A savory ginger beef stew recipe inspired by my grandma’s home cooking. A great comfort food for the winter time made in a slow cooker or stove top!
Do you have one special nostalgic recipe made only by a talented family member that you absolutely love? You know, when you hear it’s going to be served for dinner at the next family gathering, you’re already drooling. For me, it’s hands down my Grandma’s deliciously comforting beef stew. It’s got all of the key ingredients for a hearty and satisfying meal, tender beef and wholesome vegetables slowly simmered in one big pot. Her ginger beef stew recipe is one of my favorite dishes. In fact, when I was 12 years old the day before I got my braces my dad asked what was the last meal I wanted to eat, and I requested this exact dish! I’ve adapted her recipe to make it even easier to prepare, in a slow cooker. Don’t worry I’ve got a stove top version as well, so there is no excuse to make this soulful meal!
The ginger beef stew ingredients are simple; fresh beef marinated in soy sauce and garlic, seared, then simmered with generous slices of whole ginger, onions, carrots, and potatoes. I like to use waxy yellow potatoes because they hold up better during stewing. 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, slow cooker style!
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.
A slow cooker is perfect for braising tougher cuts of meats in a stew over a longer period of time. I used my 6-quart Crock-Pot to add all of the vegetables and beef, thin simmered for about 3 hours on high until the potatoes and beef are fork tender.
There is something so serene by having all of these hearty ingredients simmered together. Delicious savory beef is flavored with soy and oyster sauce, mixed with a little ginger and garlic for enticing aromatics, combined with fork tender carrots, potatoes, onions, soaking up all of the luscious sauce.
How to use a Cornstarch Slurry
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 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.
For this ginger beef stew recipe, it takes about 30 minutes on HIGH for the sauce to thicken. If you use a stove top method, it should only take a few minutes.
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. Served over white rice and you are in instant comfort food bliss! On special occasions, my Grandma Kam Kwei Yee (we call her 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 at Christmas in 2012, (from left to right) ME, my brother Syd, Grandma Yin Yin, and my brother Blandon. Our beloved grandma is no longer here with us, but her gift of unconditional love and incredible cooking is always celebrated in our hearts and tummies. We love you Yin Yin!
I’d love to hear about your special family dish! Let me know what you look forward to enjoying in the comments section. Maybe we can try to recreate the dish!
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.