I am suuuper excited about today's recipe! This dish is so simple, but it tastes like it's complicated. It's my best-of-both-worlds copy: partly inspired by my months in China, and partly inspired by my growing up on American Chinese takeout and dishes like Beef & Broccoli. This dish and many, many others like it had sauces of an unknowable state of matter, somewhere nestled in the Venn diagram of solid, liquid, and plasma. I never thought about how to make that sort of consistency until I went to China and was like, oh, it can be easy, and it can be better!
When I saw that Tesco had started selling a beef version of my favourite Plant Chef chicken-style pieces, I immediately thought of making a dish like this.
I had a gigantic zucchini (courgette, I know, but for Chinese food I can't say courgette) languishing in my fridge and just knew it would be perfect with the beef-style pieces. But not just sliced. No, I knew the best way to pair these two players would be to spiralize the zuke and treat it as noodles. (That way, it's like a noodle-y dish but you can still serve it over rice if you wanted, which I think works better with this sauce.) (Not that I'd judge you for putting a wheat noodle dish over rice, you do you.) I LOVE having a spiralizer. You can also use a mandoline slicer, but I never allow myself to because I know I would immediately lose a finger. If you have neither, I've seen groceries also sell pre-spiralized vegetables (I just saw spiralized courgette at a Sainsbury's Local).
I added a bag of sugar snap peas, some ginger, and my tried and true 'takeout fakeout' sauce (spoiler alert: it's mostly soy sauce and cornstarch. I know!) I also had some tofu sheets to be used, so I cut them into noodle shapes too. It's all about noodles that are lying to you here! The snap peas and the tofu sheets are of course optional; you can add any similar veg, a black bean, some fried tofu, whatever your heart desires. It's super flexible.
AROMATIC TOP TIPS!
I start with just a few aromatics: ginger and garlic, the best two. I'm going to share two of my best cooking secrets now. First, for garlic: always use more than a recipe calls for. I usually use like, 9 when it calls for 2. It's just great stuff. I used 4 here but the dish won't hurt from a lot more.
Now, my top tip for ginger: The best way to store these big ole roots of fresh ginger without them going bad in your fridge because you a) forgot about it or b) couldn't possibly use that much ginger in 5 days is to...store it in your freezer. Then, take a microplane grater and just grate the frozen root right out of the freezer when you need it. It lasts forever and is super super easy. Yayyy!
This dish is pretty fast and easy to make. I dry-fried the beef (and my tofu strips) first and then removed them so they didn't get soggy from cooking the vegetables and sauce, and then added the proteins back in at the very end. Doing this really helped the beef keep its integrity and prevented the dish from being a monotonous soggy weird-softly-chewy mess.
This probably goes without saying but I am not Chinese and I am sure this is absurdly inauthentic and I do not intend to say anything close to saying that it is authentic. This is my take on American Chinese takeout - nothing more inauthentic than that!
CHINESE FAKEOUT BEEF AND ZUCCHINI NOODLES
1 package vegan beef-style pieces (or seitan pieces, or tempeh, or fried tofu cubes)
4 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 big zucchini or two small
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce (I used dark mushroom soy sauce, found at most Asian groceries)
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour, I think in the UK? Whatever makes sauces thick here)
Optional: 2 cups sugar snap peas or other crunchy vegetable; 1 cup tofu sheet strips, or other protein
In a big nonstick pan or wok, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat.
Add the ginger and garlic for about 2-3 minutes.
Add the beef and tofu strips or your protein choice and cook according to directions. I cooked for about 13 minutes because I like it really well done and for the tofu to be crispy. At this point, it was effectively dry-frying the beef because all the oil and liquid from the frozen ginger had evaporated. Dry frying works amazing well for this Tesco beef.
Move all the beef etc. to a separate bowl.
Add your spiralized zucchini to the wok now, along with your extra veg. Stir fry for about 6-7 minutes, adding water as you need to help the cooking along.
While that's cooking, mix the sauce. First, get a measuring cup and put the cornstarch in first, then add as little cold water as possible to mix the starch into a smooth paste. Doing this prevents clumps. Then add the rest of the 1/4 cup water, the liquid sugar, the soy, the pinch of salt.
Once the veggies are cookies, pour the sauce in. That big amount of cornstarch meant that my sauce thickened virtually immediately upon hitting the hot wok. Stir stir stir to get it cooked through, adding more water as needed to deglaze and keep it from hardening (it's not an exact science!), and turn off heat.
Add the beef and tofu/etc back in and stir it all up.
Tell me what you think if you make this! This style of sauce is such a staple for me, so I'm so excited to add this beefy version to my rotation. Hope you enjoy!