Pepper steak is a Chinese-American dish featuring strips of steak heavily seasoned with pepper. It is believed to have its origins in the cuisine of Fujian Province in China, where it was probably originally made with pork. This dish can be served as an appetizer or entree with rice or noodles or on its own. Chinese-American restaurants often have a version of pepper steak on their menus and this dish can be made at home very easily. In addition to being consumed hot, it can be eaten cold.
This dish typically includes thin strips of steak sauteed with bell peppers and seasoned with pepper, ginger, and soy sauce. Cornstarch may be added to thicken the sauce. Some cooks add onions for additional flavor and the dish can also include water chestnuts and other additions. Lots of pepper is added to make the dish strong and spicy and the dish can include a blend of different kinds of pepper. The spiciness can be increased by adding hot peppers, if desired.
People have been making various versions of this dish in the United States since at least the 1940s. The seasoning used in pepper steak tends to be stronger and heavier than the seasoning in traditional Chinese dishes. Chinese-American food in general often has more bold, aggressive flavors, reflecting American tastes in food. The sauce can also be very soupy, designed for absorption by noodles or rice served alongside the pepper steak.
Cooks interested in making pepper steak at home can use a variety of cuts of steak. If the steak is difficult to slice, putting it in the freezer for several hours to firm it up before slicing can be helpful. The peppers and other inclusions should be uniformly sliced so the dish will cook evenly, and it is advisable to avoid overloading the dish with extra vegetables, to allow the flavor of the steak to dominate.
To cook pepper steak, cooks should brown the meat in the pan before setting the meat aside, draining the pan, and cooking the vegetables. As the vegetables soften, the meat can be added back to the pan, along with the seasonings. Pepper and other spices can be added to taste and if the sauce is too thin, cornstarch can be added to thicken it as desired. Pepper steak should be served hot or refrigerated immediately to reduce the risk of attracting bacteria known to cause foodborne illness.