If you’re not familiar with Virginia Sin (@virginiasin__), get ready for your newest obsession. The CEO, founder, and creative director of her namesake Brooklyn-based handmade ceramics and home goods brand breathes joy into everything she creates. Virginia has not only teamed up with Our Place to create the stunning SIN x Our Place Wave Trivet — she’s also sharing memories of her Cantonese-American upbringing, plus tips and tricks to recreate one of her favorite recipes: beef chow fun (or gon chow ngau huo).
How does your heritage/identity/culture influence your home cooking?
A lot of Cantonese cooking is stir-fried. It’s mostly prep time with a short 3 – 5 minute cook time under high, high heat! One of the most important elements in Cantonese cuisine is “wok hei” which refers to the “breath of the wok.” When cooking over blazing flames, it results in a unique smoky aroma mixed with a savory char and caramelized taste. Wok hei has influenced my home cooking because even when I stray outside of cooking dishes in my heritage, I still seek that unique umami flavor.
Does the dish you’re sharing today have a story behind it?
Gon chow ngau huo (beef chow fun) takes me back to my childhood. It’s a staple Cantonese dish and it also happened to be my favorite dish growing up. I would request it every time we went out to Chinese restaurants but also would ask my mom to make her home-cooked version. I couldn’t get enough of it.
How would you describe your relationship to home cooking?
Home cooking is very much ingrained in my family. My maternal grandparents owned a Chinese take-out restaurant called Happy Garden when they first immigrated to the US in the late ’70s. My mom, who is extremely modest, is an incredible home cook. Growing up, she would prepare 3 gourmet meals a day for 20+ years for the family. One could only imagine her knife skills! I was never allowed in the kitchen, but because I’ve always loved eating, she would let me stand next to her and I would watch her intently.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from my everyday surroundings and interactions with people. It’s everywhere. You just have to be open to receiving it.
Do you have any tips, tricks, or advice on what makes a great tablescape?
I love mixing and matching. To me, there’s nothing worse than a matching sweater set, so I like to set the table the way I like to dress. Start with a few grounding pieces then accessorize with small dishes, fun spoons or statement serveware.
What’s special to you about the SIN X Our Place trivet in particular?
The pattern of the Wave Trivet is inspired by one of my favorite foods in my heritage: wide rice noodles! It’s versatile and the perfect vehicle to soak up my favorite flavors.
You’re a guest at a dinner party. What’s the first thing you notice about how a table is set?
I’m that person who sits down then immediately flips over the plate to see who made it. I know... :P My business is home goods, so it’s in my DNA to check where all the pieces are from.
Virginia Sin’s Beef Chow Fun (Gon Chow Ngau Huo in Cantonese)
(For the protein and marinade)
8 oz. flank steak, sliced into 1/8” pieces (for vegetarian substitute, you can use fried bean curd)
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. Shaoxing wine
Pinch of salt
Tiny pinch of sugar
(For the noodles)
12 oz. fresh wide rice noodles
(For everything else)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 scallions, sliced into 3” pieces
6 oz. fresh mung bean sprouts
1” ginger, sliced into 1/4” pieces
2 tbsp. Shaoxing wine
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
2 tbsp. regular soy sauce
Tiny pinch of sugar
Salt and white pepper to taste
1. Combine beef and marinade ingredients. Marinate in the fridge for no less than 1 hour and no more than overnight.
2. Slice the fresh rice noodle sheets into 1-inch wide strips and carefully peel them apart into noodle strands.
3. If noodles are stiff and stuck together, bring a pot of water to boil and blanch noodles for 30 seconds to loosen. Transfer immediately to an ice bath and drain thoroughly. It’s very important to drain thoroughly otherwise the noodles will stick together when you stir-fry them later.
4. Heat your cast iron Always Pan on high until smoking. Then add 1 1/2 tbsp. oil to coat the pan. Make sure the oil is heated up before adding beef. Sear until browned and set aside.
5. Wipe off and add remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. oil to the pan. Add ginger to infuse the oil for about 15 seconds. Then toss in scallions.
6. Spread the noodles evenly in the pan and stir-fry for another 15 seconds. Add the Shaoxing wine around the perimeter of the pan to deglaze.
7. Add sesame oil, both soy sauces, a pinch of sugar and finally the seared beef.
8. Continue to stir-fry, lifting the noodles in an upward motion to coat each strand evenly with sauce. Be deliberate with your movement to minimize noodles from breaking.
9. Turn off heat and mix in the bean sprouts and any additional garnishes you like. (I tend to stray from the classic recipe and add thinly sliced red onions, white sesame seeds, and/or fried shallots for extra texture.)
10. Finally, add salt and white pepper to taste.
11. Sik Fan! (“It’s time to eat!” in Cantonese)