Thursday, 21 November 2013

Cantonese Beef and Tomato

Ok, let’s start easy. The title doesn’t sound too exotic or punchy, especially for a first post. In fact if you just looked at the ingredients, it sounds like I’ve made a quasi bolognese of sorts, but I promise this a Hong Kong classic. What’s great about a lot of HK food is that, due to its history, it has a lot of British and Portuguese influence, and so many recipes and favourites lend itself brilliantly to a European palette, much as the produce itself.  It’s often served at Western style cafes in Hong Kong, and so really represents a beautiful balance of East and West. Beef, tomatoes, onion and rice? Simplicity works – I’m not here to overcomplicate a great thing. The universal love for these ingredients means a quick win recipe wise for anyone’s bellies.
My first memory of this was whenever I went back to my Grandma’s flat in North Point, Hong Kong. If there was ever an original Lolo’s Little Kitchen, this would be it without a doubt. In this pokey little galley, where it was only big enough to fit one person in there without it being a sardine tin squash, Grandma would make us our favourite dishes. Food was the vehicle which she showed her love, and we reciprocated with open arms (and very open mouths). Given my brother and I never grew up in Hong Kong, language is sometimes a frustrating barrier, but we know that Grandma’s thought, love and care was always there, as this was the dish she'd want to prepare for our return. It’s the first dish I think my brother and I knew how to say in Cantonese, as we loved it that much. It’s a dish that immediately sends me back to a time and a place. Those are the best, as they are rooted in your memories and thoughts of those around you.

Coating and marinating the sirloin with cornflour keeps it  succulent and tender to bite through, and you’ll see this technique being used a lot in Asian cooking – and this texture complements the smooth and slightly sweet tang of the Worcester sauce, sugar and tomatoes. You could almost pass it off as Hong Kong healthy curry, where the tomato gravy laps up the rice in the most satisfying way. Simple, comforting and warming, it’s a perfect way to beat the bitter cold winter outside.

Serves 2
1 sirloin steak, thinly sliced and cut across the grain
2 tablespoons of cornflour
1 teaspoon of sesame oil (not crucial, but a great added depth of flavour if you got it lying around)
1 tablespoon of dark soy
½ large white onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
100ml of water
½ tbs of Worcester sauce
1 tbs of light soy sauce
½ tbs of sugar
1 tbs of tomato ketchup (don’t judge!)
Marinate the beef: Add the sesame oil, soy sauce then cornflour and coat the beef to marinate. This is a quick mid-week recipe, although leave in the fridge for as much time as you can (I give it about 10-15 minutes if I’m in a rush to gobble it all down and can’t wait), preferably ½ hour would work. While this is marinating, chop your garlic, onions and tomatoes up. If you’re making this dish to go with rice, then I’d start to cook the rice at this point so it all comes together at the same time.
Sear the beef: Before starting on the sauce, it’s good to heat up a little oil in a hot wok or pan and flash fry the meat for about 2-3 minutes and set aside to rest. At this stage, you don’t want to cook it fully – but about70% done to seal in the flavour and brown all over.
Prepare the sauce: It couldn’t be easier. Use about 1 tablespoon of oil and gradually heat up with the chopped garlic. Once it’s reached a high heat, fry up the onions for about 4 minutes and then add your tomatoes. The water from the tomatoes will start to ooze out and become a good base for your sauce. Lower the heat to a very gentle bubble and add the water. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Half way through it simmering, add in the remaining ingredients and make sure to stir every now and then.
When the sauce is at a thick consistency, pop the beef back into the wok along with the juice – heat up for a minute and then serve with fluffy white jasmine rice for the perfect winter warmer.

This is a perfect ‘ease in’ to Hong Kong cooking, one which you can manipulate to suit your taste, pair with egg noodles, add vegetables etc. You can easily replace sirloin for cuts like rump if you’re watching your budget on this one.


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  4. Great recipe tried & tested, making it now, Again, yummy ho ho mei

  5. and wife likes a bit oyster sauce through it and she from HK

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