices. Try slicing it against the grain for better cooking. The following are all the ingredients you need. First start by gathering the ingredients for the marinade and then just follow along.

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 under cold water. Slice them into half. A whole baby corn knob looks more appealing when tossed with beef and noodles. You can, however, try corn kernels if you like a more simple and easy serving.

Peel the garlic cloves and mince them. Keep them aside. Rinse the rice noodles in warm water to loosen them. Cut the noodles into ½ inch strips.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok and sear the marinated beef until brown on both sides. Once the meat is done, add black bean sauce. Stir for 30 seconds then transfer 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 stuff making this stuff at home using fresh ingredients. And when you don’t use market bought products you can control the nutritional value of your food and keep track of your intake. That is why I brought you some simple steps to make the ho fun noodles at home. Instead of wandering the aisles stressing over picking the right one, 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 fresh in this beef chow fun recipe.

Here are some 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 a large cooking container such as 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 swirling 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 crepes. After you try your hand at a rolled noodle 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 a bunch of 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 steamings of crepes, then wash it, dry it and use it again. Do not continue with a sticky pie plate, as the crepes will not be rolled out easily. Your noodles are ready to add to the chow fun stir fry. Cut each of these rolls into ½ inch wide strips. More like chow yum!

Inspiring alternatives

That was all for 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 chicken slices. Take 2 or 3 boneless and skinless chicken breasts and slice them into thick slices. Using the same marinade, just marinate the chicken for a few minutes then sear it. Сook the chicken with black bean sauce…and you know what to do next!

Here is a spoiler!

This chow fun version will not taste exactly like the beef chow, but it can make a pretty good substitute. It has its own distinct taste and appeal.

About two weeks ago, I experienced another great version of beef chow fun. It was beef “broccoli” chow fun. And I was surprised how my friend was feeding broccoli to her kids in such a fun way; they would otherwise never even come close to it!

So, the very next day I also ventured to add broccoli to the recipe, and you know what? It tastes great. I first steamed the broccoli over a steamer basket, then added it to the stir fry right with the baby corn knob. You can replace the baby corn with broccoli or just keep it there. Stir fry the veggies for 1 minute or 30 seconds.

Another experiment for 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 the earthy flavors of the beef chow fun very well.

Just by changing the toppings and garnish of this recipe, you can change the theme of the flavors. That’s how good of a recipe it is! First go with the basic one, then try out your own extra ingredients for a personal touch!

Conclusion

If you want a perfect dinner meal for both kids and adults, beef chow fun is a great option. It is a nice festive dish, which can be cooked at home when there is a big gathering or weekend family dinner. In northeast China and many of its other areas, this dish is enjoyed on all special occasions. Don’t miss out!

With baby corns, vegetables, and well-marinated beef, this recipe is a complete package of nutrients which will explode in your mouth. If you want 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 great taste and juicy texture. Treat yourself with this Asian delight and make sure to share it with your family and friends.

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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