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Beef was an obvious symbol of good times and prosperity in ancient China, where meat was a rare addition to the dinner table. Holidays were commonly the only time during the year to enjoy big meals and celebrate with a spirit of abundance, even if this was far from reality during the rest of the year.
Today the irony is that a dish like stir fried beef with snow peas seems somewhat mundane, especially here in the United States. It’s a staple on most Chinese restaurant menus, the type of dish that’s ready for pick up in 15 minutes or less.
It’s a common misconception to think that meat is usually buried in sauce and vegetables in Chinese cooking. To the contrary, most classic Chinese recipes are designed to highlight a single featured ingredient. That’s the case here, where the ginger, garlic and marinade combine to bring out a subtle and nuanced beef flavor.
The holidays are also a time to “up the good stuff.” In this recipe, this means selecting a nice cut of flank steak and increasing the amount of beef in the dish, relative to the other ingredients. By doing so, you’re playing into the holiday spirit of abundance, good luck and prosperity.
Despite its inclusion in fancy celebration meals, stir fried beef with snow peas is nevertheless a very easy recipe to prepare at home. Include it in your holiday planning, but also put it in your weekly rotation of after work dinners. If you set the meat aside to marinate in the morning, you can have dinner ready within 15 minutes of coming in your front door.
Here’s how to make stir fried beef with snow peas, step-by-step. The detailed tutorial with pictures and directions is at the bottom of the page.
Your turn! What tips can you share from your family’s recipe? Want to ask a question before you start cooking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
Stir Fried Beef with Snow Peas Recipe
Makes: 4-6 Servings | Prep Time: 45 Minutes | Cook Time: 10 Minutes
1 cup snow peas, ends removed
2 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8 slices fresh ginger
1 pound beef flank steak, sliced into strips
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the beef strips and mix well until coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Bring two cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a small pot. Blanch the snow peas for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, plunge into a cold water bath to stop the cooking process, drain and set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Stir fry the garlic until fragrant and golden brown. Add the ginger and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Add the beef and the marinade and then stir fry for 3-4 minutes until the meat browns. Gather the beef to the sides of the wok and add the water to the center. Bring the water to a boil, pour in the cornstarch solution and combine well. Stir in the beef mixture from the sides and add the snow peas. Stir fry for 1 minute until the sauce thickens, and remove the dish from the heat.
4. Transfer the dish to a serving platter and serve immediate with steamed rice.
Start by gathering your ingredients. If you’re shopping in Chinatown, the cut of beef that works best for stir frying is frequently called “flap meat.” In a Western grocery store, flank steak will work well. When you’re preparing the snow peas, cut off the ends and pull off the “thread” that runs along the top of the pod.
Cut the beef into thin strips that run across the grain. If you cut with the grain, the beef will be very difficult to chew! Combine the marinade ingredients and mix well with the beef. Marinate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Blanch the snow peas in boiling water for 30 seconds. When they’re done, plunge them quickly in a cold water bath to stop the cooking process.
Heat the oil until smoking. Stir fry the garlic until brown, add the ginger and then stir fry for another 30 seconds or so. The garlic and ginger should throw off a delicious aroma.
Add the beef strips and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes until the beef begins to brown.
Gather the beef strips around the sides of the wok and add the water. If the beef has released a lot of water during cooking, then reduce the amount of water you add to the pan. Bring the water to a boil, then add the cornstarch mixture and stir well.
Stir the beef in from the sides of the wok, add the snow peas and then stir fry for one last minute until the ingredients are combined and the sauce has thickened.
Transfer the dish to a serving platter and then serve immediately with steamed rice.
HT: Recipe adapted from Chinese Feasts & Festivals: A Cookbook.