The ideal hearty and flavour-packed quick and easy dinner! This beef noodle stir fry recipe takes just 10 minutes to cook, perfect to make on weeknights! The star of this dish, aside from the Hokkien noodles of course, is the velvety, tender beef strips.
What makes the beef 'velvety' you might think? It all comes down to using the right combination of marinating ingredients and the most effective marinating technique. More on this below. Spoiler: you gotta get your hand dirty.
Velveting beef for stir frying
Have you ever wondered how the meats (be it chicken, beef, seafood etc) at Chinese restaurants are always tender soft with a delicious, flavourful coating around every single piece?
This is all thanks to the ingenious 'velveting' technique!
The velveting technique was developed to create tender meats covered with a light, velvet-like flavourful coating. This is achieved through taking the following steps:
- Marinating the meats with cornstarch combined with other flavouring condiments, typically soy sauce, oil, rice wine and some sugar. Liquids and cornstarch create that desirable silky, velvet coating.
- Massaging the marinating ingredients into the meats. Of course, one can simply mix with a pair of chopsticks or a fork. But the best result comes from getting your hand dirty and massaging the marinade into the meats. This is how you get the meats tender. Think of it as you massaging the toughness out of the meats!
- Finally, flash fry in oil or flash cook in boiling water before quickly removing and setting aside. This seals the meat. Keeping all the moisture inside the meat and bringing about that velvet coating. For this recipe, the marinated beef will be quickly seared in a hot pan to seal and create a caramelised velvet coating then removed.
To complete a dish, typically, other ingredients such as vegetables and noodles (if using) will be stir fried then the velvety meat will be added back into the pan in the last 30 seconds or so to finish off.
Now let's bring this technique to life and incorporate it into this beef noodle stir fry!
- Beef steak. Any steak cut will work, depending on your budget. Think rump, flank, scotch, porterhouse, chuck, etc. However, since the velveting method is used, the budget cuts are perfect to use (for the wallet and taste!). I used the blade steak (trimmed off the fat and white fibrous chewy tissue) when shooting for this recipe.
- Hokkien noodles are ideal for stir frying! Usually in the fridge section of a supermarket or Asian grocer. Can use other types of egg noodles as well such as thin egg noodles or Singaporean noodles (which as slightly thinner than Hokkien noodles).
- Snow peas add a light crisp texture to the noodles. Can substitute with sugar snap peas or other green vegetables you have in the fridge such as celery, broccoli and even zucchini.
- Dark soy sauce and normal soy sauce. Dark soy sauces are richer in flavour (umami/savouriness) and colour with a lower sodium level compared to normal soy sauce. A combination of both is used for a balanced flavour profile in this noodle recipe.
- Brown sugar is preferred over white sugar as it is richer in flavour (added molasses). This is a personal preference of mine, feel free to use white sugar instead.
- Shaoxing wine is a cooking rice wine that is a staple in Chinese cooking. Suitable substitutes include mirin (Japanese rice wine) and dry sherry.
- Oyster sauce is a delicious flavour enhancing condiment with a touch of sweetness. It is also a very frequently used condiment in Chinese cooking. A dish that really heros oyster sauce is easily the popular dim sum (yum cha) Chinese Broccoli (gai lan).
The art of stir frying
Key elements to highlight when it comes to stir frying are:
- Heat - stir frying means cooking on high heat, stirring quickly. This creates caramelisation of ingredients which in turn, creates depth and complexity. Remember to always preheat the pan or wok nice and hot before adding oil and other ingredients. You want to hear that sizzling sear.
- Speed - one of the appeals of stir fries is that they are quick to cook. There is art behind the timing of when certain ingredients are added. This means everything happens quickly which brings me to the last point. Preparation.
- Preparation - for a successful, stress-free cooking process, make sure to prepare everything in advance. Plates, spatula, ingredients washed, trimmed and laid out ready for use.
Now that we've got the basics down pat, time to cook.
How to make beef noodle stir fry
Marinate and prepare
To begin, the first thing you've got to do is marinate the beef. As discussed above, the key here is to massage the marinade into the beef strips to tenderise and help the seasoning to penetrate well.
Before marinating, cut the beef into bite-sized strips. For the best texture, cut against the grains of the beef. This is technique is not limited to beef of course, you want to do this when stir-frying chicken, pork and lamb also.
Cutting against the grains of meat makes the meat much easier to chew as it shortens the length of the muscle fibres. The result, together with marinating using the velveting technique, is tender and flavoursome meat!
For this recipe, marinate the beef with soy sauce, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine, oil, cornstarch, black pepper and minced garlic. Marinate for at least 15 minutes up to overnight.
The beauty of cooking with fresh Hokkien noodles is that all you have to do is loosen the noodles in hot, boiling water.
Whilst beef is marinating, wash, chop and trim the vegetables.
Takes just 10 minutes to cook
First, get the aromatics going. Saute thickly sliced brown onions, minced garlic and some spring onions (green onions) with 1 tablespoon of neutral-tasting oil. Best use a non-stick pan or wok.
Once the garlic has turned lightly golden (this happens quickly!), push the onion mixture to the rims of the pan to make room for the beef.
Add beef, spreading it into a single layer to allow each and every piece direct heat from the pan for caramelisation. Do not stir the beef, let it sear on high heat for about 1 minute until caramelisation develops then flip and sear the other side for a further minute.
