The thing about Chinese food is that, in the UK at least, it’s ubiquitous. Go to any small town or large village in the UK and there will be a Chinese takeaway, or restaurant. Or restaurant with takeout. You get the picture.
It’s popular then, but yet outside the swankier districts of the major cities, it’s fair to say the food never reaches the status of ‘gourmet’. I know a lot of you will have examples where I’m absolutely wrong, but I know of up-market restaurants doing French, Italian, Thai, Indian, Japanese and British food, but none doing Chinese.
The thing is that Chinese food uses some of the planet’s tastiest ingredients. Amazing dim sum, peking duck, char sui pork, stir fired noodles. Need I go on. So what gives?
It’s fair to say that most Chinese takeaways vary widly, but the same suspiciously vividly coloured sweet and sour sauces remain a constant and the ingredients are rarely, and I’m sticking my neck out here, high quality. It’s why I don’t really go to them.
And so, armed with my Ken Hom e-book, I’ve been setting out to try and make the Chinese food I know and love without the luminosity, MSG and hydrogenated fat.
First on my list, a simple Beef Chow Mein. I used some left over rare beef from a Sunday lunch (which I will be posting in a St. George’s Day special) but other than that the ingredients were cheap and beautifully quick to cook.
The beef is important here as cheap cuts will turn to rubber – this was from a well-aged piece of sirloin. But most recipes call for fillet. It seems sacrilege to use such a quality (and expensive) piece of meat this way, but at least you don’t need much! I dipped it in cornflour before cooking to get a nice crispness.
Prepare all the ingredients first, it’s essential otherwise you lose it halfway through. This was on the plate in 6 minutes tops once the wok is going, so you snooze – you lose in this case…
- 200g medium egg noodles
- 3 tbsp oil – seems a lot but worth it
- 150g sliced beef – must be a decent cut, seasoned, oiled and dusted in cornflour
- 2 handfuls of beansprouts
- 1 small onion thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, finely diced
- 1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp Oyster sauce – a good one, it’s worth it
- 1 splash & 2 tsp Soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine or sherry. I used sherry
- Pinch of white pepper
- 1 tsp Sesame oil
Prep all the ingredients. Cook the noodles as instructed until just done and not too soft. Rinse under a cold tap to cool and drain well.
Heat a wok with the oil until screaming hot and add the cornflour coated beef. Stand well back then get in there and stir! Add a splash of soy to colour the beef.
Add the onion and garlic and stir until coloured then the rest of the soy and rice wine/sherry. Evaporate off the liquid a bit then add green peppers, beansprouts and noodles.
Stir fry for a couple of minutes on a high, high heat. Pour in the Oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Serve it up! Phew
A lovely dish when you cook it at home. Awful, usually, when you get it in the tin box.
Oh I don’t know – it depends on the amount of booze consumed before you peel off that cardboard lid…
You mean that sweaty cardboard/tinfoil lid with the grease working it’s way between the layers of paper? Plenty of pints needed…
Booze certainly accounts for the existence of doner meat, which I’ve also made at home. Even though it was made with all good ingredients, it felt so wrong….
Your home made version is way more appealing than the standard gloopy take away dish, just the kind of great fast food I need just now. This dish always reminds me of the late great Warren Zevon as he refers to it in a line in the song Werewolves of London!
PS apologies but tonight I noticed I somehow managed to unfollow you, so just followed you again, not sure how, probably by accident on my phone, it was not deliberate, also not the first time I have managed to do this to a fellow blogger I respect!
Just Googled that song reference – I see why now! It is the ‘gloop factor’ that makes it unappealing isn’t it!
I did think it was odd that you’d started following me when it popped up last night, I thought it must be something like that! I had a spell of sending random friend requests out on Facebook thanks to the tiny screen on my old Blackberry 😉
Excellent – there does seem to be a new wave of Chinese restaurants in London, serving food that’s not like the old high street style. Hopefully China’s increasing importance on the world stage will bring more interest in real Chinese food 🙂
Sounds great! Hopefully it’ll be a bit more authentic then. Takes a while to filter up to this end of the country but let’s hope!