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My family generally gets together every December for an epic dinner to celebrate the holidays. There are a lot of us, so we try to make our meal fun by coming up with a theme. One year it was a Top Chef-style team cook-off, another was all Mexican fare, and the one I remember fondly is where the kids were in charge of the menu.
Some of those kids were in their late 20s and some were pre-teens. One of my favorite dishes from that meal was the sesame chicken my 12-year-old nephew made. I actually didn’t believe he made it because it was so good. I asked him for the recipe and I was bowled over by how simple this dish was.
I decided to try it with beef and I embellished the sauce for a little more complexity. There aren’t too many ingredients and the dish is on the table in just 45 minutes. My nephew baked his sesame chicken in an oven, which made it incredibly healthy (he was trying to lose his baby fat). It can also be cooked in an air fryer. For this recipe, I am using a wok, large skillet, or sauté pan to make this sesame beef recipe so that the meat actually gets a little crisp. I prefer that to limp pieces of steak because I like to eat with chopsticks and this method works well for that purpose.
You will need a good cut of steak, cornstarch, and vegetable oil for the beef. The cornstarch is the key to the crispiness. After cooking the beef, you will dress it in a sauce of garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, citrus juice, rice vinegar, ginger, toasted sesame oil, and hot sauce (optional). The dish is garnished with white sesame seeds and scallions. I like to serve sesame beef over a bowl of short grain brown rice with sautéed or steamed broccoli florets on the side.
- 1 cup short grain brown rice rinsed very well and drained
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups water
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 ½ tsp sriracha optional
- 1 pound sirloin steak at room temperature
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- ½ cup peanut oil more if needed
- 2 tsp white sesame seeds
- 2 scallions sliced thinly
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- In a saucepot with a lid, over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add the rinsed rice to the pan and toast it, stirring a few times, until it smells nutty, approximately 1 minute.
- Add the water and salt to the pot. As soon as the water starts to boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes without removing the lid.
- Take a quick look under the lid to make sure the rice has absorbed the water. Return the lid and move to rice off of the heat. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes while you make the sauce and beef.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, orange juice, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and sriracha. Set this aside while you prepare the beef.
- Slice the steak against the grain into thin strips. Place the steak in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch and toss to coat evenly. Set this aside.
- In a wok, large skillet, or sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the beef in batches and cook this until browned and crisp, approximately 2-1/2 minutes, stirring often. Transfer the steak to a paper towel-lined platter to drain. Repeat until all the beef is cooked.
- Using a paper towel with tongs, wipe any remaining oil out of the pan. Give the sauce another whisk to combine and add it to the warm wok or pan. Cook until it bubbles and thickens, approximately 1-1/2 minutes.
- Add the beef back to the pan and stir to coat it with the sauce.
- Fluff the rice with a fork. Place the rice in 4 serving bowls and spoon the beef and sauce over the rice. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions and enjoy while warm.
Notes & Tips
- It is important to bring the beef to room temperature before cooking it. I slice the beef, coat it with the cornstarch, and set it aside for a few minutes while the oil heats up. The oil should be fairly hot for the best results.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
- Rice: Brown rice does take about 35 minutes to cook. If you don’t want to spend that much time, you can make short grain white rice instead which will only take 18 minutes to cook. If you really want to speed up the process, frozen cooked rice is a fine option. I also like serving sesame beef over thin noodles. Cauliflower rice is a good option if you are gluten and grain free.
- Soy Sauce: Feel free to substitute soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos if you are avoiding wheat.
- Sriracha: The sriracha is an optional ingredient that adds a little heat. A good pinch of cayenne pepper flakes also works. Skip the spice if you don’t want the heat.
- Sirloin Steak: I like the tenderness and beefy flavor of sirloin for this recipe. You could definitely replace that with beef tenderloin. Or, make this with chicken tenders or pork tenderloin. Adjust the cooking time for pork or chicken. You can definitely make this dish with broccoli florets for a vegan version.
- Cornstarch: If you are on a paleo or keto diet, you will be avoiding anything that is corn-based. You can substitute kudzu powder, tapioca starch, or arrowroot starch.
- Peanut Oil: Any neutral vegetable oil will work in this recipe, such as canola, grapeseed, or avocado.
What To Serve with Sesame Beef
I love this dish with a side of colorful vegetables. My personal preference is steamed broccoli. In late spring, steamed asparagus would be my first choice. Later in the year, I will opt for sautéed or roasted baby carrots, especially the orange, purple, and yellow varieties. For convenience, I will pick up a bag of frozen edamame and just quickly blanch them and serve with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.