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Looking to recreate your favourite Chinese takeaway dish in the comfort of your own kitchen? Look no further than this homemade crispy chilli beef. While it might seem as though it would be challenging to get that unbeatable crispy coating on the beef, it’s actually really simple and pretty fast to cook too. Read on for the full recipe plus tips on how to get a perfect result, every time!
What is it?
Crispy chilli beef is a favourite in Chinese takeaways and restaurants, and it’s not difficult to taste why. Crispy beef in a light coating of sauce which is both tangy and sweet… and of course a little spicy!
It’s great as a main course, and also as a side dish. If cooking for a few people, I love to make a few dishes so everyone can help themselves and have a bit of everything. This is great to serve up in the centre of the table for people to dig into. But trust me, it won’t last long!
What type of beef should I use?
Since this dish is cooked hot and fast, you want to select a cut that is great for fast cooking, rather than something better suited to long and slow heating. A few good options are:
- Sirloin steak (or striploin) – While it can be a little pricier it gives super tender results
- Flank or bavette steak – Slice very thinly to make sure it doesn’t become chewy
- Rump steak – As with flank, when using rump steak for this make sure to slice it very thinly
- Ribeye – Super flavoursome but fattier than sirloin which might lead to chewier pieces. However, it does work fine for this recipe.
How should I prepare the beef?
I recommend that you buy steaks and prepare them at home rather than opt for pre-cut beef strips. Often these are meant for casseroles and slow cooking methods, so they may be very tough when fast-cooked. You’ll also often find that the pieces are chunky rather than thin, which is not what we want for this recipe.
For crispy chilli beef, you want to slice the beef into very thin pieces. The easiest way to do this is to place the beef in the freezer for 20-30 minutes first. This will make it more solid and therefore easier to slice.
To make sure your beef is as tender as possible it is also best to slice it against the grain. This means slicing at a 90-degree angle to the fibres you can see running through the beef. You want to slice them across these lines, not in line with them. This is particularly critical if you are using flank steak, which can be very chewy when sliced with the grain instead of against it.
Can I make it in advance?
This really is a recipe that is at its best when freshly made. Leaving it for any length of time will make it less crispy so making it in advance and reheating is not advised. The same goes for freezing which will make the beef even limper when defrosted.
If you do have leftovers and you simply can’t see them go to waste then it is perfectly safe to freeze this dish for up to 3 months. If you do reheat it, from chilled or frozen, then use the oven rather than the microwave. This will help to crisp up the beef a little more and the results won’t be as ‘soggy’ as if you use the microwave.
What can I serve it with?
For a true fakeaway experience, some egg fried or boiled rice is essential. You can also add a few side dishes. Why not try:
How can I make the beef super crispy?
Sick of below-par, limp beef? Follow these tips to get a perfect result every time:
- Don’t scrimp on the cornflour – it’s better to use a larger bowl of cornflour than you expect to allow the beef to really get coated, rather than spreading the flour too thinly between the pieces. It may seem wasteful to use a bowl with more than needed, but if you want a crispy result it is essential.
- Feeling hot, hot, hot – the oil needs to be hot enough to really crisp up the beef. This is the most likely reason that you are getting soggy results. The oil should be 180C/350F to make sure that the beef cooks on contact with the oil and to limit the amount of oil that soaks into the batter. Invest in a kitchen thermometer if you don’t have one (you can get a decent one for less than £10 and they last for years if looked after). Alternatively, check the oil with a small drop of the batter and make sure it bubbles before adding the beef. You can also use wooden chopsticks or a wooden spoon and dip them into the oil. It should fizz around the wood if it’s hot enough.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan – if you add too much beef to the pan it is not only more likely to stick together, but it will also bring down the temperature of the oil.
For a full list of ingredients, with weight and measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.
For the sauce…
- Rice vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Dark soy sauce
For the beef…
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Steak, cut into thin strips – sirloin works well, see above for other options
- Vegetable oil
For the stirfry…
- Onion, cut into thick slices
- Red pepper, cut into strips
- Garlic, finely chopped
- Minced ginger
- Red chilli, finely chopped
- Toasted sesame seeds
How to make it
For more detailed instructions, with recipe tips, jump to the printable recipe card.
- Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- Mix the egg, soy sauce and sesame oil for the beef together in a large bowl.
- Add the beef strips and mix together well to coat.
- Toss the beef in the cornflour until each piece is fully coated.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pan. Add the beef so as not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes until a deep golden colour. Work in batches if needed. Set the cooked beef aside on a plate.
- Heat the oil for the stirfry in a wok or large frying pan. Add the onion and fry until starting to caramelise.
- Add the peppers and cook for a further few minutes until starting to colour on the edges.
- Add the garlic, chilli and ginger to the pan and toss together. Cook for a further minute.
- Add the sauce to the pan and bubble for a few seconds.
- Add the beef to the pan and toss everything together. Cook for a further couple of minutes.
- Scatter over the sesame seeds and serve.
Looking for more great Chinese takeaway recipes? Try:
- Sweet and sour chicken, Hong Kong-style
- Chinese cumin lamb
- Salt and pepper chicken
- Honey chilli chicken
- Chicken chow mein
Products that work well for this recipe:
Stainless Steel Strainer Set
Chopstick Helper – for Adults (2 pieces)
Crispy chilli beef. A Chinese takeaway favourite – crunchy beef in a light coating of sauce which is both tangy and sweet… and of course a little spicy!
The default recipe serves 4
for the sauce…
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
for the beef…
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 120g / 1 cup cornflour, well seasoned (see note 2)
- 400g sirloin steak, thinly sliced into strips (see note 3)
- 500ml vegetable oil (see note 4)
for the stirfry…
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, cut into thick slices
- 1 red pepper, cut into strips
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 chilli, finely chopped (see note 5)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- Mix together all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and then set aside.
- Beat the egg in a large bowl and then mix in the soy sauce and sesame oil for the beef and season well with salt and pepper.
- Add the beef to the bowl and mix it together well with your hands until the beef is well coated.
- Add the cornflour to a large bowl and then add the beef into the flour. Mix it together well until the beef is coated and so the pieces are no longer stuck together.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan until it reaches around 180C/350F. (see note 6 & 7).
- Cook the beef in the oil until it has turned a deep golden colour and turned beautifully crispy – around 4-5 minutes. You will likely have to work in 2-3 batches to make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan.
- Remove the cooked beef with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a plate lined with paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
- Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to slightly caramelise at the edges.
- Add the peppers to the pan and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and toss through the for 1 minute.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and then add the sauce and allow to bubble for around 30 seconds.
- Add the beef to the pan and toss everything together for 2-3 minutes.
- Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and serve.
- When cooking anything stir-fried, fast and hot is the way to go. Make sure you have everything prepped and ready before you start cooking so nothing slows you down as you go through the steps!
- This will look like a lot of cornflour. Fear not, this is the best way to get a super-crispy result, and only about half the flour will end up being used.
- You can place the beef in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before cutting to make it easier to slice into thin strips. Also, slice it against the grain (so your knife is cutting at a 90 degree angle to the lines that you will see running down the meat). This will result in a more tender result. Make sure to slice any large pieces of fat from the outside off.
- You can use any oil that has a high smoke point – sunflower oil or canola/rapeseed oil also work well.
- If you don’t have any fresh chillis then you can use 1-2 tsp chilli flakes instead, depending on how hot you would like the dish.
- When frying, make sure the pan is large enough so the oil doesn’t fill more than halfway up the sides to prevent splashes and burns!
- To test if your oil is hot enough, you can either drop a little of the cornflour coating into it and if immediately bubbles up then that’s an indication. You may also use wooden chopsticks or even the end of a wooden spoon. If it fizzes up then the oil is good to go.
- This recipe is best eaten straight away, as it will go soggy if reheated or frozen. However, you can safely freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven rather than the microwave to try and retain some crispiness.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stir Fry
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 575
- Fat: 39g
- Carbohydrates: 35g
- Protein: 25g
Keywords: chinese, dinner, indulgent, beef, asian, stirfry