This Chinese Minnan Teochew classic is a simple yet seriously satisfying beef rice noodles dish that differs significantly from the Chinese Cantonese dish of the same name “Ngaoyok Chaohor“（牛肉炒河). The Teochew version is gravy-based while the Cantonese one is stir-fried. Popularised in Singapore by the Teochew diaspora, the Beef Horfun 潮汕湿炒牛河 is a local favourite at all Chinese street food kitchens called “Zi Cha Twah” (煮炒摊).
The native Chinese Minnan name of the large flat rice noodles is actually “Kway Tiao” (粿條), but because Teochew is an ethnic Minnan enclave in Canton, they often use Cantonese to deal with the locals there.
About this recipe
This is an adaptation of the recipe by Sylvia Tan in her book ‘Singapore Heritage Food’. I have been a longtime fan of Sylvia, a highly-esteemed food writer in Singapore. Sylvia has been studiously documenting, studying and sharing the heritage recipes of Singapore for a long time.
Recipes are not only about recreating a taste, they are about the shared experience, the shared dream, and the shared circumstances of a community at a moment in time. When writing a recipe, I often talk about where something comes from and why.
Much of this was directly inspired by Sylvia Tan decades ago.
Use fresh horfun to make your Teochew Beef Horfun 潮汕湿炒牛河
I am using fresh homemade horfun for this recipe, because I had a batch made. You can very well use dried ones although the result would not be similar. When using dried rice noodles, re-hydrate in hot water (70 degrees Celsius) until al dente, then drain. Re-hydration in boiling water will overcook and turn them really flaky.
Serving: 2 persons
- 500g fresh horfun rice noodles (or dried ones after re-hydration)
- 300g flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain
- 1 tbs dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp Chinese ‘Shaoxing’ yellow rice wine 绍兴酒
- 250g ‘Kailan‘ 芥蓝 (or ‘Caixin‘/’Choysam‘ 菜心), roughly sectioned
- 4 tbs peanut oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 4 Asian shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 thumb-length ginger, finely chopped
- Dash of white pepper powder
- Pickled green chilies as condiment (optional)
For the sauce:
- 400ml beef stock (or 400ml water with 2 tbs OXO concentrated beef stock)
- 1 tbs light soy sauce
- 1 tbs oyster sauce
- 1 tbs Chinese ‘Shaoxing’ yellow rice wine 绍兴酒
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs corn flour
- Marinate your beef in light soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine and set aside for 15 minutes.
- Pour dark soy sauce onto your fresh or re-hydrated horfun noodles and lightly massage them with your hand so as to darken the noodles.
- Put your wok or non-stick pan on high heat then add 2 tbs peanut oil. Once the oil reached smoking point, stir fry your noodles with a pair of chopsticks for 20 seconds until slightly charred. Place on serving plate.
- Add the rest of your oil to the wok and put it on medium heat. Sauté your shallots, garlic then ginger in that order until fragrant. Add your beef and stir fry briskly until it changes colour. Set aside in a bowl.
- Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Pour sauce into the wok on medium heat and stir until it thickens. Add the green vegetables and continue stirring until they are cooked. Add the half-cooked beef and stir until they are just fully cooked. Pour the thick sauce over the noodles.
- Serve piping hot with a dash of white pepper powder and some pickled green chilies.
Tip: there are wild variations of this dish in Singapore and in the Teochew homeland of Chaoshan. In Singapore, some chefs add fermented bean sauce or even corn to the gravy. In Chaoshan, some people add Shacha peanut sauce for an exotic Singaporean flavour! This recipe is a basic recipe that is still loved by many.