Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beef Chow Fun (Beef with Rice Noodles)

Beef Chow Fun
So I spent a hectic few days in New York, and learned this recipe from Mom.  I wanted to take her out someplace for a belated birthday dinner, but she didn't feel like going out.  She really wanted to cook with me.  I decided not to push for a restaurant if she wouldn't enjoy it, plus I took away a lesson for one of my favorite dishes.

Magnolia Cupcake & Pandan Mooncake
And it was way better than a restaurant meal I'd had earlier in the week.  My sister and I agreed Bellini on Manhattan's Upper West Side was awfully underwhelming for Italian food.  Dessert was another disappointment, at the famed Magnolia bakery.  My devil's food cupcake was all right but nothing exciting, and the frosting was just too sweet.  The Crack Pie at Momofuku's Milk Bar was good, if a bit on the too-sweet side, but it wasn't as addictive as its name would have you believe and I was disappointed after all the hype.  Ippudo with my friend Bao, who writes some dining pieces for The New York Times, was a real winner -- delicious pork buns and ramen noodles that are nothing like what you get in the cheap plastic packets.  I also had some mooncakes (yue bing) with the Mid-Autumn Festival not far away, and this pandan version was not only flavorful but very pretty.

Beef Chow Fun1
But back to the important stuff.  This dish is often called Beef Chow Fun on restaurant menus, and the wide, flat rice noodles are called sha he fen.  They're only sold fresh, not dried, and sometimes they're already sliced and other times sold in a sheet.  Look for them and the bean sprouts, which lend a nice crunch, at your Asian market or Chinatown. 

Beef Chow Fun2
And Mom says the Chinese restaurant secret to getting that beef so tender is a pinch of baking soda.  Sounds weird, I know, but it works!

Beef Chow Fun
Adapted and approximated from Mom
For the meat:
½ lb flank steak, very thinly sliced
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
Pinch of baking soda

The rest:
1 lb rice noodles
1 onion, sliced
1 scallion, sliced
6 oz bean sprouts (half of a prepackaged bag)
3 tbs oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Vegetable oil

It's important to have everything prepped so you're not scrambling for an ingredient while something gets overcooked.

Mix the beef with the rest of its ingredients together in a bowl.  If your noodles came in a solid sheet, slice and unravel them.  Stir together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and scallion, and saute until the onion is translucent.  Add the beef and cook just until brown, turning the pieces to cook evenly.  Set aside the beef and onions on a plate.

Add the bean sprouts to the wok; you shouldn't need to add extra oil.  Saute for just one minute to maintain crispness.  Set aside on plate with the beef and onions.

Add another tablespoon of vegetable oil to the wok.  In a colander, rinse the noodles under hot water for a few seconds so they don't stick and some of the excess oil washes off.  Shake the colander to remove excess water, then add the noodles to the wok.  Stir the noodles gently -- to avoid breaking them -- for three minutes.  If they start to stick to the wok, add a tablespoon of water.

After the three minutes, add the oyster sauce/soy sauce/sesame oil mixture to the noodles, stirring to coat.  Return the beef, onions, and bean sprouts to the wok and stir gently for one more minute.  Move it all to a plate and top with fresh sliced scallions.


  1. Yum! Chow fun is by far my favorite noodle dish! I only recently discovered that my local Chinese store sells a pound of fresh noodles for luck 2 bucks. Hello, discovery! Solid tip about the baking soda. I'll definitely give that a try next time!

  2. I love the rice noodles stir-fry with beef! It's one of the must-orders when I visit the Cantonese restaurants. Just delicious.

  3. How lovely that you were able to make this meal with your mom. Sometimes staying home to cook can be much more rewarding and much more delicious than eating out. I really enjoy Chow Fun, and I am interested in trying to make this on my own. Thank you for sharing love!

  4. Great post! I'm hungry now and it's 7:30 a.m.

  5. I love the noodles in Chow Fun, I usually get that and fried rice, I love my starches!! Thanks for the tip about the beef, thats certainly a new one, but you know, mom's tend to know stuff we could only guess at!
    Thanks for such a great post!

  6. Thanks, guys! I had no idea chow fun was such a favorite of everybody's.

  7. Definitely my favorite thing to order when I go out and I didn't realize it's so easy to make! I've always been a little intimidated by Asian foods b/c of all the sauce ingredients--but I have them all at home. Yeeees. And the baking soda? Only moms know those things.

  8. I love fried rice noodles, the ones made with fresh rice noodles are the best...! You make me crave for a plate of char kway teow now:)

  9. CG, after making this I actually added kueh teow to my mental to-make list! :)


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