Cantonese Tomato Beef

It’s not sophisticated. It’s not nouveau.  It’s way more Fritos than foie gras.  But here goes:

  I LOVE American-Cantonese style Chinese food.

Sticky, sweet, and comforting. These are the flavors that many of us non-Chinese people probably grew up with, in shabby, dark restaurants with stale wontons served aside a plate of viscous, sweet sauce on the table.  Or in fluorescent lit shops, where we ordered beef with broccoli and extra egg rolls from a pimply teenager working behind the counter.  Whatever the venue, chances are, we have all eaten and still enjoy Cantonese food. And so I bring you my totally inauthentic yet truly delicious version of one of my favorite Cantonese dishes:

Cantonese Tomato Beef 

2010-09-29 tomato beef Ingredients:

1 lb. London broil

3 onions, quartered

1 bunch celery, roughy chopped

10 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges

1 box chicken stock

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp. sugar

cornstarch to coat (about 1 tbsp.)

dash of hot sesame oil

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1. Cut your meat into very thin slices by cutting against the grain. If it helps to put it in the freezer for 10 minutes before you slice it, go for it. I find that a sharp knife is really the best trick here.

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2. Put the meat into a plastic bag with the ketchup, soy, sugar, and sesame oil. Knock it around so the marinade really gets everywhere, then pop it in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.

tomato beef 019 3. Set the tomatoes, celery, and onions in a large stock pot with a bit of veggie oil. Sautee over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until they start to turn translucent.

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4. Now, add the chicken stock and let the whole mixture boil on high for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are all quite soft.  

tomato beef 029 tomato beef 031 3. Add the cornstarch to the bag with the meat, toss it around, then throw the meat in the pot. In about 3 minutes, the meat should be cooked, and the dish will be done. 

tomato beef 035 4. Taste for seasonings and serve over hot rice. 

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A fried egg would not be amiss here, either.  And, of course, I always add a healthy dose of sriracha.


This is just so delicious.  Sweet, salty, and beefy, with sweet onions and tender celery.   It is not overly spicy or filled with exotic vegetables.  It is just comforting, Asian-American goodness.  It makes me smile and fills me up on a fall night.  It is so distinctly from the Chinese food memories of my youth.  

And THAT is pretty damn sweet indeed.