Beef with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms

posted in: Meat & Poultry, Recipes | 9

You can probably guess where I gathered the ingredients for this savory winter stir-fry from the post preceding this one. Think of it as a twist on beef stew — but one that takes a fraction of the cooking time. Served with rice and perhaps a simple, stir-fried green on the side, it’s the perfect cold weather meal to really fill up on, and look forward to having again the next day.

What? It hasn’t actually been cold in New York City, you say, with temperatures in the sixties last week for days in a row? Well, fine then. But one look at a Farmers’ Market, with its sober rows of squashes and cabbages, will remind you that it is most assuredly winter. Luckily, both leeks and Shiitake mushrooms naturally flourish in the winter, and they taste best when cooked just the slightest.“Shiitake” is the Japanese name for this type of mushroom, which is popular in many Asian cuisines. I think it’s funny that the word has become so favored in culinary terminology that I can’t remember the Chinese word for them. On a whim I just decided to Wikipedia them, and culled from its entry this handy list of the mushroom’s name in other languages. Just in case you’re at the Korean grocery — or in Korea — and get a craving:

Chinese: xianggu (or, depending on its quality, donggu or huaggu)
Korean: pyogo
Thai: hed hom
Vietnamese: nấm hương

That was fun. Now, you could substitute other types of mushrooms in this recipe in a pinch, preferably a similarly dense, flavorful one like Porcini. But the true identity of the Shiitake is unmistakably distinct. Just their fragrance alone will cue you in to the intense musky, earthy, almost fishy flavor they produce when touched with a little heat. I’ve never tasted truffles before, and unless a woodland fairy comes along and drops one on my lap, I probably won’t anytime soon. (Since I can’t see myself ever spending $3,000 per pound on an ugly, shriveled elitist trophy of a flavor experience.) So if you’re with me in this respect, fungi doesn’t get much better than Shiitake. Fine by me.

leeks get a thin, diagonal slice, so that even their tougher (but nutritious) green parts are more palatable

I added a few small, sliced red and green chiles (commonly called Thai chiles), just because I’ve lately been in the habit of adding them to everything. I think they make the world a better place.

hot sauce had better be warned


Beef with Leeks & Shiitake Mushrooms
(makes 3-4 servings)

1 1/2 lbs flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain to about 1/8″ x 2″ slices
1 small or medium-sized leek, washed thoroughly, ends trimmed and sliced thinly on a bias
about 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 cup beef stock (or substitute water)
1/2 cup Chinese rice cooking wine
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
small Thai chiles, sliced (optional)

Marinate the sliced beef in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the salt, baking soda and 1 teaspoon of the corn starch. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add about half the garlic and ginger and heat until fragrant. Add the beef and let brown for 1 minute, without stirring. Stir and let brown on all sides for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside in a bowl. Heat up the rest of the oil, the rest of the garlic and ginger and the chiles, if using. Add the leeks and shiitake mushrooms and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until just softened. Return the beef to the pan. Add the rice wine and stir. Once it has reduced a little, add the stock, remaining soy sauce, and the oyster sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more soy sauce or salt if desired, or water if the taste is too strong. Once flavor is correct, mix the remaining teaspoon of corn starch with a little bit of water just until a paste is formed. Stir mixture thoroughly, then drizzle it into the pan while the sauce is bubbling and stir immediately into the sauce to prevent lumps. If the sauce is still not thick enough, repeat process once more, with a little less corn starch. Once sauce reaches desired thickness, serve immediately with steamed

Cost Calculator
(for 3-4 servings)

1 1/2 lbs flank steak (at $5.99/lb): $8.99
10 shiitake mushrooms (at $1.75/bag): $1.75
1 leek (at $2/lb): $1.25
2 tablespoons soy sauce (at $1.50/bottle): $0.25
3 cloves garlic: $0.12
1 teaspoon minced ginger: $0.15
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (at $1.50/bottle): $0.18
1/2 cup beef stock: $0.25
1/2 cup rice cooking wine (at $2.50/bottle): $0.25
2 tablespoons canola oil: $0.20
3 small Thai chiles: $0.25
salt, 2 teaspoons corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda: $0.25

Total: $13.89

Health Factor

Five brownie points: This recipe is relatively light, healthy and nutritious. It’s definitely a more agreeable alternative to steak and fries, or hearty beef stew, and satisfies just the same. The corn starch base creates an incredibly luscious, savory sauce that you can smother all over your rice guilt-free. It’s almost all good stuff, save for the preservatives found in most brands of oyster sauce. I often waive this or any preservative-heavy sauce altogether in stir-fries, especially when cooking with more assertive vegetables. But with mushrooms and leeks, it’s just kind of yummy. Speaking of which, Shiitake mushrooms boast high protein, many vitamins (including Vitamin D), and purportedly have immunity- and circulation-boosting properties, which is part of why they’ve been ascribed to vitality and long life since ancient times in China. Kind of ironic for something that grows on dead logs, huh? Fresh leeks provide a more modest array of essentials like potassium, beta-carotene and Vitamin C to boot.

9 Responses

  1. Shelby

    That looks great! And those mushrooms look just as meaty as the beef.

  2. Cakespy

    I was surprised by the health factor–but I guess as Shelby says, the mushrooms do look as meaty as the beef! Looks very hearty.

  3. Treb

    I made this last week and it was great. Although I didn’t was the leeks thoroughly enough and that gave me some stomach issues. Live and learn. I’m thinking about substituting chicken to use the leftovers.

  4. Becky

    I made this last night. The photos looked good enough for me to sneakily break my no-meat-buying rule. It turned out really good. Definitely a good hearty winter meal.

  5. Sarah

    This was great! Only change I would make next time is to double the mushrooms and add something else green – maybe snow peas!

  6. pete

    I’ve been taught by some chefs that you shouldn’t throw in garlic and those things until late, ’cause it’s not hard to “bao-xien”, aka making things fragrant in the skillet, but it’s also very easy to burn garlic. also, a lot of Chinese chefs don’t marinate beef in too much salt, they think salt will toughen the meat. instead they use sugar and a dash of soy sauce.


    Beef with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms – Not Eating Out in New York


    Beef with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms – Not Eating Out in New York

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    Beef with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms

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