The assertive flavor and crispness of celery, sliced thinly on a bias, make a fine complement for the briny, fishy funk of shacha sauce. This singular condiment originated with migrant workers from China’s Chaoshan region, who were inspired by Southeast Asian satay sauces and adapted them to local tastes involving dried seafood. It’s also very popular in Taiwan, where people from the region settled and adapted it further. Look for Chinese celery in an Asian market if you can find it—its thin stalks are more intensely flavored than the larger, American celery stalks. Or use any sliced vegetable as a stir-fry pairing instead—bell peppers, broccoli, or just scallions or onion.
- In a bowl, mix the beef with the cornstarch, baking soda, sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes, or up to overnight.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, until the oil is very hot. Add the beef and garlic and spread them out in the oil; let cook for about 10 seconds to slightly sear the meat, then stir and cook another 5–10 seconds, stirring. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside in a bowl; it can be pink or undercooked at this point.
- Add the celery to the same pan and stir for about 10 seconds. Stir in the scallions and cook for another few seconds. Return the beef to the pan, then add the shacha sauce and remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Stir to distribute the sauces evenly. Remove from heat. Taste for seasoning, adding any extra if desired. If desired, add a little splash of water to dilute the saltiness and create a thin sauce. Serve immediately with the rice.
Cathy Erway is the author of the cookbooks The Food of Taiwan and Sheet Pan Chicken, and the memoir The Art of Eating In. She co-wrote Win Son Presents: A Taiwanese American Cookbook. She hosts the podcast Self Evident, exploring Asian American stories. She has won a James Beard Award and IACP award for her writing at TASTE.