We're Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate, a brother and sister cookbook author team obsessed with all things China. We create authentic and accessible Chinese recipes for home cooks. See more...

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Lucky Year of the Dragon Recipe: Tangerine Beef

The Year of the Dragon is upon us! Coinciding with the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year starts today and celebrations will go on for the next 15 days all over the world. Mary Kate and I were really excited when our friend Jaden Hair asked us to write a guest post over at TLC's website for Chinese New Year. If you're not familiar with Jaden and you like eating, you should be. She's the behind the deliciously steamy Steamy Kitchen website and one of the hottest women in the food industry. We've been fortunate enough to meet her in New York where she hosts the NY Dumpling Festival every year and to cook a meal with her and her family at her beautiful home in Florida.

Chinese New Year has a lot of superstitions surrounding food. The Chinese word for "lettuce" sounds like the chinese word for "rising wealth" so people eat lettuce wraps to bring good forune. Also, tangerines are very lucky to eat during Chinese New Year because the Chinese word for "tangerine" sounds a lot like the word for "luck". This recipe for Tangerine beef is delicious and healthy and you might just get lucky if you eat enough of it this week (or serve it to someone who apprecieates your cooking). It has a refreshing orange flavor but isn't sickly sweet like a lot of the "lemon/orange chicken" dishes you find at American-Chinese restaurants. We learned how to make this recipe in Sichuan Province (which is known for its spicy food) and the sauce is a mixture of spicy black bean sauce, light and dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, spices, and a kick of zesty orange flavor. It does have a little heat but not much. Make sure you serve it with a side of white rice. A lot of people say that Chinese dishes like this are too salty from the soy sauce in them but they are meant to be eaten with bites of white rice to balance out the saltiness.

The fact that it's the Year of the Dragon makes it all the more reason to celebrate this Chinese New Year. The dragon is the only mythical animal in the zodiac and legend has it that we're all in for some life-changes. There are a lot of myths surrounding dragons in China (part of the reason why we named our book Feeding the Dragon). One of those stories goes that Chinese people are descendants of the dragon. Another great recipe to dish up on CNY as an appetizer are the fabulous Fried Spring Rolls from the White on Rice Couple.

The recipe is a really easy stir-fry and most of the ingredients you can find at your local supermarket. However, you will probably have to to go to an Asian market to get some of the seasonings: dark soy sauce, chile bean sauce, sichuan peppercorns, dried tangerine peel, and a dried red chile. Do it! These ingredients are in a ton of Chinese recipes and once you have them on-hand you'll be able to whip up all kinds of great tasting dishes:

The dried tangerine peel looks kind of like pieces of brown leather (bottom-right of pic above). It adds a slightly nutty, buttery flavor to dishes and soups. It's supposed to cure a hangover but I don't know about that.

You need to first rehydrate the tangerine peel in warm water for about an hour before using it. After rehydrating, tear it up into about 5 pieces.

Make sure to slice the flank steak accross the grain. If you don't, it will get tough when you stir-fry it. Flank steak is normally pretty cheap but I was in a rush and had to go to Whole Foods and paid $19 for a pound of organic grass-fed beef. In all honesty, it was the best and most tender flank steak I've ever had so I guess you get what you pay for.

Blanching the fresh orange peel in boiling water gets rid of any bitterness.

Most traditional recipes for Tangerine Beef don't call for fresh orange peel, just the dried tangerine peel. We've added it because it makes it taste awesome.

It's best to use your hand to massage the marinade into the meat.

Combine the other liquid ingredients in a small bowl beforehand so that you can add them to the wok in one whoosh while you stir-frying.

Cook the beef in until it is completely browned but still pink on the inside. Don't overcook in this step or it will get tough (the meat in the picture above is not done being browned yet).

You stir-fry the spices in the wok for a few seconds to bring out the flavors before adding the other ingredients. Smells so good!

 You can also find this recipe and over a hundred others in our cookbook.

Tangerine Beef


5 (about 1-inch-square) pieces dried tangerine peel
1 orange
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound beef flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain into 2-inch-long strips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 dried red chile, seeded and chopped
3 green onions, green and white parts kept separate, chopped into 1/2-inch segments
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon chile bean sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups of cooked white rice, for serving

1. Soak the tangerine peel in warm water for 1 hour to rehydrate, then drain.

2. Peel the orange and use a spoon to scrape away as much of the white pith as possible. Reserve the fruit for another use. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Blanch the orange peel in the water for 6 minutes to get rid of any bitterness, and then slice into slivers.

3. Dissolve the cornstarch in a large bowl with the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, and ginger. Add the beef and toss so that all the strips are coated, then marinate, covered, in the fridge for 20 minutes.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok over high heat. Tip the contents of the beef bowl into the wok and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until the beef is browned but still slightly pink inside. Take care not to overcook the beef or it will get tough. Remove the beef and any liquid from the wok.

5. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the wok and when it is hot, add the Sichuan peppercorns, chile, the white parts of the green onions, the tangerine peel, and orange peel, and stir-fry for 45 seconds. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of rice wine, the hoisin sauce, chili bean sauce, and sugar and stir for a few seconds. Toss in the beef and the green parts of the green onions and stir until the onions start to wilt. Serve hot with a side of white rice. 

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Reader Comments (7)

Looks sooo good. I cannot wait to try this! I'm having by in-laws over tomorrow night and this will be perfect to make.

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda K

Can I just use fresh tangerine peel instead of dried?

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterROB

My students are using this web site to learn about Chinese New Year traditions. Thanks for such an interesting presentation!

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeachMe

May your New Year be filled with love and light. I am enjoying reading your site !

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBetty Yu

What a great recipe. You make it look really easy. I've been researching grass fed steak recipes. My family loves steak and since learning about grass fed beef, I've been serving it more. They will love this one.

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjanice

Hello there,

I'm also excited that the Lunar New Year 2015 is fast approaching! It will be the time for enjoyment. The full week of CNY 2015 will be holiday and that too adds the happiness in this New year week.
Anyway thanks for such an informative article.
Wishing you a great Chinese New Year 2015 in Advance!!

January 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercny

Recipe looks delicious. I;m thinking I must try at home. As yet I haven't even taste it somewhere.
homework writing service

August 22, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteralvin

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