Shanghai Beef with Mushrooms
The recipe for this dish has no particular connection with Shanghai, rather the name comes about because it uses Shanghai-style Bok Choy for the greens. The Beef is first coated and deep-fried, then Button mushrooms are also pre-fried before all the ingredients are brought together in a simple stock-based sauce. The seasoning for this dish is largely limited to a little salt, pepper, and shredded ginger, so it will likely appeal to even the most timid and delicate of tastes.
The Basic Method for Shanghai Beef with Mushrooms
Before deep-frying slices of beef in the first part of a two-step cooking process, they need to be coated. Here, they are first seasoned with a little salt and pepper, then tossed with some baking soda, as this helps produce a tender result. Cornstarch is stirred in (this is the coating agent), but before the Cornstarch gets absorbed and makes everything sticky, it is a good idea to toss everything with 2 tbsp. of oil as this will prevent the pieces from clumping when you are frying.
The sauce base here is a good quality Chicken Stock. You can use anything you like, including commercial varieties, or you may like to follow my recipe for a Basic Chinese Chicken Stock. A slurry is made with Cornstarch to thicken the stock, and this augmented with a little Sugar, Soy Sauce and Shaoxing Wine. If you cannot source the latter, then any decent Rice Wine, or even a Dry Sherry may be used.
The Bok Choy is best if it is first quickly blanched by immersing it in boiling salted water for a minute or so and then plunged into cold water to arrest cooking. After, it can be chopped into coarse sections. In all, you want about 2 or even 3 cups of greens for the finished dish.
Use the largest Button Mushrooms you can find and slice them into sections roughly corresponding to the size of the beef strips. Brown them in oil, seasoning with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and remove to a bowl. You can do this part well in advance of the final cooking and, especially with very large mushrooms, it is preferable to precook in a separate pan as the very dark spores from the gills can otherwise discolor your final dish. Ideally, you should have between 1 to 2 cups of browned slices.
The last preliminary step is to deep-fry the beef strips prior to the final stir-fry with the remaining ingredients. This bit may seem like overkill but this is a common technique in Chinese cookery and one of those secrets you need to employ in order to get that otherwise elusive Chinese Restaurant taste. When you deep-fry, do so, in batches, at a fairly high temperature, until the outside browns and just starts to get crispy while leaving the inside only partially cooked to ensure later tenderness.
By the way, the other preparatory steps given above can all be done well in advance but this part should be done no more than 5 minutes or so ahead of the final cooking. If you allow the meat to get cold it won’t have the same soft and juicy quality.
When you are ready, heat your wok over a high flame and add a tablespoon or two of oil (retrieved from the deep fry pan, if you like). When the oil starts to shimmer, add the mushrooms and ginger shreds, tossing until the ginger gives off its aroma.
Now add the greens and stir-fry rapidly until they wilt somewhat and a few brown spots appear.
Finally, throw in the beef, stir until it is heated through and then add the sauce mixture. When the sauce bubbles and begins to thicken and clear, plate and serve while still piping hot.
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Shanghai Beef with Mushrooms
- 1 lb Beefsteak sliced into strips;
- 2 – 3 Shanghai style Bok Choy;
- 2 – 3 cups sliced Button Mushrooms;
- ¾ cup good quality Chicken Stock;
- 2 tbsp. Shaoxing Wine;
- 1 tbsp. shredded Ginger;
- 1 tbsp. Soy sauce;
- 1 tsp. Sugar.
- 3 tsp. Cornstarch;
- 1 tsp. Baking Soda;
- 2 tbsp. Cooking Oil plus extra for stir-frying;
- Salt and Pepper.
- Season the Beef with Salt and Pepper and stir in the Baking Soda.
- Add 1 generous tsp. of the Cornstarch to the Beef and stir well, then toss with the 2 Tbsp. of Oil to coat.
- Make a slurry with the remaining Cornstarch and stir in the stock, wine, soy sauce, and sugar. Mix well and set aside.
- Blanch the Bok Choy in boiling salted water and then chop into fairly large sections.
- Brown the Mushroom slices in oil, seasoning with Salt and a generous amount of Black Pepper, and remove to a bowl.
- Quickly Deep-fry the beef at high temperature until the surface begins to brown but the interior does not fully cook. Remove to a bowl for the moment.
- Heat a little oil in your pan over high heat and add the Mushrooms and Ginger shreds, stirring briskly until the Ginger gives off its aroma.
- Add the Bok Choy and stir-fry just until it is wilted, then stir in the beef.
- Finally, add the sauce mix and let it cook until the sauce clears and is bubbling.
- Plate and Serve Immediately.