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Spicy Dry-Fried Beef and Celery

4 Servings

40 minutes

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In Chinese cooking, dry-frying, or gan bian, is a technique in which a protein or vegetable first is browned, then is stir-fried with aromatics and seasonings that cling to the browned surfaces. Dry-fried dishes aren’t saucy like typical stir-fries, but the flavors are intense and concentrated. Beef and celery is a classic dry-fried combination. For this version, we use a tender, meaty strip steak, cut it into matchsticks, and brown it in a hot skillet before introducing the other ingredients. Salty, savory fermented chili-bean paste called toban djan provides loads of umami (chili-garlic sauce is a good alternative) and Sichuan peppercorns bring their unique tongue-tingling spice. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.




Don’t skip the step of salting the celery before cooking. The salt draws out some of the water from the celery, ensuring the slices are a tender-crisp counterpoint to the beef. Also, be sure to use low-sodium soy sauce or the stir-fry may end up overseasoned (toban djan is high in salt). If you have only regular soy sauce, dilute 1 tablespoon with an equal amount of water and use it in place of the low-sodium soy.

40 minutes


  • 6-7

    medium celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal (about 4 cups), plus celery leaves (optional), to serve

  • Kosher salt


  1. 01
    In a colander set over a bowl or sink, toss the sliced celery with ¼ teaspoon salt; let stand for about 10 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze the celery to remove excess moisture; set aside.

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