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What Is Ginger Beef?

Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Updated Feb 23, 2024
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Ginger beef is a dish consisting of thinly sliced beef quickly cooked over high heat and combined with a mildly sweet sauce flavored with ginger and soy sauce. The dish has its roots in the cuisine of northeastern Asia, especially China; however, it is generally served in Western countries. The Westernized version of the dish is usually sweeter than traditional Chinese dishes and the beef may be coated in a thin batter and deep fried for a crispier texture.

Since the meat is cut into thin strips when making ginger beef, a high quality of beef is not necessarily required for the dish. Cuts of beef, such as flank steak or London broil, with high amounts of connective tissue may have a tough, chewy texture if served in large pieces. With this dish, the thin slicing helps break down the tough fibers of the meat and tenderizes it, so traditionally tougher but more affordable cuts of beef may be used in the recipe. Common cuts of beef that may be used include flank steak, London broil, and sirloin. The thinner the beef is sliced, the more likely it is to remain tender when cooked, so it may be advisable to place the beef in the freezer until it is solid but not completely frozen to make slicing easier.

Ginger is the primary flavoring ingredient in the dish. Also commonly referred to as ginger root, ginger is not technically a root, but rather a rhizome, or a horizontal set of multiple roots. It has a spicy, aromatic flavor with sweet undertones, and may be used fresh or dried. Ginger beef is also commonly flavored with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and dried pepper flakes.

Ginger beef is typically made by first slicing the selected cut of beef. The beef slices may be marinated in a combination of soy sauce, ginger, and any other preferred flavoring ingredients before being cooked in oil over high heat. Some recipes call for the beef strips to be coated in a cornstarch and egg white batter before being cooked in oil. Vegetables, such as bell peppers, carrots, or broccoli, may also be cooked in the oil, if desired. Once the beef is cooked through, it is generally combined with additional ginger, soy sauce, and any other sauce ingredients, and cooked until the sauce thickens to the preferred consistency. Ginger beef is often served immediately after cooking along with a starch, such as rice or noodles.

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