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 stovetop!
Do you have one particular nostalgic recipe made only by a talented family member that you 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 essential ingredients for a hearty and satisfying meal, tender meat and nutritious vegetables slowly simmering in one big pot.
Grandma’s 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 the last meal I wanted to eat was, 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 stovetop 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. I used my 6-quart Crock-Pot to add all of the vegetables and beef, then 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 authentic ingredients simmered together. Delicious savory meat 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 delicious 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 thick 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 stovetop method, it should only take a few moments.
The flavors of this ginger beef stew recipe balance each other very well. The soy and oyster sauce is not overpowering, they give 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.
More Chinese recipes you might like
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 carbohydrates 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.
Grandma’s Ginger Beef Stew
- 1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 slices ginger, peeled, fresh
- 1 pound yukon gold potatoes, or russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ yellow onion, cut into 1-inch dice
- 3 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 cups unsalted beef stock
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- Add beef to a medium-sized bowl. Season beef with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the minced garlic, stir to combine.
- Heat large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
- Once the oil is very hot, add beef mixture in one single layer. Sear meat on one side for 2 minutes, flip and cook another 2 minutes on other sides. Beef will not be fully cooked.
- Add potatoes, onions, carrots and seared beef to a slow cooker.
- Add beef stock, oyster sauce and ginger slices. Make sure the meat and vegetables are submerged in the stock. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours on High, or 7 to 8 hours on Low.
- In a small bowl make the cornstarch slurry by combining ¼ cup of cornstarch and ¼ cup of cold water.
- Add it to the slow cooker and stir. Set slow cooker on high and cook another 30 minutes, until sauce is thickened.
- Stovetop directions:
- 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 2 tablespoons 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 3 cups of beef stock, covering the meat and vegetables.
- Bring a pot to boil then gently simmer until potatoes and carrots are fork tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- In a small bowl make the cornstarch slurry by combining 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. Increase the heat to medium, allowing the stew to boil gently. 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.