This sha cha beef recipe combines seasoned sirloin steak, spicy sha cha sauce, and bold flavors to create a beef dish that explodes with flavor in each and every bite.
If you’ve never had sha cha beef, then you’re in for a treat. If you love a great beef stir fry with bold flavors and tender steak, then you need this recipe in your life.
This Chinese dish is native to the Gansu province of China and is made with tender strips of beef and sha cha sauce. The traditional sauce is made from chilies, a type of Chinese fish, shrimp paste, garlic, and shallots. It sometimes goes by the name Chinese barbecue sauce.
It’s one of our favorites and I suspect will be one of your favorites too. Our homemade sha cha sauce or Chinese bbq sauce will knock your socks off! It’s that tasty!
This recipe uses basic ingredients that you can easily find at your local grocery store. Even the powdered shrimp should be easy to find.
See the recipe card at the end of the post for the full list of ingredients and exact quantities.
A Simple, Tasty Stir-fry That I Definitely Didn’t Make Up
Even I love the stuff and have never used it in a stir-fry. Which is why, when I was brainstorming new recipes to blog, I thought, “how about a sha-cha-based stir-fry?”
As it turns out, I am not the first person to think of this. Surprise surprise.
Sha Cha Beef is indeed a real dish, dating back thousands of years. I’d just never tried it!
My version is pretty simple, featuring beef, scallions, ginger, and two big tablespoons of the good stuff. This Sha Cha Beef stir-fry is super satisfying with steamed white rice and a veggie side, and it only takes minutes to put together.
One of those diasporic regions took the sauce even further. During China’s Civil War, hordes of mainland Chinese followed China’s Nationalist Party to resettle in Taiwan, many of them from Chaoshan. In 1958, a noodle shop owner in Tainan named Liu Lai-qin, originally from Chaoshan, created the Bullhead brand of shacha sauce. It is, according to Katy Hui-wen Hung, coauthor of A Culinary History of Taipei, “sold in a silver tin nearly as iconic as the Taiwan Beer can.”
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The way the sauce’s name is pronounced even sounds similar to “satay” in the Teochew and other Minnan dialects; “sha-cha” is just how it’s pronounced in Mandarin. Therefore, Zheng calls it “satay sauce” in recipes throughout her cookbook. (Though it is derived from a name that was likely coined in Tamil, the Chinese written characters for the sauce roughly translate to “sand tea,” possibly for its grainy texture.) And according to Zheng, the composition of the sauce can vary quite a bit throughout these regions, blurring lines between Southeast Asian–style satay and its Southeast Chinese interpretations; she’s had varieties back in Chaozhou that are just slightly peanutty, or less fishy, or more spicy.
My mother, who grew up in Taiwan, keeps a silver can of Bullhead shacha sauce in her fridge at all times, scooping out a spoonful to build an instant “broth” for noodle soups when mixed with hot water and a splash of soy sauce. I do this as well, and I usually add chile oil or crisp as the finishing drizzle for a bit more heat. Eric Sze, the Taiwanese-born owner of the Taiwanese restaurant 886 in New York City, sells a sauce inspired by both shacha sauce and chile oil—alas, another vast category in itself—with a hint of Sichuan mala spice, a nod to his dad’s family’s roots. He calls it “Sze Daddy” sauce, a New York–born spin on a sauce that has spun a good length around the globe, acquiring more fragrance and nuance each step of the way.
Yet while Indonesian satay sauce is mostly associated with grilled meats, shacha is commonly served with beef-based noodle soups or hot pot, or used as a seasoning in stir-fries, such as a simple sliced beef stir-fry with chunks of scallions or Chinese broccoli in the Chaoshan region and its diaspora. “Even here in [Southern California], some Teochew-Vietnamese or Thai places will be selling their own homemade versions of satay sauce, especially if it’s a more noodle-soup-oriented place, and they take pride in the sauces that go with them,” Zheng says of diasporic Teochew-owned businesses in America.
Step 2: Make the Chinese BBQ Sauce
Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot add the chopped red chile peppers, shallot, garlic, and ginger.
Cook for 5 minutes, then transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend into a paste.
Return the paste to the pan and add the powdered shrimp, rice wine vinegar, flour, and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Whisk and set aside.
Is shacha sauce spicy?
What is sha cha sauce made of?
What is Chinese sha cha?