This beef chow fun is loaded with fat noodles, tender steak, and crisp veggies. Even better, now you can cook restaurant-style fried noodles in your home kitchen with a flat skillet!
If you look at any authentic beef chow fun recipe, it always calls for a wok and a gas range. After all, it is the proper way to get perfect seared steak and charred noodles, like you’d get in a restaurant. However, this setup might not be practical for every home cook. As a personal example, I live in an apartment that only has an electric stove, and it never generates heat fast enough for wok cooking.
That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time researching and mastering how to cook stir fries with a flat nonstick skillet. I’ve even written posts on why I do not recommend a wok for beginners, and how to choose between a wok and a skillet for your stir fry station.
After many experiments, I’ve concluded that you can make a legit stir fry without a wok, with a few tricks and a great stir fry sauce.
Best beef chow fun in a skillet
Here are the keys to making a great beef chow fun without a wok:
(1) Plenty of fresh aromatics to add depth of flavor
Dry spice powders just won’t cut it for stir fry, so please always use fresh aromatics.
In this recipe we use fresh garlic, ginger, and plenty of green onion.
(2) Make a good stir fry sauce using the right ingredients
Namely, you need light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and a good wine.
The light soy sauce will add saltiness and umami to the dish, while the dark soy sauce adds that beautiful dark brown color to give the noodles an appealing look. Shaoxing wine (the unsalted type) is always the first choice to add a rich aroma, but you can get very good results using dry sherry, as well.
(3) Prepare a large skillet with a pair of tongs
If possible, pick a heavy nonstick skillet for your beef chow fun and every other stir fry you cook. We are not using a wok here, but high heat is still a crucial factor to creating a great dish. The reason we need a large heavy skillet is that it will heat up faster on an electric range due to its large contact surface. And a heavier pan always holds heat better, so the pan temperature won’t drop the second you add in the sauce; such a drop would cause all your ingredients to be steamed instead of seared.
A pair of tongs is a must-have for tossing noodles, so you don’t end up splashing half of the ingredients onto your kitchen counter.
More cooking notes
(1) How to create juicy tender beef with a perfectly seared surface
First, always cut against the grain. It is OK to slice the beef thinly, such as 1/8-inch thick pieces. Or you can cut it into 1/4-inch thick strips. Your call.
Second, always marinate the beef and use some cornstarch in your marinade. Not only will it make your beef extra flavorful, but it will also tenderize the meat and protect it from overcooking. It’s an ancient Chinese cooking hack that I use even when searing meat for pasta or any other Western dish.
If you follow these two steps, you can choose almost any cut of the steak and still produce great results. However, my favorite choice is always flank or skirt steak, which are cheaper in price, yet well-marbled.
(2) When it comes to fried noodles, less is more
Just like with pizza toppings, using fewer ingredients will yield better results because the ingredients won’t crowd your pan and transform the noodles into a stew.
(3) How to replace ingredients
Beef chow fun is a very versatile dish and you can tweak it with whatever ingredients you have at home. For example, feel free to replace the broccoli with gai lan (Chinese broccoli), kale, or bok choy. You can skip the bean sprouts and use a bit more white onion for texture. As a rule of thumb, you want to use some crisp, crunchy veggies to enhance the texture of the dish.
(3) How to prepare rice noodles for chow fun
Each brand comes with its own cooking instructions, so the best approach is to follow the steps on the back of the package. No matter whether it says to boil or soak the noodles, you want the noodles to reach al-dente. That is, cooked noodles with a slightly chewy texture. So the noodles will be perfectly cooked once they’ve been stir fried.
I also drizzle a bit of oil onto the pre-boiled noodles and toss them with my hand. It is a good way to prevent them from sticking.
(4) What your kitchen counter should look like before the stir frying starts
Near your stove, you should have:
- Marinated beef in a bowl
- Mixed sauce
- Chopped ginger and garlic in a bowl
- Pre-boiled noodles
- Green onion and white onion in a bowl
- Bean sprouts and blanched broccoli on a plate
Note, I grouped some ingredients together because you will add them at the same point in the stir fry. It makes the workflow easier, plus you’ll have fewer plates to wash.
Want to learn more about stir fry?
Check out my most popular posts below:
- 7 Best Chinese Stir Fry Sauce Recipes
- How to Make Stir Fry in 15 Minutes with Minimum Prep
- Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
- General Tso Tofu (Crispy Tofu without Deep Frying)
- Sweet and Sour Chicken (Without Deep-Frying)
I created this short video for you, so you can easily get an idea of the workflow. The video is slightly different from the recipe below because I updated the recipe with a few small tweaks… But the cooking process is the same.
Are you ready to cook some noodles?
Happy cooking and I hope your dish turns out great!
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Real-Deal Beef Chow Fun (干炒牛河)
- 1 batch broccolini (or 1 small head broccoli) , tough ends removed and chopped into bite sized pieces (*Footnote 2) (Optional)
- 7 ounces (200 grams) wide dried rice noodles
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1/4 white onion , sliced
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 4 green onions , chopped
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil (Optional)
- Slice beef against the grain into 1/8-inch (1/3-cm) thick pieces or 1/4-inch (1/2-cm) strips, and transfer the pieces to a small bowl. Add the light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and cornstarch. Use your hand to gently mix the beef and the added ingredients, until the beef is coated with a thin layer of the mixture. Let marinate for 15 minutes while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
- Combine all the sauce ingredients with 2 tablespoons water. Mix well and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the broccolini (or broccoli) until tender, 1 minute or so. Drain and set aside. Reserve the boiling water to cook the noodles.
- Cook or soak the rice noodles according to the instructions until cooked through, but still a bit chewy inside. Rinse rice noodles with cold water and drain. To avoid sticky rice noodles during stir fry, add 1 teaspoon sesame oil to the drained noodles. Gently toss noodles by hand to separate and evenly coat them with a thin layer of oil.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until hot. Spread the beef slices in the skillet in a single layer. Cook until the bottom side of the beef turns golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip the beef and cook the other side until browned, but the inside is still a bit pink, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer beef to a plate immediately.
- In the same skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and turn to medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and onion. Stir constantly until you can smell a strong fragrance, 15 seconds.
- Toss the cooked noodles again and add them into the skillet. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil onto the noodles. Use a pair of tongs to toss the noodles with oil. If the noodles start to get sticky, swirl in 2 tablespoons water.
- Add the beef back into the skillet. Pour in the mixed sauce. Immediately use a pair of tongs to toss and mix everything.
- Add the green onion. Toss a few more times, until the sauce is absorbed by the noodles.
- Add bean sprouts and cooked broccolini back into the skillet, swirl in the sesame oil (if using), and give it a final toss. Turn off heat and transfer everything to serving plates immediately.
- Serve hot as a main.
- You can use regular soy sauce to replace all the light / dark soy sauce in this recipe. Note that the dish will come out with a lighter color if you do so.
- Restaurant-style beef chow fun usually does not contain this ingredient. However I prefer to add more veggies into my noodles to make it a complete meal.
This post was originally published by Oct. 6, 2014 and updated by Oct. 11, 2017.