Beef and Broccoli(ni) in Brown Sauce

Beef and BroccoliBrown Sauce

Beef and Broccoli is an (American) Chinese favorite and a dish that my wife adores. Why, you ask? Brown sauce, that umami laden, slightly sweet elixir, that accompanies many Americanized version of Asian style offerings that come in little white pails. Recently, I have had more than one request to come up with a recipe for brown sauce. More specifically brown sauce similar to the one offered by a long gone local Chinese restaurant called Mitsuyan. It was a favorite of many of my friends, as it was located in close proximity to couple of the local high schools.  One day I will get up the nerve to ask the former owner for the recipe and to taste my version, although I have sneaking suspicion theirs came from a bottle.

Keeping It Kosher

Brown sauce calls for oyster sauce as one of its ingredients.  I have included a recipe for my oyster-less sauce as a substitute to keep everything kosher, but if that is not concern of yours then go ahead and use the real thing.

Velveting Beef

While brown sauce may be what draws people to beef and broccoli, it is nothing without a the beef.  The question is how does your local take out joint get their meat tender while cooking it hot and fast in a wok?  Usually to tenderize meat you either need low temperature and a lot of time or extremely high quality beef.  The answer is a processes called velveting, where you change the pH of the meat preventing the proteins from binding. (Sorry for giving you flashbacks from chemistry class). There are a few methods for velveting, but Cooks Illustrated came up with the simplest by far, coating the meat with a mixture of baking soda and water and letting it sit for a mere 5 minutes.

Taking Beef and Broccoli Up a Notch

One thing I like to do to put my own spin on a dish, is to pick one ingredient elevate it.  For this recipe I substituted regular broccoli for its thinner and more elegant cousin, broccolini. If you can’t find broccolini, regular broccoli will work just fine. You can even frozen broccoli if you must.  If don’t like broccoli you can use other vegetables such as mushrooms, snow peas, and baby corn.

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Beef and Broccoli
Beef and Broccoli(ni)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins

An elevated take on take out Chinese Beef and Broccoli

Course: Dinner, Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Beef and Broccoli, Brown Sauce
Author: Daniel Peikes
  • 1 lb Sliced Pepper Steak Meat
  • 1 lb Broccolini Cut in to pieces and stems trimmed to a manageable size. Regular broccoli will also work. (Even frozen if need be).
  • 1 Large Red Onion Sliced thinly
  • 2 Cups Basic Brown Sauce See recipe below
  • 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tbsp Water
  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Corn Starch
  • 2 Scallions Sliced thinly for garnish
  • 2 Cups Cooked White Rice
  1. Put the pepper steak in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda and water and then add to the meat. Stir to coat. Allow the meat to sit for 5 minutes.

  2. Make a marinade/coating for the beef by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar in another mixing bowl. Add the corn starch to the mixture, stirring until completely dissolved. Pour the marinade over the meat and stir to coat. Allow the meat to marinate for 15 minutes.

  3. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to your wok or frying pan and put over the highest heat your stove can muster. Once the oil is hot, add half of the beef, making sure there is space between each piece. If the pan is too small to fit half the meat without pieces touching, then work in smaller batches. Cook the beef on each side until browned, and repeat with the other half of the meat. Add more oil between batches if necessary.

  4. Once all of the meat is cooked remove it from the pan. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil and the onions, stirring constantly. Once the onions begin to soften add the broccoli(ni). Keep the onions and broccoli moving until the broccoli begins to soften and get some color.

  5. Add the meat back into the pan along with the brown sauce and cook until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.

  6. Serve over rice and garnish with the scallions.

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Spicy Thai Chicken Tacos
Basic Chinese Brown Sauce
Prep Time
2 mins
Cook Time
8 mins

A classic Chinese sauce (at least in America)

Course: Condiment, Sauce
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Brown Sauce
Servings: 4 Cups
Author: Daniel Peikes
  • 2 tbsp Corn Starch
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Water
  • 4 Cups Beef Broth Homemade would be ideal but store bought will work
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Ginger Grated
  • 1/4 Cup "Oyster" sauce See recipe below
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1/4 tsp White Pepper
  1. In a small bowl combine the corn starch and the water. Stir until fully combined to create a slurry.

  2. Add all the rest of ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat. Add the corn starch and water slurry and stir to combine thoroughly.

  3. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Allow the sauce to cook until reduced by 25%.

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Spicy Thai Chicken Tacos
"Oyster" Sauce
Prep Time
2 mins
Cook Time
3 mins
Total Time
4 mins

Oyster sauce is a thick sweet brown sauce that will add some caramel notes to any dish. It is usually made by reducing the liquid from oysters, I use oyster mushrooms to preserve the moniker and give the dish an umami boost.

Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Oyster Sauce
Servings: 1 Cup
Author: Daniel Peikes
  1. Add all the ingredients except the corn starch and water to a small sauce pot over low heat,stirring constantly. 

  2. Mix the corn starch and water in a separate bowl to form a slurry.  Once the sauce begins to bubble stir in the corn starch slurry and cook until the sauce is thickened and remove from heat.

Recipe Notes

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If you liked this recipe, check out some of our other Asian recipes:

Pho gà-Vietnamese Spiced Chicken Soup

Thai One On: Drunken Noodles

Thai Chicken Won-tons With Peanut Dipping Sauce