Wok on the wild side

Up until a few years ago, I had no experience cooking with a Wok. Then my friend Nicole got one as a gift. One meal was all it took. It was then I set my sights on being a wok-owner myself. According to this website, you can make Chinese food without a wok, but the bowl-shaped pan has advantages. It spreads the heat evenly, requires less oil than a deep-fat fryer and makes it easier to stir the food as it fries at a very high temperature.

I’m not sure why, but it just makes the food taste better. Maybe because it’s flash fried so quickly? Maybe because you’re not supposed to wash a wok with soap and water, instead letting the flavors soak in and season the metal.

The big moment finally arrived this Christmas when my brother bought me my very own wok. He did his research too. Apparently, the best wok is one made of carbon steel, which is the kind I received. I was eager to try it out with this recipe for Orange Beef, made with fresh orange peel and dried chili peppers. The end result completely validated finding extra room in my already jam-packed kitchen cabinets for a wok.

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • 3/4 pound flank steak
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 medium celery ribs
  • Oil for deep-frying and stir-frying
  • 6 dried red chili peppers

For the marinade:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons water or low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3 teaspoons Ketchup
  • a few drops sesame oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
  • 1 fresh orange, including the peel
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Begin marinating the meat an hour before you’re ready to begin cooking. Cut the flank steak across the grain into thin strips. Combine the salt, egg white and cornstarch and marinate the beef in it for one hour.

While the beef is marinating, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, combine the water or chicken broth, dark soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, ketchup, sesame oil and white pepper. Squeeze the juice from the orange and add it to the sauce, along with the sugar. Set aside.

Remove all the flesh from the orange peel and cut it into thin strips. Peel and mince the ginger and garlic. Wash the green onions and cut them on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Do the same with the celery.

Heat the wok over high heat. Add oil for deep-frying and heat to 375 degrees. My meat thermometer only goes up to 220 degrees, so I had to guestimate this. When the oil is ready, add the beef. Deep fry on both sides until the changes color and is nearly cooked. Remove and drain on paper towels. For extra crispiness, you can refry the meat a second time.

Next up, add the celery and submerge briefly in the hot oil for a few seconds. Quickly remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons oil from the wok. Add the dried chili peppers and the orange peel and stir-fry until the chilies darkened. Add the minced ginger and garlic and stir-fry briefly until aromatic. Stir in the green onion.

Lastly, add the beef and sauce and heat through.

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