Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry (黑椒牛柳)

Learn how to make Black Pepper Beef, a Chinese classic!

Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Black pepper beef was a favorite at my parents' old restaurant! You'll usually find this stir-fry in some shape or form on a bunch of Chinese restaurant menus around the world.

Luckily, it's really easy to make at home!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 12 oz beef (

    New York strip or tenderloin is best

    )
  • 1 bell pepper (

    for more color, use portions of multiple bell peppers

    )
  • 0.50 red onions (

    rough amount, just a few slices will do

    )
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Marinade / Flavor
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp red wine
  • 2 tbsp corn oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp red wine
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce

Best cuts of beef

In terms of beef cuts, the New York Strip comes from the top part of the short loin behind the ribs. It's extremely tender, not as fatty as a ribeye, and not as lean as a filet mignon.

Understanding food labels for beef

When shopping for beef, if available and affordable, you might consider these two labels: Certified Organic, and Grass Fed, Grass Finished.

The USDA Certified Organic label applies to a lot of different foods and drinks, but for beef, it refers to cattle that eat entirely organic feed, have access to a pasture, and are never administered antibiotics or hormones.

Grass Fed, Grass Finished, also known as 100% Grass Fed, means that the cattle ate grass for the entire duration of its life. The Grass Fed label by itself can refer to cows that started on a grass fed diet, but were fed grain in the last few months of their lives in order to help them quickly gain weight.

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Alternatives to Oyster Sauce

If you're vegetarian or need to stay away from gluten, we have three alternatives for you!

Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

Since oyster sauce is made out of oyster extract, here are some alternatives that have a similar taste without using the actual oyster:

Gluten Free Oyster Sauce

Wok Mei has a gluten-free oyster sauce, but it still contains oyster extract, so it's not vegetarian friendly.

Vegetarian + Gluten Free Oyster Sauce

Unfortunately, we don't know of a vendor that sells an oyster sauce that caters to both dietary restrictions, so you'll need to DIY the sauce.

Mix equal parts gluten free soy sauce and gluten free hoisin sauce. This isn't exactly the same as oyster sauce, but it's pretty close.

We'll start by trimming the fat off the edges of our beef fillet.

Then, we'll start cutting the beef into strips, about 1 cm thick and about 5 cm long. We'll want to cut against the grain of the meat, which results in more tender bites.

Then, we'll place our beef slices in a bowl of cold water and gently massage the meat. This helps remove some of the myoglobin and the more "meaty" taste/smell from the beef. After 1-2 minutes, drain the beef with a colander.

You might notice my dad referring to this as ngàuh láuh. ngàuh means beef, and láuh is a reference to a Chinese style of cutting meat into long and thin pieces. In Cantonese, láuh is another name for willow tree, in which the leaves are similarly long and thin. The English name for this dish is usually just Black Pepper Beef, but the Chinese name, haahk jiu ngàuh láuh, makes it a point to distinguish exactly how the meat is cut.

This isn't always true, but there's a tendency in Chinese cuisine to slice the meat before serving, versus Western cuisine, where we typically slice the meat after it's cooked.

In a bowl, we'll mix black pepper (1 tsp), cornstarch (1 tbsp), water (1 tbsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp), light soy sauce (1 tsp), Shaoxing cooking wine (1 tbsp), and red wine (1 tbsp).

Mix together until the marinade is even.

For some flair, my dad likes to use red wine to add a hint of grape & sourness. He also likes to add lemon peels to his Shaoxing wine for more zest.

Before we mix the beef with the marinade, we'll want to squeeze as much fluid out as we can. One of the main goals of this dish is to avoid having excess fluid or sauce pooling when we're done cooking it.

With our hands, we'll press and squeeze the beef against a colander to force any excess moisture out of the beef.

Then, we'll add the beef to the marinade and massage the meat for about 30-60 seconds. This helps the beef absorb the marinade and become more tender.

For our vegetables, we'll be mincing garlic (2 cloves), and slicing up a variety of bell peppers (1) and red onion (0.50) for color. For each bell pepper, we'll only be using about 1/4 to 1/3 of each, so if you'd rather just stick to one color and use up a whole entire bell pepper, that's fine too.

If you're freestyling with the amounts and veering off the recipe, just make sure to be more conservative on the veggies and avoid using ones with high water content (like bok choy). Bell peppers have lower water content, but if you cook an excess of them, your sauce will be too watery.

Next, we'll create the sauce for our black pepper beef. We'll be mixing cornstarch (1 tbsp), water (1 tbsp), sugar (1 tsp), light soy sauce (1 tsp), dark soy sauce (1 tsp), red wine (1 tbsp), salt (0.50 tsp), oyster sauce (1 tsp), and Shaoxing cooking wine (1 tbsp).

We'll set our stove to high heat and let our wok heat up for about 2-3 minutes. Once our wok is hot enough, we'll add about 2 tbsp of corn oil, or any oil with a high smoke point, until the oil is shimmering, or forming ripples across the surface.

While we wait, my dad has another trick to keep the beef juicier: add oil (2 tbsp) to the beef. The oil helps seal the juices and trap them inside the beef.

Mix the beef around for about 20-30 seconds to evenly coat the oil.

Restaurants are able to get away with tossing everything all at once, since they have much more powerful stoves and larger woks.

For us at home, we'll need to cook in stages.

