Eat Drink Style My New Toy: The Wok - Beef Chow Fun & Beef Chow Mein (Crispy) Recipe

In a conversation that extended over 15+ emails, Kirk of Mmm-Yoso and Elmo of Elmomonster convinced me that the Big Kahuna Burner was a good investment for wok cooking and that I wouldn't be going to jail for involuntary arson. (They both own it too). For only $49.99 off Amazon, this burner reaches BTU's as high as 55,000. Just how high is that? The stove burner you use daily averages 5,000 to 8,000 BTU's. For so long I wondered why I couldn't achieve that same restaurant-quality taste with Chinese food. Why was the food cooked on the outside so beautifully, yet so gummy-tender on the indside? Why was there such a different, indescribable taste to the food that used the same ingredients I had used at home? And why did food come out in less than 5 minutes? It's called 'wok hay', the 'heat/energy of the wok'. The wok, when burning hot, sears/singes the meat nicely on the outside and adds a taste unachievable on a 10" Emeril pot and home stove. The domed shape of the wok distributes heat faster than the flat surface of a pan. (I got my 16" wok at a restaurant supply store in San Gabriel for only $9. It's decent.) Combining rocket-boosting heat and domed cookware, you get Asian-style cooking.

In Chinese, 'chow fun' means fried rice noodles and 'chow mein' means fried egg noodles. Fresh 'fun' noodles are shown on the left. Their made with rice, starch and water and come oiled up to keep from drying in room temperature and are already pre-sliced. 'Fun' noodles require the most labor because it is necessary to separate each strand of noodle for equal cooking. On the right is steamed 'chow mein'. Do not confuse these with wonton egg noodles, which come heavily doused in flour. If you were to use wonton egg noodles for the 'Beef Chow Mein' dish, they wouldn't turn out out too well because of the high flour content. Also, if you add liquids to the dish, the noodles will become thick and gooey. Not good. Steaming egg noodles removes the flour and making it easier for pan frying. 'Fun' is $1.79 a pack and 'mein' is $1.59 a pack at most Asian markets.

The key to cooking Asian stir fry and noodle dishes is having everything prepped out. I've been over to my Uncle's restaurant to watch him cook and their walk-in fridge is stocked with prepped out food. He punches out orders in less than 3 minutes because everything is ready to go. I combined the ingredients for both dishes.

Marinating the beef:
- Flank steak
- Rice Wine/Sherry (Shao Xing)
- Oil
- Salt
- White Pepper (Chinese rarely use black pepper)
- Chicken Bouillon Powder
- Corn starch

Mix those up well and let it steep for at least 30 minutes.

For Beef Chow Fun, you need:
- Green onions (green part 2.5"-3")
- Bean sprouts (handful)

For Beef Chow Mein, you need:
- Greens like Yau Choy or Gai-Lan (Chinese Broccoli)
- Green onion stalks (thick slices)
- Straw Mushrooms (canned)
- Carrots (cut into rhombus-shape)
- Ginger (cut into rhombus-shape)
- Garlic

The sauce aisle is probably the most overwhelming section of the Asian market. Who knew that they could fill up one long aisle with soy sauce, oyster sauces and oil. It'll take a while finding these if you don't already have them. You'll need soy sauce, dark soy sauce (aka mushroom soy sauce), oyster sauce and sesame oil. Disregard the jar on the left.

After prepping everything, I spent a good 10 minutes bringing out all the equipment/sauces I needed to the area in front of my apartment. Never wok cook inside a kitchen unless you have an overhead, proper stove and fire extinguisher. Those flames could catch oil and wreak havoc. Plus the smell of smoke can be overwhelming. I stood there for a few minutes getting myself ready for this mentally. There isn't a lot of time to think and you must act fast. I opened the gas valve on the propane tank and could see the gas slowly fill out throught the tube. I then opened the control valve for the burner and I immediately heard hissing. I used a stick lighter and ignited the burner. Whooom! Ok, here we go. Here's what went down.

Beef Chow Fun
Add a little oil and swirl it around the wok. It should take no longer than 30-45 seconds for the oil to smoke. Toss the beef in and stir it around. Once it's cooked through about 60%, take it out. Toss the noodles in and stir. In about 2-3 minutes, they'll be cooked. Simply add the beef back in along with bean sprouts, green onions and a few pieces of ginger. Add dark soy sauce to achieve that recognizable 'beef chow fun' color. *Note, dark soy sauce really has no taste and it's only used for coloring. Soy sauce is used for taste along with salt and white pepper. Add some soy sauce and sugar to taste. You're done when the green onions and bean sprouts are wilted. This dish came out delicious except for the fact that I used too much sugar. It kinda tasted like Thai "pad see eew". The beef was cooked about 85% with a few pieces showing some rareness, which I don't mind. Next round, I'm adding less sugar and more ginger.

Beef Chow Mein
First, add a cup of oil into the wok for shallow frying the egg noodles. Fry each side for about 2 minutes and watch that you don't burn it. It should be a light golden brown. Take it out once you're done. Throw the beef in and stir - cook 50% through and dump about 2 cups of water to make the gravy. Add dark soy sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper and sugar to taste. Once you get the right taste, throw the beef back in and add corn starch mixture (water/corn starch) to thicken the gravy. Next toss in the carrots, straw mushrooms and yau choy. Cook for about another 2 mins. Add about 2-3 drops of sesame oil and pour the gravy over your perfectly fried noodles. I did none of this. I really messed up on this dish because I didn't add enough water to make the gravy. The noodles were fried decently, yet I ran into some uncooked parts. The soy sauce I added had caramelized, giving it a gooey/burnt taste. No good. For the next round, I am mixing all of the sauces together into one pot.

I didn't realize how much practice is needed for wok cooking. My arms are sore from lifting the wok. Prepping this dish is the most crucial element because you really don't have much time to think/act. Overall, I'm very happy with the purchase of the Big Kahuna Burner and unhappy with the way the 'Beef Chow Mein' turned out. Stay tuned for Round 2. Thanks for reading.

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