Citizens, today allow your Leader – the immortal Beloved TFD! – to share with you a unique Chinese fusion recipe from the windswept plains of Alberta, Canada!
Ginger beef is a Canadian Chinese dish made from beef, ginger, and a distinctive sweet sauce.
The ingredients of ginger beef can depend on where it is featured, but the Western Canadian version generally consists of deep fried strips of beef coated in a dark sweet sauce that is reminiscent of other Asian sauces based on vinegar and sugar. It also contains flavors of ginger, garlic, and hot peppers, and is commonly served with a small amount of julienned carrots and onions in the sauce. Ginger beef is derived from the original Geung Ngao Yuk (Chinese: 薑牛肉) dish.
As with many dishes, the invention of ginger beef is claimed by several restaurants and chefs. However, the most widely accepted origin attributes the dish’s development during the mid-1970s by chef George Wong at the Silver Inn in Calgary, Alberta. The dish is now a very important part of culture in Calgary and that part of Canada. A radio segment featuring ginger beef was aired on CBC Radio One programme ‘The Main Ingredient’.
As noted by the excellent writer Rhonda Parkinson on the now-defunct about.com website:
Ginger beef – the ultimate comfort food. The famous dish consisting of marinated beef deep-fried in batter and coated with a sweet and sour sauce is a staple of Alberta Chinese restaurants. However, it is very difficult to trace the origins of this popular recipe. Does the ginger beef that Albertans know and love represent true Chinese cuisine? For that matter, is ginger beef – no matter how it’s prepared – an authentic Chinese dish?
A search through several Chinese cookbooks quickly reveals that the idea of marrying beef with ginger is nothing new. For example, in Ginger East to West, Bruce Cost provides a recipe for “Real Ginger Beef” that is quite different from the typical restaurant version, using a full cup of ginger and two cups of fresh coriander leaves. In Joy of Wokking, Martin Yan has a recipe for “Spicy Ginger Beef” seasoned with five spice powder. Finally, Madame Wong’s Long-Life Chinese Cookbook contains a ginger beef recipe that uses preserved red ginger and red pepper, with a sauce made from chicken stock, cornstarch, hoisin sauce and dark soy sauce.
In fact, ginger beef is based on a northern Chinese dish that is much drier and less sweet than the restaurant version. Although his name is lost to history, it is thought that a Chinese chef working in Calgary came up with the crunchy “Americanized” ginger beef with the sweet sauce that is so popular in Alberta. Even today, it is difficult, although not impossible, to find Alberta-style ginger beef outside the province. But whatever its origins, ginger beef is a great way to introduce people to Chinese food. And, while definitely not a dish for calorie-counters, it has the advantage of containing healthy ingredients such as ginger – thought to help cure colds.
Citizens, my upscale version of this recipe uses leek instead of onion and garnishes the final dish with celery leaves. If you’ve had this in Alberta, I have every confidence you will find my version to be a worthy addition to your recipe repertoire! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo