Orange Beef (陈皮牛)
Orange beef is another classic Chinese restaurant dish here in the States that doesn’t actually exist in China. However, it does derive from a real Chinese dish, orange chicken (陈皮鸡), which originated in Hunan province. The Chinese name of this original dish literally translates as “orange peel chicken” due to the use of the dried orange or tangerine peels (which are also used in traditional Chinese medicine). Most authentic Hunan recipes also use lots of dried chilies to give the sauce a spicy bite to cut through the sweet and sour flavors in the sauce, so I used generous amounts of both dried mandarin orange peels and dried chilies in my recipe, as well as a typical flavor base of garlic and ginger. If you don’t do spicy food, you can reduce the amount of chilies, but don’t skimp on the orange peels, zest, juice and ginger. If you want a perfectly smooth, “restaurant-style” sauce, you can pulse all the ingredients in a blender.
This dish makes about four servings, when served with steamed rice and vegetables. I usually use about one big carrot, thinly sliced, and two small heads of broccoli, chopped, to round out the meal. Stir fry or lightly steam the veggies until tender-crisp before you start frying the beef, and set them aside until you are ready to slide them into the sauce. If you are going to add some vegetables to this dish, I recommend doubling the sauce so that you have enough to cover everything.
- 1 pound flank steak
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 6 tablespoons rice flour or tapioca starch (plus extra if needed to coat all the beef)
- 2 -4 cups peanut oil (for deep frying)
- 10-12 dried red chile peppers, such as chile de arbol (or to taste, depending on your heat preference)
- 1/4 cup dried orange peel or dried tangerine peel
- zest of one orange
- juice of one orange (about 5-6 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon grated or finely minced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons sugar (brown sugar gives better flavor, but regular sugar works too)
- 1 tablespoon kecap manis (optional, but it adds depth of flavor)
- 1/4 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
To thicken the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water (double this if you plan on doubling the sauce)
1. Combine sauce ingredients (blend until smooth if desired), and set aside.
2. Cut beef into thin slices and pound until 3/8 inch thick (you can use a meat mallet for this, or just do what I do and use the bottom of a glass). Cut flattened steak into bite size pieces, then marinate in soy sauce, shaoxing, beaten egg yolk, and sugar for 10-30 minutes. Toss to coat with rice flour or tapioca starch, shaking off excess, until meat is well coated.
3. Heat oil in wok for deep frying. Slide beef into oil piece by piece to prevent sticking together. Be careful not to crowd the wok, or the oil temperature will drop and the meat won’t be as crispy (I usually do this in two small batches). Fry once to set the breading, and then fry a second time to get all the breading nice and crispy (you’ll want to drain the fried steak on plates lined with paper towels between fryings).
4. Discard deep frying oil, then heat 2 tablespoons oil in wok (you may want to wipe away any bits of breading or flour that cling to the inside of the wok before adding fresh oil). Stir fry chili peppers and orange peel until lightly blackened, then stir in sauce. Bring just to boil, remove orange peels (and the chiles, if you wish- I leave them in, but I like spicy food) and then add the cornstarch dissolved in water to thicken the sauce. Once sauce has reached desired thickness (this should only take a minute or so), return the fried beef to the wok (along with any vegetables, if you choose to add them), and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish with orange slices, finely chopped scallions, or toasted sesame seeds, if desired.
last updated August 17, 2023