Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chinese food

One of the first (and really the only) sort-of-international restaurants I remember eating at WIWAK (When I Was a Kid--there, I just made up my own Internet abbreviation) was George's Chinese Restaurant. George was probably the most authentic Chinese thing about the place...it was pretty standard Cantonese-for-Canadian-tastes cuisine. Very good food, but not scary.

When I started university, I had a Chinese-Canadian roommate whose parents ran a restaurant. She told me that it was also a to-Canadian-tastes restaurant, and that when her parents wanted to eat real Chinese food, they closed the restaurant and headed to Toronto. Since we were studying in Toronto, she offered to take a couple of us to Chinatown for something a little more adventurous than soo guy almond.

So we were introduced to congee, and rice noodles fried with meat, and the little bowls filled with rice where you take some of what's on the table and add it to your bowl. And chopsticks, of course. And tilting the lid on your teapot to signal that you wanted more. I went back to that restaurant a few times while I lived in Toronto, and also checked out some other interesting places. One restaurant I remember featured the cooking of some Chinese province that specialized in spicy (not Szechuan). Not realizing just how hot that chili-spiked dish was already, I added some of the bowl of sauce on the table...it wasn't plum sauce! But I ate it anyway.

This recipe is a lot tamer than that. I think it's kind of semi-authentic Chinese (meaning it uses hoisin sauce instead of ketchup). We've made it a couple of times and it's very tasty.

Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry

1 sweet red or green pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef (we have also used leftover roast beef)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. minced gingerroot (the kind you have to chop up)
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
3 cups diagonally halved trimmed green beans
1/2 cup beef stock (I used no-MSG bouillon powder)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Rice or noodles for serving

Get everything ready to go before you cook. Seed, core and cut the pepper into thin strips. Mix up the beef stock, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and cornstarch. Chop up the beans, garlic and ginger.

Ready? In wok or large skillet, stir-fry the beef over high heat until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove the beef and set aside. (If you're using leftover meat, cut it into thin strips and add it later with the vegetables.)

Drain fat from the wok; add oil. Stir-fry garlic, ginger, salt and pepper over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add green beans, red pepper and 2 tbsp. water; cover and steam until beans and pepper are tender-crisp, 3 minutes.

Return beef to wok. Stir up the hoisin mixture again and stir into pan. Bring to boil; boil, stirring, until sauce is thickened and glossy, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with green onions or pass them at the table.

(Source: Canadian Living Magazine, March 2005)

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