  1. Add the beef, and cook for about 1 minute. Once the beef starts to change color, transfer out of the wok. We're only looking to partially cook the beef here.
  2. Add the minced garlic, and let it cook for about 20-30 seconds.
  3. Add the veggies, and cook for about 90 seconds
  4. Add the beef back in, and cook for about 45-60 seconds
  5. Add the slurry sauce, and cook everything for another minute.
    1. My dad doesn't always use the entire sauce, which is a judgment call that he makes since this recipe isn't supposed to have too much sauce pooling at the bottom of the dish.
  6. Add sesame oil (1 tsp). Pour some black pepper (1 tsp) into your hand, and slowly pour it around the wok. Mix and cook for 45-60 seconds
  7. Cook and mix everything together for another minute.

My dad always tries a taste to see if it needs any adjustments.

If it's good, we'll plate our dish and call our loved ones over to eat!

Summary

Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry (黑椒牛柳)
Learn how to make Black Pepper Beef, a Chinese classic!
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Total Time: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 12 oz beef (

    New York strip or tenderloin is best

    )
  • 1 bell pepper (

    for more color, use portions of multiple bell peppers

    )
  • 0.50 red onions (

    rough amount, just a few slices will do

    )
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Marinade / Flavor
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp red wine
  • 2 tbsp corn oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp red wine
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
Step 1 - Prepare beef↑ Jump to details

We'll start by trimming the fat off the edges of our beef (12 oz) fillet.

Then, we'll start cutting the beef into strips, about 1 cm thick and about 5 cm long. We'll want to cut against the grain of the meat, which results in more tender bites.

Then, we'll place our beef slices in a bowl of cold water and gently massage the meat. This helps remove some of the myoglobin and the more "meaty" taste/smell from the beef. After 1-2 minutes, drain the beef with a colander.

Step 2 - Create beef marinade↑ Jump to details

In a bowl, we'll mix black pepper (1 tsp), cornstarch (1 tbsp), water (1 tbsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp), light soy sauce (1 tsp), Shaoxing cooking wine (1 tbsp), and red wine (1 tbsp).

Mix together until the marinade is even.

Step 3 - Mix and massage beef↑ Jump to details

Before we mix the beef with the marinade, we'll want to squeeze as much fluid out as we can. One of the main goals of this dish is to avoid having excess fluid or sauce pooling when we're done cooking it.

With our hands, we'll press and squeeze the beef against a colander to force any excess moisture out of the beef.

Then, we'll add the beef to the marinade and massage the meat for about 30-60 seconds. This helps the beef absorb the marinade and become more tender.

Step 4 - Cut vegetables↑ Jump to details

For our vegetables, we'll be mincing garlic (2 cloves), and slicing up a variety of bell peppers (1) and red onion (0.50) for color. For each bell pepper, we'll only be using about 1/4 to 1/3 of each, so if you'd rather just stick to one color and use up a whole entire bell pepper, that's fine too.

If you're freestyling with the amounts and veering off the recipe, just make sure to be more conservative on the veggies and avoid using ones with high water content (like bok choy). Bell peppers have lower water content, but if you cook an excess of them, your sauce will be too watery.

Step 5 - Create sauce↑ Jump to details

Next, we'll create the sauce for our black pepper beef. We'll be mixing cornstarch (1 tbsp), water (1 tbsp), sugar (1 tsp), light soy sauce (1 tsp), dark soy sauce (1 tsp), red wine (1 tbsp), salt (0.50 tsp), oyster sauce (1 tsp), and Shaoxing cooking wine (1 tbsp).

Step 6 - Add oil to meat, heat wok↑ Jump to details

We'll set our stove to high heat and let our wok heat up for about 2-3 minutes. Once our wok is hot enough, we'll add about 2 tbsp of corn oil, or any oil with a high smoke point, until the oil is shimmering, or forming ripples across the surface.

While we wait, my dad has another trick to keep the beef juicier: add oil (2 tbsp) to the beef. The oil helps seal the juices and trap them inside the beef.

Mix the beef around for about 20-30 seconds to evenly coat the oil.

Step 7 - Cook everything in stages↑ Jump to details

Restaurants are able to get away with tossing everything all at once, since they have much more powerful stoves and larger woks.

For us at home, we'll need to cook in stages.

  1. Add the beef, and cook for about 1 minute. Once the beef starts to change color, transfer out of the wok. We're only looking to partially cook the beef here.
  2. Add the minced garlic, and let it cook for about 20-30 seconds.
  3. Add the veggies, and cook for about 90 seconds
  4. Add the beef back in, and cook for about 45-60 seconds
  5. Add the slurry sauce, and cook everything for another minute.
    1. My dad doesn't always use the entire sauce, which is a judgment call that he makes since this recipe isn't supposed to have too much sauce pooling at the bottom of the dish.
  6. Add sesame oil (1 tsp). Pour some black pepper (1 tsp) into your hand, and slowly pour it around the wok. Mix and cook for 45-60 seconds
  7. Cook and mix everything together for another minute.
Step 8 - Try a taste, plate↑ Jump to details

My dad always tries a taste to see if it needs any adjustments.

If it's good, we'll plate our dish and call our loved ones over to eat!

Step 9 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 10 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

My sister and I have many, many happy memories of enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.

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About Made With Lau

We started Made With Lau to honor and share the legacy of our wonderful parents, Jenny and Chung Sun Lau.

Our hope is that these posts give you (and our future generations) a glimpse into how great they are!