A savory ginger beef stew recipe inspired by my grandma’s home cooking. A great comfort food for the winter time!
I love comfort food, and my grandma, Kam Kwei Yee (I call her Yin Yin) makes a deliciously comforting stew. Her ginger beef stew recipe is one of my favorite dishes, in fact when I was 12 years old, on the day before I got my braces put on my dad asked what was the last meal I wanted to eat and I requested this exact dish!
There is something so satisfying by having all of these hearty ingredients simmered together. Delicious savory beef is flavored with umami soy and oyster sauce, mixed with a little ginger and garlic for enticing aromatics, combined with fork tender carrots, potatoes, onions, all of which soak up the stew sauce.
As a kid after a long day at school and tennis practice, this was the perfect meal! Since I do not live in Northern California anymore and the current winter weather is starting to get a little chilly, I decided to recreate my Grandma’s ginger beef stew recipe.
The beef stew ingredients are simple; fresh beef marinated in soy sauce and garlic, seared, then simmered with generous slices of whole ginger, onions, carrots, potatoes (I like waxy potatoes because they hold up better during stewing) and oyster sauce for a delicious savory flavor.
The ginger beef stew then gently simmers in beef broth for approximately 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
To finish the stew, a cornstarch slurry is added to the liquid to a gentle boil to help thicken the stew. Slurries are frequently used in Chinese cooking to provide instant thickening power to many stir fried dishes.
The flavors of this ginger beef stew recipe balance each other very well. The soy and oyster sauce are not overpowering, they give an excellent depth to the stew, and the ginger gives a hint of pungency and great aroma.
What is a cornstarch slurry?
The starch from corn is extracted to provide tremendous thickening powers, often used to thicken sauces or soups at the end of cooking. When using cornstarch as a slurry, ALWAYS use cold water to hydrate the starch, this allows the starch to separate easier and be soluble for thickening. If you add the cornstarch directly to hot liquid, the starch will clump and result in a lumpy sauce. After adding the slurry, heat the liquid until it reaches just below its boiling point, then cook until thickened.
On special occasions, my Grandma Yin Yin would use oxtail instead of beef, and it is a fantastic alternative. This recipe would work very well with other tougher cuts of red meat, just increase the cooking time until the meat is very tender.
Stews utilize a combination of cooking methods. By first searing the meat in a small amount of oil, this adds a richer flavor caused by browning the meat, and a more attractive color of the finished dish. Water can never achieve temperatures hot enough to brown the sugars in the meat, so combining dry heat and moist heat methods provides flavor and infuse the flavors into the stew.
Here’s my family during this years 2012 Christmas, (from left to right) ME, my brother Syd, Grandma Yin Yin, and my brother Blandon.
If you are looking for another type of hearty soup, check out my Butternut Squash Soup Recipe.
How do starches thicken food?
Starches are polysaccharides composed of amylose and amylopectin fractions found in plant sources like corn, potato, rice and wheat. When starches are combined with water then heated, a phenomenon called “starch gelatinization” occurs. The heated starch granules absorb the water and swell, the water forms hydrogen bonds with the starch fraction, and the starches become soluble. The is the reaction that is occurring as you see your sauces or soups are thickening.