Kid's plate for stir fry night
My family hails from Taiwan, and growing up, I was lucky enough to have my grandma (we called her “Ah-Ma”) living with my family. Every night, she made a table full of authentic Taiwanese dishes. I wish I could say that I’m an excellent cook of Taiwanese and Chinese food as well, but unfortunately, I learned very few recipes from her. For one thing, like most great cooks, Ah-Ma didn’t use recipes often. For another, in high school, I was too absorbed by my insane amounts of homework and extracurriculars to linger much in the kitchen, and then I went to college 2,200 miles away from home. Sadly, shortly after I set up shop in my own apartment, Ah-Ma fell ill. I did pick up some basics from her and my mom, but my Chinese cooking skills are nothing compared to my (for lack of a better word) Western cooking prowess. Ask me to whip up an entire Thanksgiving dinner, and I’ll lay out a feast for a king, with everything made from scratch. Ask me to prepare a simple Chinese meal, and I panic. I guess, when it comes to Chinese food, it’s so easy for me to rely on my mom to make it, or to call our favorite restaurant (where, by the way, nothing we order is on the menu!), that I’ve never bothered to learn much. Plus, I’ve found the lack of recipes daunting. Sure, there are plenty of recipes out there, but when I make them, they don’t taste like the stuff my mom makes, or what I remember Ah-Ma cooking, and then I’m not interested. The point is, now that the boys are getting older, I want to start doing more Chinese home cooking.
Luckily, my mom lives fewer than three miles away from me, so I have an expert nearby. I’m also fortunate enough to have a friend who is makes amazing Chinese dishes and generously shares her original recipes with me. Recently, I made two of her recipes: pork strips stir fried with bell peppers, and sauteed cucumbers with minced garlic and scrambled egg. Not only were both dishes easy, but the dinner was a hit with everyone (including the kids who live two doors down. They were playing on the sidewalk outside and came knocking at my back door to ask if they could have some of whatever I was cooking, since it smelled so good!). So, thank you, Wa! The recipes below serve two adults and two kids, with enough left for one adult lunch portion.
Pork Strips Stir Fried with Bell Peppers
Pork strips in marinade - there won't be a lot of liquid
A) For the meat and marinade
-One boneless pork loin chop, cut into thin strips* (you can use also use beef)
-2 tablespoons of soy sauce
-2 teaspoons of corn starch
-2 tablespoons of rice wine
-1 teaspoon of white pepper
-Pinch of salt
* I like to buy the giant package of thick boneless pork loin chops at Costco. When I get home, I put two chops each into sandwich-sized Ziploc bags, then I put all the sandwich bags into a big gallon-size freezer bag. That way, I can defrost just one or two sandwich bags for meals. The chops sold at Costco are so big that for this recipe, you only need one chop.
-2 bell peppers, sliced into strips
-2 to 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee Premium)
C) 1 tablespoon of corn starch, mixed with 3-4 tablespoons of COLD water. Mix well (be sure to mix again before using, as the corn starch may have settled).
Marinated pork strips stir-fried with bell peppers
1. Combine all of the ingredients from group A) and set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Heat a little oil over medium-high heat, then stir fry the meat until it’s about 90% done (when it’s no longer pink but still very soft). While the meat is cooking, add one teaspoon of soy sauce to the pan and toss to combine.
3. Add the bell peppers from group B) to the meat, toss a few times. Do not overcook the peppers; otherwise, they will be soggy (yuck!). Just a minute or two will do, especially if you sliced the peppers into thin strips.
4. Add the oyster sauce. If the meat and bell peppers look dry, add a small amount of hot water to the pan (I like to keep some hot water in my electric kettle on standby while cooking Asian dishes). Let cook for a minute.
5. Add in the corn starch and water mixture, then quickly stir the pan contents to thicken the sauce and avoid lumps. You may not need to add all of the corn starch water. I only used half. Turn off the heat immediately after you’ve stirred the sauce.
Sauteed Cucumbers with Minced Garlic and Scrambled Egg
We usually think of cucumber as a salad topping or something to be pickled and eaten cold, but it’s also great in a hot dish. Sauteing really brings out the flavor in a cucumber, and if you don’t overcook it, it still retains a bit of its crunch.
-2 or 3 cucumbers, or one long English cucumber, sliced thinly on the diagonal. I like to take off alternating strips of the skin with a vegetable peeler, but you don’t have to.
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-Pinch of salt
Sauteed cucumbers with scrambled eggs and minced garlic
1. Heat a bit of oil in a pan. While the oil is heating, crack the eggs into a bowl, add 3 tablespoons of water, then beat to combine.
2. Dump the egg and water mixture into the heated pan and scramble the eggs. Don’t overscramble them; when the eggs are soft and fluffy, remove from heat and transfer them to a separate bowl or plate.
3. Heat a tiny bit more oil in the pan (I use the same one that I used to cook the eggs) and saute the minced garlic just until fragrant (but make sure the garlic doesn’t burn).
4. Add the cucumber slices to the pan. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 2 or 3 minutes. Once the cucumber reaches the desired level of crunchiness, quickly add the scrambled eggs to the pan, sprinkle in a dash of salt, and toss to combine. Turn off the heat immediately.
Serve both dishes with rice. I used this rice mold
to make the rice for for the kids’ plates into cute shapes. The mold is easy to use and clean, and it also comes in handy for making onigiri (rice balls) for Jack’s lunches.
Pork and bell pepper stir fry and sauteed cucumbers with scrambled egg, served with rice