Anna Chen, chef at the Bloordale Village restaurant Alma, translates her Hakka-Chinese upbringing into gorgeous, spice-rich small plates, many of which are cooked over charcoal. Chen is known for her labour-intensive cooking—she makes literally everything, including her noodles and sauces, from scratch—but when it comes to cooking at home, she allows herself a few shortcuts.
When she’s in the mood for steak, she likes to apply an umami-packed marinade and pair the meat with some grilled corn tossed with homemade shrimp-infused butter. She thinks of it as her go-to, lo-fi summer surf and turf option. “It has such a great balance of flavours and textures,” says Chen. “So many marinades kind of fall off the meat—this is the opposite. The tapioca helps the sauce cling to the steak.”
For the marinated steaks
2 7-oz. steaks, preferably bavette or sirloin
2 tbsp canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fermented black beans
4 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp Lao Gan Ma black bean chili sauce
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp tapioca starch
Make ahead: marinate the steaks the night before cooking. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp canola oil over medium heat. Sauté minced garlic and fermented black beans together for three minutes. Let cool, then combine in a bowl with remaining marinade ingredients, and place in a Ziploc bag with the meat. Refrigerate overnight.
For the shrimp-buttered corn
2 cobs of corn, in the husk
1/4 cup dried shrimp
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp pimenton powder
1/4 cup cilantro, picked
Make ahead: the shrimp butter can be made up to four days in advance. Roast coriander seeds in a pan over medium-low heat for one to two minutes, shaking the pan constantly. Turn heat to low and add butter and pimenton powder. Let the butter melt. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Finely chop the dried shrimp. Reheat the butter, strain the coriander seeds and add chopped dried shrimp. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
1. Remove steaks from fridge about 15 minutes before cooking so they start coming up to room temperature. With a basting brush, remove excess marinade.
2. Preheat gas grill to 475°F. If cooking over charcoal, get the coals to a glowing-red ember stage.
3. Place the corn on the grill for 15 minutes, turning every five minutes.
4. While the corn cooks, throw on the steaks and cook for two minutes per side. Then flip back to the original side, making sure to turn the steak 90° to form cross-hatched grill marks. Flip once more, so both sides are evenly marked, about 8 minutes total for medium-rare.
5. Remove the steaks, brush with 1 tbsp canola oil, and let sit for 6 minutes. Remove the corn. 6. Once the corn cools, remove husk and use
a paring knife to cut the kernels from the cob. 7. In a bowl, combine the corn kernels, shrimp-butter and cilantro. Mix well.
8. Just before serving, warm the steaks on the grill for 30 seconds. Slice the steaks against the grain. Serve with the shrimp-buttered corn.