A very traditional and perhaps forgotten Chinese takeout dish is Pepper Steak, which is simply beef, green bell peppers, and yellow onions cooked in a brown sauce. Honestly, this wasn’t one of my favorite dishes to cook in the restaurant, but I’ve since developed a lighter, tastier remake. Using a colorful mix of peppers makes for a great presentation and substituting the yellow onion with fresh leek adds better flavor to this dish. You can also substitute scallions for the leeks (we used a variety of giant scallion that they have here in China, since we can’t really find leeks around these parts).
Here’s what you need:
- 8 oz. flank steak
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce (for the beef marinade)
- 1 teaspoon oil, plus more for cooking
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus 1 teaspoon
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 small leek
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 2 to 4 whole dried red chili peppers (optional)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light or regular soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of sugar
Slice the beef into thin 3-inch strips. One good trick is to slice the meat when it is still slightly frozen, when it’s easier to handle.
Mix the beef in a bowl with soy sauce, oil, and a teaspoon of cornstarch. Set aside.
Mix the last 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and set aside.
Wash the peppers and leeks thoroughly (paying special attention to the leeks, which can be quite sandy). Chop the peppers and leeks into 1 ½ inch pieces. A lot of times, in Western cooking, people will discard the green part of the leek, which is a mystery to us. In this dish, we’re using the entire leek! Mince the garlic.
Heat the wok over high heat until smoking, and add 1 tablespoon of oil to coat the wok. Add the dried chili peppers (if using).
Add the beef. The heated wok will give the beef a great sear and prevent sticking. Remove the beef and chilis from the wok and set aside in a small bowl.
Heat the wok to high again and add another tablespoon of oil. Toss in the bell peppers, leeks, and garlic.
Stir-fry for a minute and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Next, add the seared beef and chilis, the 2 kinds of soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and sugar.
Mix well and stir-fry for another minute.
You should have a good sizzle going with some liquid at the bottom of the wok. If you like more sauce for your rice, add some chicken or beef stock. Finally, add the cornstarch slurry you made earlier to thicken the remaining liquid into a rich sauce. Serve immediately with steamed rice.
Tri-Color Pepper Steak with Leeks