I messaged lil' sis the day she was coming home for spring break to tell her I was making Chinese beef and broccoli stir-fry for dinner.
"Yay!!!" she said. "But I'll be home kinda late. :( Like 11 p.m."
No matter. She'll eat it whenever. I wasn't cooking so that we would have a sit-down dinner. I was cooking one of her favorite dishes because she was coming home.
Beef and broccoli stir-fry is a standard item on Chinese restaurant menus in America. But, it's not even a Chinese dish, or rather, it's a Chinese American invention. That's because broccoli is an Italian vegetable. And if the Chinese did have beef and broccoli, it would involve Chinese broccoli AKA gai lan.
Chinese food is such a part of American culinary culture that there are about 40,000 Chinese restaurants, more than McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Wendy's combined, said Jennifer 8. Lee, author of "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food," at a TED Conference. I highly encourage you to watch Lee's speech on youTube. At the 4:24 mark, she mentioned that beef with broccoli was invented in the 1800s, but didn't become popularized until the 1920s and 1930s.
Since broccoli and beef are two of lil' sis's favorite ingredients, I really don't need to add much else. Just marinate the beef in another of her favorite ingredients -- soy sauce -- and I was done. These days, I've been gravitating more towards kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce) because it's already slightly sweetened and thickened, so it cuts down on added work for me. Black bean sauce, oyster sauce, any of the Chinese black sauces would work too.
Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry
For 2 to 4 servings, you'll need:
1 head of broccoli, sectioned into 2-inch florets and blanched
1/2 lb beef, cut into strips
For the Marinade:
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
For the Sauce:
1/2 cup water
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch sliver of ginger, finely minced
2 tsps sesame seeds
Set a pot of water on the stove to boil the broccoli. Wash broccoli and cut into 2-inch florets or sections. When the water boils, add the broccoli and briefly cook for a few minutes until crisp-tender. Drain the broccoli and add to a bowl filled with cold water and ice cubes to stop the cooking. Set aside.
Wash beef and cut into strips. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp soy sauce. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
In a small bowl, prepare the sauce by adding 1/2 cup water, 1 tblsp soy sauce, 2 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp hoisin sauce, 2 tsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp sesame oil. Stir until mixed and set aside.
Peel and smash 3 cloves garlic. Finely mince a 1-inch sliver of ginger.
Now you're ready for cooking.
In a sauce pan or wok on medium-high heat, drizzle a bit of oil and add the garlic and ginger. Quickly saute the aromatics and then add the beef strips, minus any excess marinade.
When the beef is seared, remove the meat from the wok, leaving the juices in the pan.
Add the sauce to the wok and let simmer for a few minutes to thicken.
Literally a few minutes. The sauce will quickly bubble.
And then thicken.
Add the broccoli and toss until combined.
Add the beef and toss again. Hmm. Looks a little bare.
Add 2 tsps sesame seeds and mix again.
This angle gives a better view of the sauce. Not too much, but just enough.
Serve with rice.
When lil' sis got home, I was in my usual position -- on the sofa, in front of my laptop, reading Wandering Chopsticks, of course. ;) She wrapped her arms around me in a big bear hug and held me really tight.
"Why aren't you hugging me?" she plaintively asked. "Didn't you miss me?"
I was a little surprised is all. She's not one for hugging her old fogey big sister. She didn't like to cuddle as a baby and only crawls into bed with me when she's sick and wants to whine.
Aww. Guess she missed me after all.
Then she handed me a little heart from the Build-A-Bear store.
"Didn't you grab hundreds of those hearts to give out to everyone?" asked the older '88, after spying the heart sitting next to my laptop.
"Shhhhh!!! I only had one!" lil' sis hurriedly reassured me.
A week later, after she had returned to school, lil' sis sent me a text message. "Haha. I was reading old blog entries about me... I love you!!"
And then, "I hate reading ur blog cause I get hungry. :("
Beef and broccoli stir-fry, not only is it American, this dish apparently causes unusual outpourings of sisterly emotion. ;)
Now, let's take a look at the original photo that urged me to re-do the photos and the recipe. The original picture wasn't as bad as some of my early blog posts, but you have to admit that the newer pictures are much better.
I'm submitting this recipe to Regional Recipes, a food blogging event created by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok, in which a different culture and cuisine is explored each month. Please read the Regional Recipe rules to see if you'd like to participate. JS and TS of Eating Club Vancouver are this month's hosts and we're spotlighting American cuisine.
Some of my other American recipes:
Apple Crumble Pie
BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) Sandwich
Brown Sugar/OJ Turkey Brine
Cajun Vietnamese Shrimp Boil
Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) Pot Pie
Cherry Lattice-Crust Pie
Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie with Cilantro Biscuits
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Cream of Tomato Soup
Croutons with Garlic and Seasoning
Doughnut Bread Pudding
Even Easier No-Knead Bread
Fried Green Tomatoes
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Ham, Tomato, and Sprout Sandwich
Homemade Frozen Yogurt
Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bleu/Blue Cheese Dressing
Lemon Pepper Baked Salmon With Broccoli
Macaroni and Cheese
Mashed Potato-Stuffed Potato Skins
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Bars
New England Clam Chowder
No-Knead Bread with Whole Wheat
Okra and Tomatoes
Perfectly "Peachy" Nectarine Pie
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cranberry/Pumpkin Butter/Walnut Filling and Maple Icing
Pumpkin Pie with Chai Spices
Salt Rub and Butter Turkey
Southern Baked Beans
Southern Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Sriracha Buffalo Wings
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 year ago today, Luscious Dumplings, Inc. - San Gabriel redux.
2 years ago today, nectarine flowers, freesia, and primroses blooming in my old garden.