Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Classic Chinese American Pepper Steak!

     Old Fashioned Pepper Steak!
     Pepper steak is occasionally still found on Chinese American style restaurant menus.  It is usually offered as a lunch special, because pepper steak only takes about five minutes to prepare from scratch.  Chinese American restaurants offer the best pepper steak entrees, because traditional Chinese cooking techniques are used to make the entrée.  Al dente cooked vegetables are required for good pepper steak!

     Many casual American diner style restaurants had pepper steak on the menu many years ago.  The pepper steak version in those restaurants was not very good most times.  Really poor quality pepper steak can be found at greasy spoon diners and cheap buffet restaurants.  The pepper steak at these kind of restaurants is worth avoiding!  The peppers and vegetables are usually way overcooked and the Pepper Steak is nothing like the original recipe.  Mushy green bell peppers, chewy beef and thickened soy sauce is not exactly a good example of Pepper Steak!  

     The original Pepper Steak recipe was a Chinese American creation that became popular in the post war era late 1940's.  Fresh tomato wedges were added to the beef and peppers with a thicken soy sauce to create a zesty flavor that was irresistible to American customers.  
     Pepper steak is basically a stir fry wok recipe with a sauce that is made in the same pan.  All the ingredients must be prepared ahead of time, before the stir fry begins.  
     Sometimes I list the sauce ingredients separately in recipes.  An experienced Chinese chef will mix all the wet and dry sauce ingredients together with the corn starch to make a flavored slurry that can be added to the entrée all at one time.  This efficient technique is better for fast paced cooking, because the sauce will be more consistent.   

     Classic Chinese American Pepper Steak: 
     This recipe yields 1 large entrée.  
     This pepper steak recipe is as close to the original 1940's original version as it gets!  Be sure to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time, before starting to cook this stir fry style recipe.  
     Thin Soy Sauce is commonly used by Chinese chefs.  Thin Soy Sauce can be plain or flavored.  Thin Soy Sauce is thinner than table soy sauce.  Thin Soy Sauce is not as rich or salty as regular table soy sauce.  Thin Soy Sauce is very forgiving, especially if a little too much is added. 
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of plain white jasmine rice ahead of time and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Select an 8 ounce lean top round steak that is about 3/4" thick at a market.  (Flank steak, skirt steak, tri-tip steak or top sirloin steak can also be used.)
     Cut the top round steak into very thin slices across the grain of the meat at a 45º angle. 
     Place the beef in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar 
     Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Allow the beef to marinate for 5 minutes.
     Step 3:  Mix these ingredients together to make a flavored slurry:
     • 1 tablespoon of corn starch
     • 1 tablespoon cold water
     • 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce
     • 1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar
     • sea salt and white pepper
     • 1 pinch of ground Szechuan Pepper
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Set the slurry aside and stir it just before adding it later in the recipe.
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan or wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  
     Add the thin slices of beef.
     Stir fry till the beef is lightly browned on both sides.
     Step 5:  Add 3 sliced garlic cloves.  (Sliced, not chopped!)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger.
     Stir fry for a few seconds, till the garlic and ginger becomes aromatic.
     Step 6:  Add 1/5 cup of thin sliced onion strips.
     Add 1/5 cup of Chinese style sliced celery.  
     Add 1/2 of a large green bell pepper that is cut into thick strips.
     Add 1/2 of a large red bell pepper that is cut into thick strips.
     Stir fry, till the vegetables are halfway cooked.
     Step 7:  Add 1 cup of beef broth.
     When the liquid begins to boil, add the reserved flavored cornstarch slurry while stirring.  The sauce should thicken to a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Step 8:  Immediately reduce the temperature to medium low heat
     Add 5 thin fresh plum tomato wedges that have most of the seeds removed.
     Simmer the ingredients for about 1 minute, so the tomatoes start to become tender.
     *Check the consistency of the sauce.  If the sauce is too thick, then add a splash of water.
     Toss the sauce and pepper steak ingredients together one last time.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place a ring of the plain white rice around the border of an oval plate.
     Mound the pepper steak in the on the center of the place in the ring of rice.
     No garnish is necessary!

     This is how pepper steak was made a long time ago.  Pepper steak is still a highly respected Chinese American recipe in this modern age, because it tastes great! 

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