It's impressive to watch accomplished chinese restaurant chefs and home cooks make stir fries. They prepare all of the components of a dish, and then there is a high speed last minute blur of sizzling, tossing and serving. While I do not have the technique for the high speed end game, I do like assembling the ingredients for a simple recipe without rushing. Once I have everything ready, I can usually get it together to cook it up without too much klutzy delay. While the mysterious "wok hay" will probably forever elude me, I can attest that the faster the stir fry hits your plate, the better it tastes. Hence, I make sure that the rice is done before I fire up the wok. And so, much though I enjoy taking pictures of my food, I won't be stopping to capture my stir fry on camera before dinner.
This dish is one of the few where an out-of-season supermarket tomato appears to advantage, You do not want to use canned tomatos here, the texture is all wrong. But you don't need local seasonal heirloom tomatos either. I use roma types from the Giant Eagle, and peel them with my serrated peeler. If you don't have one of these little gems, you should probably drop your tomatos in boiling water for a minute, rinse them in cold water, and slide the skins off that way. Tomato with Beef and Oyster Sauce is one of those synergystic simple meals, which tastes somehow more than the sum of its parts.
1/2 lb lean beef, cut in little thin strips
pinch baking soda
1 tbsp soysauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp rice vinegar
drop sesame oil
1 tsp and 2 tbsps canola oil
2 tsp sugar
5-6 small tomatos, peeled and sliced into 1/2" strips
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp oyster sauce
Put the cut up beef in a bowl (I'm sure you already know that it is easier to slice meat thinly if it is a little frozen). Mix together with the baking soda, cornstarch, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soysauce, 1tsp canola oil and 1 tsp sugar. Set this near the stove, and arrange all the other components nearby, along with a little cup of water,an empty plate and your wok lid.
Fire up the wok, and when it is hot, add 1 tbsp canola oil, and swirl the wok around a bit. Add the meat and ginger and fry it until it is almost done. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, and keep on the plate nearby. Add second tbsp. oil, then the tomatos and the rest of the sugar, and stir fry them for a couple of minutes. Glunk in the oyster sauce, and put the meat back in. Stir it all up, add a little water, turn the heat down to medium low, and cover. Cook covered for a couple of minutes. Take the lid off, add the chives, stir it up for a minute or two, scoop into bowls, and serve with your already prepared steamed rice.
This recipe is not original to me, but I can't give credit where due, as I believe it was probably taken from a library book (specifics forgotten) a long time ago. It's too bad I've forgotten, since more ideas from the same source would probably be very welcome. I thought it was from The Key to Chinese Cooking, by Irene Kuo, a brilliant lady who has been called the "Julia Child of chinese cooking." But I have looked, and it doesn't seem to be there. I understand that a new edition of this hard to find masterpiece of a book is either out, or in the offing. I can't recommend it too highly for its precise explanations of unfamiliar techniques. If you read cookbooks for pleasure, you will love it.
I had this idea that a vegetarian version using portobellos in strips would be tasty, until I remembered the oyster sauce, a critical component. This does contain something called "oyster essence", which I would have to presume has some origin in an actual oyster. As certain family members have reminded me, "a fish is not a vegetable." But I still think it would be good (though not vegetarian) with the portobellos.