Grilled beef tenderloin (烤牛腰部嫩肉)

In modern Beijing, people are more likely to eat at a barbecue shop than to grill meat at home. This is mostly because Chinese kitchens aren’t set up for grilling: many people live in tall new apartment towers that don’t have balconies, and indoor grills just aren’t as common in China as they are in, say, Japan. But if you have a grill, either an indoor electric countertop version or an outdoor charcoal grill, it would be a shame not to try this tasty and simple recipe.

Grilled beef tenderloin

Grilled beef tenderloin

This may look similar to the Hong Kong favorite char siu, but while char siu is barbecued pork flavored with a sweet marinade, this is beef tenderloin in a more savory sauce. Since the tenderloin is a very lean cut of meat you’ll want to grill it fast on high heat, to sear it and jeep the juices inside.

A strip of beef tenderloin, before grilling

A strip of beef tenderloin, before marinating

Put the beef in the marinade and let it sit for an hour or two. A lengthy bath in the marinade not only allows the beef to soak up the flavors, but also ensures that the meat has a chance to come to room temperature before grilling.

The beef as in enters the marinade...

The beef as it first enters the marinade …

... and two hours later, after it's taken on the flavor and color of the soy sauce.

… and again two hours later, after it’s taken on the flavor and color of the soy sauce

As for the quantity of meat, you can plan on about a quarter pound of beef per person when you serve this as part of a meal with other dishes.


  1. Marinate the beef in 1/4 cup dark soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper for about two hours, turning several times along the way
  2. Make a dipping sauce from the juice of one lime, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, and 2 tsp sugar


  • Heat your grill until quite hot. Grill the beef (#1) for about 4 minutes, then turn over and grill for another 2-3 minutes. It should stay medium rare, pink and juicy on the inside.
  • Rest the beef on a cutting board for about 5 minutes, then slice it into bite-sized pieces.
  • Serve with the dipping sauce (#2).

VARIATIONS: Indoor grillers will want to go light on sugary ingredients in the marinade to cut down on the smoke, but might add rice wine, lemon juice, hoisin sauce, cayenne pepper, or garlic. Outdoor grillers may want to add any of the above plus 2 Tbsp honey or 2 Tbsp plum sauce. You can also go au naturale and avoid the marinade entirely, to just savor the excellent taste of the beef.

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6 Responses to Grilled beef tenderloin (烤牛腰部嫩肉)

  1. cuminseeds says:

    That looks delicious. I want to run back home and give it a try!

  2. Pan fried, medium rare… Would that work?

    • TastyAsia says:

      Well… Pan-frying would work, but pans generally don’t get as hot as grills, so you risk cooking the meat more slowly. That means the meat won’t sear as well, and some of the tasty juices will evaporate. The specialness of a grill comes from its very hot, dry heat. So for that reason, most people who pan-fry will use a cast-iron skillet that holds heat really well. And get it really, really hot. But by all means, please experiment and have fun.

  3. PepperBento says:

    Oh my! How I want to eat this!! I wonder how much a tenderloin will set me back, definitely looks worth it cooked like this!

    • TastyAsia says:

      Thanks, but please remember that you only need 0.25 lb beef per person, especially since you can serve this alongside a few other dishes. A whole tenderloin would indeed be really expensive, but it would feed many people. Your butcher can give you the quantity that you need — or you could just use cuts of steaks like filet mignon. Enjoy!

  4. Daniel says:

    Great photography these days on the blog. New camera? Your meat looks great!

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