Shakin' Beef

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” Robert Duval famously said but what he omitted to declare was his fondness for his beef being shaking, not stirred, when the sun went down.

This simple dish is called Shaking simply because the beef gets tossed about the wok, nothing more meaningful or deeper. It really is easy to prepare and cook, there’s no excuse unless of course you're  vegetarian in which case you could make Fakin’ Shakin’ Beef with tofu and vegetables.

This plate is prepared in a couple of steps.

First the beef has to marinade then it’s tossed in the wok and finally served on a bed of lightly pickled Asian greens and sliced tomatoes, topped with freshly pickled onions and served with boiled rice and a dip flavoured with lime juice.

Marinade ingredients:
750G diced beef sirloin or fillet. More ‘robust’ cuts can be used but given the short stir fry time involved the beef may not be tender.
Half cup rice vinegar.
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic.
2 tablespoons fish sauce.
2 tablespoons oyster sauce. (Optional)
1 tablespoon pure sesame oil.
1 table spoon thick soy sauce.
2 tablespoons sugar.
2 red chillies finely chopped. (Optional)

Salad & Vinaigrette Dressing:
2 handfuls Watercress or any sort of Asian greens, e.g. mustard greens, pack Choi, etc.
Half cup rice vinegar.
1.5 tablespoons sugar.
Teaspoon sea salt flakes.
2 or 3 tomatoes thinly sliced.

Pickle Ingredients:
1 red onion finely sliced.
1” ginger thinly sliced into matchstick sized strips.
Some of the vinaigrette from above.

Dipping sauce:
Juice of a couple of limes.
Sea salt flakes.
Freshly ground black pepper.
You can add a little mustard powder for some zingyness if your heart desires.

Pure peanut oil for frying.


First combine, mixing thoroughly, all the marinade ingredients except the beef. Once the marinade is ready add the beef and either put in a covered container or vacuum pack and leave for at least 2 hours.

Prepare vinaigrette by mixing sugar salt and vinegar, making sure all the seasonings dissolve.

Once your beef is properly marinated and ready for cooking take half the vinaigrette and cover the prepared onion and ginger, leaving to pickle for at least 15 minutes in a sealed container.

On a large serving plate, layer your greens, a little vinaigrette then your tomatoes followed by more vinaigrette and put aside ready for the cooked beef.

Heat a wok over a high heat, add a couple of spoons of peanut oil and once it starts smoking swish it around the wok coating all the surface. Be careful not to splash yourself, or anyone else, it will be very hot. Put in some beef, enough to make an even layer in the wok. Once the beef has seared, ‘shake’ the wok to turn the beef over, searing the other side. Please don’t overlook the beef. You can utilise a wok paddle or large spoon to do this if preferred. Pile the cooked beef on top of the tomato and greens salad. Fry the beef in batches until all done. Top with your pickled onion and ginger mix.

Serve with the seasoned lime juice as a dip along with steamed boiled rice.

There are many versions of this dish, some folk add chunky slices of raw onion to the cooking beef. Some serve it with mustard style dip and others with noodles. Some may scatter chopped chillies and spring onions on top. Whatever floats your bamboo basket boat.

Photo by Clair Irwin