That Asian Food Craving: Part 1

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Deep down, we all love the “chinese food” from that certain place. We crave it, the crisp veggies and rich flavors. Beef with Broccoli, Cashew Chicken, Lo Mein, Mongolian Beef, Orange Chicken… We love the mixes of sweet and spicy, savory and fresh. Why is it we think that it’s only possible to have these dishes from places like these? (your grocery store down the street likely sells a somewhat ok facsimile in the freezer section now) But Making dishes like these at home is really just a matter of practice, they are actually very simple to make and can often be prepped ahead of time and cooked in a very short amount of time, which makes it a healthy and easy meal for those nights that you know your time will be limited for dinner prep. When I know I have one of these nights coming, I often pre-prep for Asian the day before, doing any chopping and cooking any rice that the meal will require a day ahead.

The trickiest thing about cooking Asian food, is that it requires a very hot pan, and the confidence to be ok with a bit of dark brown as you cook. Part of the flavor that these dishes have, most often comes from that little bit of near-char. My Asian Recipe Series is mostly gluten free, You can find most of the ingredients I list in your local grocery store, or online, (although gluten free versions may be a bit more difficult to come by) I will try to list any substitution help I am able to.

Asian Cooking Necessities:

  • Slotted Bamboo Wooden Spoon – these are high heat resistant and are great for scraping the pan bottom and tossing veggies
  • Large Skillet or Wok – Either works, it just has to get pretty darn hot and have plenty of room for the veggies. You don’t want to over crowd the pan or you may not get the pan hot enough to cook properly
  • High Heat Cooking Oil – I prefer peanut oil, as it has a pleasant flavor and is great for high heat cooking. You can use corn oil or any oil that is rated for higher cooking temperatures, just check your oil label. You can use sesame oil, but a flavorful oil like that can be too overwhelming to the palette and overpower the rest of the flavors in your dish.
  • Confidence – This is likely the most important Necessity for cooking Asian food. You are cooking with higher heats and you need to be able to trust yourself about when something is done cooking, overcooked, or undercooked.

First Up: Basic Stir Fry

This recipe is a really great way to practice high heat cooking as it is very forgiving and always tastes great. it can also be made with a lot of various veggies added. It is very simple.

The Marinade:

Most Asian Dishes have a simple marinade that has soy sauce, Rice Wine or Dry Sherry, a bit of sesame oil and then at least one more flavoring ingredient. You can play with these to find combinations that you enjoy.

2 cubes Beef Bouillon, crushed

2 tsp Soy Sauce

2 tsp Oyster Sauce (Make sure you check for Gluten free)

2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

2 tsp Chinese Rice Wine or Dry Sherry (I use Dry Sherry, it’s easy to find)

2 tsp Cornstarch

1/2 tsp ginger powder (if you struggle with heartburn, this can be omitted, but I struggle with heartburn and I can do this amount)

1 tsp Sesame Oil

2 tsp Brown Sugar

1/4-1/2 tsp Sriracha Chili Sauce (to taste, it depends how spicy you want it, can be omitted if you want it very plain)

Dish Ingredients: (These can be swapped out with a variety of things, but if you add too much volume, you will need to make more sauce)

12-16oz  beef tenderloin, flank steak or pork or chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 ½ Tablespoons cooking oil (I use peanut oil because it very good for high-heat cooking)

1 tsp Minced Garlic (about 2 Cloves)

1/2 one small Orange Bell Pepper, sliced thinly

1/2 one small Yellow Bell Pepper, sliced thinly

1-1 1/2 cups Steamed Broccoli, in bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup Carrot slices or Julienne style (these can be lightly steamed or raw, depending upon the texture you prefer)

1 medium Onion, thinly sliced

3 Tbsp Dry Sherry

1 Tbsp Soy Sauce (I use gluten free soy sauce, but you can you tamari, or liquid aminos, just use less if using either of these)

2 tsp Oyster Sauce (You can buy this gluten free and it is a huge boost of flavor, but you can substitute a bit of Beef Bouillon)

1 tsp Freshly ground Black Pepper

Salt to Taste

Preparation:

  1. Marinate the Meat with all the Marinade ingredients, about 15 minutes
  2.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp Cooking Oil to a pre-heated pan and then add the Marinated Meat and cook until it is nearly cooked through, but not completely cooked (It will finish cooking when we add it back into the veggies) Remove from pan and place in a waiting bowl.
  3.  Add Another Tablespoon of Cooking Oil and add the Onions. You want to cook at a high heat so that you get the most flavor possible out of your vegetables.
  4. Add the Bell Peppers and Sauté for 2 minutes, then Add Garlic. (If you were adding zucchini or summer squash, you would add it here)
  5. Add in Dry Sherry, Oyster Sauce, and Soy Sauce and mix well.
  6. Add Pre-Cooked Meat, Broccoli, Carrots and salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the broccoli has absorbed the flavors well.
  7. If desired, add more Soy Sauce and/or Oyster Sauce, and then salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve Over rice and enjoy!

Remember to keep the heat high and don’t worry too much about burning anything, if you feel that you need to add a little more oil, feel free. This comes together very fast once you start cooking, so have everything that you need close at hand.

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