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 at a gentle boil to help thicken the stew. Slurries are used frequently in Chinese cooking to provide instant thickening power to many stir fried dishes.
The flavors of the ginger beef stew recipe balance each other very well; the soy and oyster sauce is not over powering, they give a nice depth to the stew and the ginger gives a hint of pungency and great aroma.
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.
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.
TIP #1 – 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.
TIP #2 – 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.
TIP #3 – 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.
- 1 pound Beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 slices of fresh ginger, peeled
- 4 small gold or white potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
- ½ yellow onion, cut into 1 inch dice
- 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 cups of beef stock or broth
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce (I prefer Lee Kum Kee Brand)
- Cornstarch slurry (3 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water)
- Salt and pepper, as needed for seasoning
- Season beef with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the minced ginger, stir to combine.
- Heat large pot over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
- Add beef mixture and ginger to the pot, sear meat on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce to the pan and stir.
- Add onions to the pot, stir and cook for two minutes.
- Add the potatoes and carrots to the pot.
- Add 2 cups of beef stock or broth and half a cup of water, covering the meat and vegetables.
- Bring pot to boil then gently simmer until potatoes and carrots are fork tender, about 30 minutes
- In a small bowl make the slurry by combining 3 tablespoons of cornstarch 3 tablespoons of cold water.
- Increase the heat to medium, allowing the stew to gently boil. Gradually add the slurry, mix the stew and allow the stew to cook and thicken for a few minutes. For a thinner sauce, start by adding half of the slurry, then additional slurry until you reach your desired consistency.