Cooking Experiences

Beef ho-fun with black bean sauce: A tribute to the late Sylvia

Thanks to Caroline, my mother-in-law, for today’s blog focusing on Chinese food…

We received the sad news recently that our friend, Sylvia, had died. Sylvia hailed from Hong Kong and her wonderful cooking introduced us to the delights of real Chinese cooking.

This was in the late 1970s, a time when our only previous exposure to Chinese food had been from a rather grubby-looking takeaway: chop suey and deep fried balls of pork in batter (a lot more batter than pork), covered with a bright red gloop which passed for sweet and sour pork.

Chinese take aways were springing up on the high streets of Surrey but in order to eat at a decent Chinese restaurant you really had to venture into London’s Chinatown which was quite intimidating for those with no knowledge of the language or what on earth to order. Again Sylvia eased the way for us and as we both started families at around the same time a leisurely Sunday lunch of dim sum in Chinatown became a favourite and cheap pastime.

I decided at the weekend to make beef ho-fun with black bean sauce (or beef with slimy noodles as my kids used to call it) which was one of the first recipes that Sylvia ever gave me. I had stocked up the week before with fresh noodles and black beans which are not readily available in our local supermarkets in Surrey. Luckily we had been visiting the Leeds Foodies and gone to the Chinese supermarket in Sheepscar, an Aladdin’s cave of all that you could need for Chinese cooking.

I prepared a marinade of light soy sauce, sesame oil, cornflour and some white wine. Purists would use rice wine but I have always substituted dry white with no detrimental effect on the flavour. I added my sliced steak to the marinade and left it for a couple of hours. I used to use sirloin steak but having seen that the Good Earth, one of our favourite Chinese restaurants, uses rib eye nowadays, that’s what I opted for.

I then chopped up some garlic, ginger, shallots, spring onions and a green chilli and made some chicken stock, ready for the actual cooking process. I have used a green pepper too in the past but decided to miss it out this time.

The dish is very quick to make once everything is prepared and if you are in a hurry you could reduce the time for the marinating to 20 minutes.

I fried the steak in some vegetable oil in a wok for about five minutes and set it aside. I then fried all the vegetables and some dried black beans for a couple of minutes, added the stock and some oyster sauce and brought it all to a boil. It was then time to add the steak and the fresh rice noodles and cook until they were nicely coated.

Beef ho-fun

The finished article

The dish was scrumptious and I think Sylvia would have been impressed by the result!

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