Lately, Orem has found itself in the midst of a week-long thunder storm. One night, the storm got so loud and the lightening got so near, I confess I fell asleep to visions of our apartment burning down. In addition to this electrical storm, it felt like we were living inside a waterfall. It rained sheets. I think it was this sudden down-pour that got me craving Chinese food.
Let me explain, in Victoria, we ate authentic Chinese food all the time. It also rained all the time. So there you go. I decided to attempt Sweet and Sour Pork. The last recipe I used for sweet and sour chicken was very disappointing. It wasn’t really sweet, it wasn’t really sour, and it wasn’t red. It was a letdown. This recipe however, from a cookbook I got second hand for fifty cents, is deliciously sweet, sour and red. It was a success.
- 1 lb pork tenderloin (cut into 1 inch pieces)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp five-flavor spice (optional, this gave the meat a kind of cinnamon-flavor)
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- Oil for deep frying
- 3 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 med onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 green bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces (you can use red peppers too, I just don’t like them!)
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 5 tbsp ketchup
- 5 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water
- 3 slices pineapple, cut into 1 inch pieces
Put the pork in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and pat dry. Mix the egg yolk, salt, soy sauce and five-flavor spice. Marinate the meat in this mixture for at least 15 minutes. Coat the pork in cornstarch. Heat oil to med-high in a skillet. Deep fry pork until light brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. Heat 3 tbsp oil and stir-fry garlic, onion, and green peppers, on high heat for a few minutes. Add sugar, ketchup and vinegar. When just boiling, add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Add pork and pineapple. Stir. Serve with white rice.
A few years ago, I spent a year and a half in Southern California serving a mission for my Church. I spend that time with the Hispanic population in the area, and came to love their culinary traditions (well, some of them).
I could never quite fall in love with Menudo (a traditional soup made from cow stomach) or anything that involved tongue – but this sweet rice and milk dessert gained a favourable place on my palate. I love the thick, hearty porridge-like consistency and the way the raisins soften as though they are slowly transforming back into grapes.
Rice is such a huge staple in Latin American cooking, but that doesn’t make it easy for us gringos to get right. Growing up, I remember joking about the fact that Mum’s rice was usually soupy. And perhaps to counteract that, my first endeavors to make rice resulted in hard, crunchy grains that my husband and I both pretended were fluffy and, well, cooked… Arroz con Leche scared me for a long time. My food cravings eventually overcame my food fears, and, I’m happy to report it turned out well!
Arroz Con Leche (rice with milk)
– 1/2 cup rice (short-medium grain)
– 4 cups milk
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 raisins
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 tbsp butter
– ground cinnamon to garnish
In a saucepan, combine rice, milk and cinnamon stick. Heat on medium-high just until milk starts to boil. Lower heat to low and let mixture simmer, stirring often (scraping sides and bottom of pot) for 45 min. Add the sugar and the raisins and continue cooking on low for another 15 min. Stir in the vanilla and the butter and cook another 5 min. Garnish with ground cinnamon. Serve hot or cold.
I like to eat some when it’s hot, refrigerate the rest and eat it cold the next morning for breakfast. Sabe muy rico!
I grew up on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. One of the things I miss most about my homeland is the ethnicity and multiculturalism that abound therein. Downtown Victoria houses a small Chinatown. There are lions guarding the entrance and an ornate red gate. It’s a marvelous sensation when you walk down the normal city streets and turn to enter the vibrant and always crowded Chinatown.
Growing up, we would often head to Don Mee’s Dim Sum (Chinese Brunch) and sit there for hours as tiny dishes stacked on carts made the rounds of the restaurant. While the authentic Chinese meal involved things I would never touch in a million years (especially during my stunt as a vegetarian), it was a special time for my family. You have to wait for the carts to bring you what you want instead of ordering it. You have to wait. Waiting what felt like hours for the delicious honey buns, I learned to equate eating with a much greater purpose. Eating became a chance to spend time with those I love.
Sometimes here, cooking for my husband, who tends to devour his meal in 2 minutes flat, I forget the truths I learned on a small, living street in Chinatown. I forget that cooking and eating are about so much more than food.
While yesterday’s dinner, Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry, really isn’t something they serve at Don Mee’s, it still had an authentic and fresh air about it that superseded any of the Panda Express-like Chinese food that is easy to find in Orem. It took me back to that red and green and yellow street with dragons and small boutiques and street markets. It took me back to a place where food equals family and friends and important moments with them.
Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry (sorry, no pictures… but I assure you it’s both beautiful and delicious)
(adapted from Better Homes and Garden)
- 16 ounces sirloin steak cut into thin strips (cut along the bias for tender pieces)
- 1 large carrot
- 1 bell pepper (I like green)
- 1 can cut baby corn
For the sauce:
- 3 Tbsp orange juice
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/8 – 1/4 red pepper flakes
In a large skillet or a wok, heat oil to medium-high heat. Add carrot and cook for 2 minutes. Add pepper and corn. Cook another 1-2 minutes, or until the veggies are tender-crisp. Set aside. Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the sauce. Add beef to the skillet. Heat until it is mostly cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the sauce to the middle of the skillet and heat, stirring until the sauce thickens. When the meat is cooked through and the sauce is thick, add the veggies back to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes until all the flavours meld. Serve over steamed rice.