By now the beef should be 70% to 80% cooked. Transfer beef and onion mixture into a bowl/plate and set aside.
In the same pan (no need to wash), saute thickly sliced mushrooms with a little more oil. Cook on high heat until mushrooms are lightly caramelised. This will take about 5 minutes so a little patience will be well rewarded! Getting colour on mushrooms develops the most amazing flavours. A particularly important technique when the mushroom is the star of a dish like my Creamy Mushroom Sauce!
Now, add trimmed and stringed snow peas and stir fry for about a minute. Do not cook it any further as you want the snow peas to stay crisp!
Then, add prepared Hokkien noodles, dark soy sauce, brown sugar and a few drops of sesame oil. Sesame oils are very aromatic and thus a little goes a long way. Adding too much will overpower the overall aroma of the dish.
Toss the noodles thoroughly on high heat. Best use both hands for even tossing. You can use two spatulas, one in each hand or a spatula and a pair of chopsticks like me.
Soy sauces' flavour deepens and matures when cooked and thus it's important to let it caramelise in the pan. Toss the noodles for about 1 minute.
Finally, add the beef and onions mixture back into the pan. Season with freshly cracked black pepper. Toss and stir fry for about 1 minute to let the flavours distribute evenly.
The beef should be just cooked and snow peas still crisp with the rawness cooked out of it.
Serve with a sprinkle of finely sliced spring onions and some toasted sesame seeds.
This beef noodle stir fry recipe makes 4 generous portions.
Useful tips and tricks for making a beef noodle stir fry
- Use a non-stick pan/wok. Since the meats are marinated with cornstarch, they can easily stick at the bottom of a pan. Non-stick cookware will eliminate this inconvenience. Otherwise, make sure your wok is well seasoned and get it very hot before adding the beef in.
- To save time, you can marinate the beef in advance, up to about 24 hours. This can significantly cut down the amount of time spent in the kitchen on the day! Particularly useful for busy weeknight dinners.
- Drain the Hokkien noodles well before adding them to the pan. This will help proper sizzling of the noodles and promote caramelisation (which means flavour!) of both the noodles and the seasoning.
Good to know (FAQs)
It depends on the type of noodles you're using. Fresh Hokkien noodles do not need boiling, simply follow the soaking and loosening instructions per the packaging. However, fresh egg noodles or udon noodles do require boiling. Always follow the packet instructions to prepare the noodles before stir frying.
Most cuts are suitable for stir frying! Nonetheless, ideal cuts include flank, sirloin, chuck, scotch, rump and blade.
Through marinating the beef using the velveting technique! Scroll up for a whole section about what it does and how to marinate for tender meats.
Adding a little oil in whilst noodles are boiling will help prevent the noodles from sticking and thus breaking apart. Fresh Hokkien noodles already are coated with oil. The noodles can still stay in clumps after it has been left for 10 minutes or longer after draining. If this happens, simply run it under some cold water to loosen the noodles.
Stir fried noodles require the noodles to be tossed in a pan/wok on high heat. Like this recipe, you want the noodles to get direct heat in the pan. Lo mien is different. Lo mien involves adding the noodles into cooked flavour adding ingredients (be it vegetables, sauces, proteins and etc) once the heat has been turned off. The noodles are not being stir fried on high heat.
This beef noodle stir fry keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days in the fridge and 2 to 6 months in the freezer. Make sure to store in airtight containers to maintain freshness.
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Beef Noodle Stir Fry
- 500 g / 1 pound beef strips cut against the grains
- 450 g / 16 ounces Hokkien noodles or other types of egg noodles eg. Singapore or thin egg noodles.
- 250 g / 9 ounces mushrooms thickly sliced
- 150 g / 5 ounces snow peas or sugar snap peas, string and trimmed
- 1 brown onion thickly sliced
- 1 spring onion / green onion cut into 5cm / 2" long
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoon neutral tasting oil eg. canola, sunflower
- black pepper
Velveting beef marinade
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon neutral tasting oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 clove garlic minced
- black pepper
- To marinate the beef, combine beef with marinating ingredients. Mix well, cover and refrigerate to marinate for at least 15 minutes. For best results, mix and massage the marinade into the beef with a clean hand. (note 1)
- Prepare Hokkien noodles according to packet instructions. Usually, this involves soaking in boiling water for about 5 minutes then loosening with a pair of chopsticks or a fork then drain.
- When ready to cook, saute brown onions, spring onions and garlic on high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick pan until garlic turns lightly golden. About 45 seconds.
- Now, push the onion mixture to the rims of the pan to make room for beef. Add marinated beef, spread it out into a single layer. Sear on high heat until the pan side caramelises then flip and sear the other side. About 1 minute per side. The beef should be 70% to 80% cooked. Transfer into a plate or bowl and set aside.
- In the same pan (no need to wash), saute mushrooms with remaining tablespoon of oil on high heat until lightly brown and caramelised. About 3 minutes.
- Add snow peas and stir fry for a further minute.
- Add Hokkien noodles, dark soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil. Toss through on high heat, ensure seasoning is well distributed amongst the noodles. About 45 seconds. Use two spatulas, one in each hand, for easy tossing. (note 2)
- Add beef and onion mixture back into the pan. Season with black pepper and toss through. About 1 minute.
- Optional: to serve, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and finely sliced spring onions.