Being somewhat limited in my world-wide knowledge during my youth, I would probably guess the first exposure I ever had toward Chinese cooking would be that of Hop Sing, who cooked for the Cartwrights on the television show “Bonanza?” Or it could possibly have been seeing someone ordering Chinese take-out on one of those 30-minute TV sitcoms from the 1960’s? After that, I would guess maybe when those packages of Ramen noodles were first introduced in our local supermarkets that said on the package “Add to boiling water.”
I could stand to be corrected, but during my youth of the 1960’s, I don’t remember Miami having any Chinese/Oriental type restaurant in town? If we did have one, I was not aware of it. In fact, I don’t even remember when I first noticed one of these type restaurants in town? But being totally honest, I wasn’t really looking for one either. During that time frame, the most tantalizing thing to me about one of these restaurants would be to go and get one of them fortune cookies I had heard about! Imagine the disappointment when I was finally able to experience a fortune cookie — Heck, I don’t even remember eating rice as a youth? I had heard about it though, probably eaten for breakfast, coming out of a box?
No, my worldly cuisine knowledge was quite limited back in those days. Being raised in a blue collar family, with parents that were both brought up rural, our dining experiences were very seldom anything outside of the plain ole country style of cooking, which I’m not saying was a bad deal, because I still eat a lot of those meals I remember from my youth. Things like goulash, fried fish cakes, macaroni and tomatoes, sauerkraut and wieners, beef stew, etc. My first exposure to the outside world cuisine was introduced to me after meeting my “Late Wife.” She was the one that showed me other styles of food such as Chinese, Italian, Mexican, etc.
I remember waking up one evening for dinner back in the 1970’s, as I was working the graveyard shift at BFG and would do my sleeping during the day, and my wife had fixed something new for our dinner. It was something I had never heard of before, but looked absolutely delicious. I asked her what is was, and she stated it was called “stir-fry.” I then asked what was in it, and she told me it had steak, carrots, and broccoli in it. She then told me it was Chinese style cooking. She said she had made a sauce that you mixed with the ingredients and was serving it over chow mein noodles. Well, I was hungry and anything with steak in it had to be good, so I was anxious to give it a try. It was absolutely delicious and I asked for her to make it for me many times afterward. She began doing other stir-fry’s as well as the years passed, but that very first one she made was always my favorite! Sadly, I never got that recipe, but recently I remembered how much I liked it, and decided to make an attempt at it. Although, it turned out very good, it still wasn’t exactly how I remembered hers, but was close enough to satisfy my urge.
Beef, Broccoli, and Carrot Stir Fry
1 lb beef flank steak, cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups fresh small broccoli florets
1 cup sliced carrots
½ to 1 red bell pepper sliced
2 tablespoons water
In medium bowl, mix beef, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In small bowl, mix sauce ingredients with wire whisk until well blended; set aside.
In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat about 1 minute. Add beef mixture, breaking up clumps of beef with wooden spoon; cook 1 minute without stirring. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until beef is browned around edges. Transfer beef mixture to clean bowl.
Empty skillet and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; heat over high heat about 1 minute. Add broccoli, carrots, red bell pepper, cook stirring frequently. Add 2 tablespoons water; cover and cook stirring occasionally, until veggies are crisp-tender.
Return beef mixture to skillet. Mix sauce mixture again with wire whisk to recombine; pour into skillet. Stir to coat mixture with sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and beef and vegetables are done, serve over the canned crispy chow mein noodles.