Monday 4 February 2013


My Mum-in-law's cooking is very simple yet it is always delicious. It is the no fuss no frills way she cooks that make it that way. She makes food with simple clean tastes, none of the ingredients overpower each other. There is no tricks nor science employed. It is quite the opposite. She cooks simple fresh ingredients quickly to capture their natural taste at their prime. Thus vegetables end up so tasty and fresh even when they are just fried with garlic and light soy sauce. 

Although her ingredients are variable, there is one common factor that ensures that each dish she cooks is always delicious: a well seasoned wok. A well seasoned wok gives you a headstart on producing very tasty stir fries. Even before you start cooking, there is already some "taste" in your wok. This taste is called wok hei or breath of the wok. Upon heating, the wok releases this taste and imparts it on the food to give it the characteristic taste of Chinese food.

Simple dishes like basic beef and broccoli tastes so good if stir fried properly. It is the very basic of Chinese dishes that is so easy and quick to prepare and always turns out delicious. I cooked it in the usual time tested way, on a seasoned wok, but chose to top the tenderstem broccoli, with the stir fried beef. I want to preserve the freshness and green taste of the vegetable by simply parboiling it in water to the perfect doneness. Topped with quick fried beef and shitake mushrooms, it tastes so delicious and you'd forget that it is just the same old dish. The tender beef and the slightly slippery mushrooms are just glazed with enough sauce for the perfect balance of flavour.

Although this dish is usually eaten with other dishes, it tastes complete on its own with steamed white rice.

Stir Frying Basics

Stir frying is one of the quickest and easiest methods of cooking. There a few keys to making any stir fry taste super delicious. 

1. Prepare all of your ingredients before you start to cook. It is all systems go once you switch on the heat because you don't want to lose any of it. 

2. Cook on high heat to bring out the flavour of the wok. 

3. Season your wok after each use.

Having a well seasoned wok is vital. It is the wok hei or breath of the wok that makes stir fried food delicious. Although a non-stick wok is very convenient  to use, it is the inexpensive, ordinary woks (like the one from IKEA) that season well. There are a few simple steps to caring for your wok that will give you the taste of a delicious stir fry each time.

After each use, wash the wok with water. Clean the inner surface with a brush and rinse. DON'T use soap/washing liquid on the cooking surface. You may use soap on the outside of the wok.

Shake off excess water and dry the wok on the stove on high heat until it smokes. Take it off the heat and drizzle a few drops of cooking oil.

Pinch a wad of kitchen paper with a pair of tongs and use this to oil the surface of your wok. This is now ready for your next stir fry. The flavour of the wok improves with time and the surface becomes nonstick.


1 sirloin steak (about 125 gms.)
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsps. corn flour (corn starch)
200 gms. of tender stem broccoli (broccolini)
3 tbsps. of cooking oil
2 large cloves of garlic, cut into strips
ginger strips, about a tsp.
about 8 fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed and halved
1/2 c. + 2 tbsps. beef stock or water
1 tbsps. oyster sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce


Trim the fat and sinew from the beef steak. Slice against the grain into very thin rectangular pieces.

Season the beef strips with the soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tsp. of the corn flour. Mix very well. Set aside.

Boil the tender stem broccoli just until tender crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving dish.

Heat up a wok on high temperature. Add the cooking oil. When the oil is hot add the beef and quickly stir fry until it changes colour, about 2 minutes. Transfer the beef (including the oil) into a strainer and set aside.

Clean the wok, pre-heat then add 1 tbsp. of the oil that has been used for frying the beef. Add the ginger and garlic strips and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the shitake mushrooms and 1/4 c. of stock or water. Cover and turn down the heat. Cook for 3 minutes.

Prepare the sauce. Disperse the remaining tsp. of corn flour with the remaining 6 tbsps. of the stock or water. Add the oyster and soy sauce and mix.

When the mushrooms are done, turn the heat up again and let the water evaporate. Add the fried beef. Stir fry for about 2 minutes, then add the sauce while stirring. When thickened, take off the heat and pour over the cooked broccoli.

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