Sunday, 31 August 2014


Fried beef hor fun is such a common dish among the Cantonese. It is served either ‘dry’ or bathed in thick savory sauce. To be considered a notch above the others, a hor fun needs to be perfumed with wok hei. Yes, the Cantonese, of all dialect groups, hold wok hei in highest esteem. A good chef must have mastered the advanced stir-fry techniques that allow him to deliver power-packed wok hei to certain dishes. And fried hor fun is definitely one of these.

Wok hei is most effectively achieved when the iron wok is heated to smoking point. Oil is then added to increase the heat as well as to lubricate the food that is to be fried. The contents of the wok are tossed and swirled, the addition of more oil coupling with the intense heat to flambé the ingredients. The fumes and aroma thus created is captured in, and perfumes the dish, producing the prized wok hei.

In the past, Cantonese cze cha stalls would use black bean paste in many of their dishes including braised fish bee hoon, braised pork ribs with bitter gourd, and claypot braised fish head. These dishes were very popular then, but the availability of new sauces such as Kam Heong and Tom Yam have seen them decline somewhat.

 Fried Beef Hor Fun in Black Bean Sauce

Beef                             200 g, sliced about 2 mm thick, across the grain
Oil                                1/3 cup
Chye sim                     2 stalks, julienned
Hor fun                        450 g
Garlic                            2, minced
Bean sprout                 50 g
Salt                                ½ tsp
Dark soy sauce            ½ tbsp
Onion                           ½, sliced thickly
Red chilli                      1, julienned
Chinese wine               2 tbsp
Meat stock                   2 cup
Sesame oil                   ½ tsp
Potato flour                 1 tbsp, mixed with 1 tbsp of water 
Egg                               2, beaten lightly
White pepper             ½ tsp
Fried shallots               2 tbsp
Spring onion               1 sprig, julienned

Apple juice                   2 tbsp, used as natural tenderizer, optional
Light soy sauce            1 tbsp
Ginger juice                  1/3 tsp
Chinese wine                1 tbsp
White pepper              1/3 tsp
Sesame oil                    1 tbsp
Potato flour                  1 tsp

Sauce paste– mixed well and reduced to a paste under low heat
Peanut oil                     2 tbsp
Black bean                    2 tbsp, minced coarsely
Yellow bean paste      1 tbsp, mashed
Sugar                            ½ tbsp
Garlic                            2, minced finely
Red chilli                       1, minced finely
Water                            4 tbsp

  1. Marinate beef and chill for at least one hour.
  2. Heat wok or stainless steel pan until hot. Pour 1 tbsp of oil. Swirl. Add another tbsp of oil. Fry chye sim for 30 seconds. Add hor fun. Swirl hor fun with a spatula in a circular movement. Do not lift hor fun high with the spatula or you risk breaking it into small strands. When hor fun turns slightly golden, push it to one side of the wok. Add ½ tbsp of oil and garlic, give it a good toss and stir in hor fun. Add bean sprout, dark soy sauce and salt, and give it a final toss. Divide hor fun into individual plates. The whole process shouldn’t take more than 4 minutes.
  3. Using the same wok, add remaining oil. Saute onion and chilli in medium heat until onion turns transparent.
  4. Add sauce paste, sugar and mix thoroughly.
  5. Increase heat to high. Add marinated beef and toss the pan continuously. Pour Chinese wine along the sides of the wok, allowing them to dribble to the center.
  6. Pour in meat stock and let it boil for 15 seconds.
  7. Lower heat to medium. Thicken the sauce with potato starch. The sauce should be slightly watery (not too gluey). Turn off the heat and pour egg mixture into the sauce, at the same time using the spatula to stir slowly in one direction.
  8. Scoop gravy onto the fried hor fun in their individual servings.
  9. Garnish it with white pepper, fried shallots and spring onion.

Note: Instead of boiling the sauce paste, it could be fried until all its ingredients (except water) have caramelized, and then simmer it into paste.