In the kitchen

Tapioca-flour vs. Cornstarch: The Beef & Broccoli test

So I’m just putting this out there… I LOVE Beef & Broccoli.

I am aware its not actually Chinese, and… I rarely only use broccoli, and sometimes not even beef! But being the first stir-fry I learned how to cook, it has become something of a comfort food to me. As well as being the building block for how make any stir-fry.

see Jennifer Lee’s Ted talks on the origins of General Tsao’s chicken and other famous Chinese dishes. Hilarious!

Start by frying up your meet of choice in all the garlic and ginger you can handle. Take meat out of pan and start to fry your veggies in order of toughness. Onions first, leafy greens last. Then, while stirring that ever-clumping mixture of cornstarch condiments and water in a cup, wait for all the veg to be 1 minute away from done, toss the meat back in and pour in the slurry. It will sizzle and thicken the moment it comes back up to a boil. Cornstarch being the most fickle of pantry goods will either not thicken at all; Or will often turn itself into the blob and hi-jack all your veggies into jello land.

I have been making my stir-fry’s this way for the past 10 years, but I have to tell you.. THERE IS A BETTER WAY!

Enter Tapioca flour.

One fateful (read: starving and lazy) night, I trundle off in the rain to get some cornstarch from our local Organic Chinese market. (Only 3 blocks away! How lucky right?) Get there… No cornstarch. Hmm.. but how could that be? Its a Chinese market, at least some of these patrons must make an occasional Chop-Suey. (Did you know that Chop-Suey literally means odds-and-ends in Chinese? It is akin to asking for leftovers HAHA!) Anyway… So after searching very hard, (read: wandering aimlessly) I decide to wing it and try something new.

Let me tell you. it is divine! you use about double what you would have used in cornstarch, but the result is glossy and smooth. Doesn’t “gel”, doesn’t have that awful cornstarch-y taste. It re-heats beautifully, and (if you check out my blueberry tart post) works well in other cooking methods too.

Go try something new today!

Just as a precaution: Tapioca flour/Tapioca starch/Pearled  or  Regular Tapioca are all different things. I use tapioca flour. It is the least starchy of the 3.


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