Beef Chow Mein

Beef Chow Mein

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…

Serves 3-4

  • 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.

Beef Chow Mein

Stir fry for a couple of minutes on a high, high heat. Pour in the Oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Serve it up! Phew

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Singapore Style Noodles

South Asia meets East Asia in one of my favourite stir fry dishes. Rice noodles are cooked with curry spices and chilli for a kick.

Apparently, this dish originates out of Hong Kong and isn’t entirely accurate as Singapore has many noodle dishes and in any case is unknown in the country. I love it though and providing you don’t go mad with the oil, is healthier than its flavour suggests.

Serves 2. Prep and cooking time 15 minutes (Dan).

Ingredients:

  • 150g Vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, finely sliced
  • 50g lean cooked ham cut into thin batons
  • 100g prawns
  • 1 small (or half a larger) red pepper & green pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 small onion finely sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp curry power
  • 1 red chill, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • Soy sauce

Get your favourite knife out and prepare all the ingredients beforehand. You’ll need to do this as it cooks quickly!

Start by cooking the noodles as instructed. Once done, drain in a sieve and cool under a running tap until cold. Drain thoroughly and add a little oil (so they won’t stick)

Add the oil to the wok and heat until smoking. Put in the ham and brown for a minute followed by the onions, peppers, garlic, chilli and ginger for a minute more, with a good splash of soy sauce.

Add the chicken and prawns and stir until cooked, keeping the heat on.

Once done, sprinkle over the curry powder and the oyster sauce. Stir in the noodles and continue for a minute or two more to heat through.

Serve it up with the chopped spring onions on top. Taste and add a little more soy sauce if necessary.

Great with a Tiger Beer!

Singapore Style Noodles