Until the first letter arrived addressed to Mrs. Woo, I had no idea I was Asian. That first mailing I received from the Chinese American culture Alliance had me thinking, “Gosh this is poorly targeted fund-raising material.”
I turned over the letter to look at the address — perhaps it was misdelivered and was meant for the Korean family three doors down? But it was unmistakably me, Mrs. Woo, or almost me but for a letter or two.
Then there was another mailing, this time from an Asian American theater project. Then another. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or baffled or ethnically conflicted. True, I love Chinese food for its inventiveness, efficiency and refinement. But China as a nation — who can figure it out? The culture is inscrutable. The people seem impenetrable. I don’t get them; I just eat the food.
A few months later, a letter arrived from a non-Chinese charity whose mailings I’ve received for years. And there was Mrs. Woo again. Those capitalist running dogs had sold the mailing list to a specialty mailer! A harried typist somewhere in between had dropped letters from my name.
It was sort of anti-climactic end and I was sad to miss out on my future as an ethnic minority. I was kind of getting into it, you know, planning on what to serve for Chinese New Year and generally trying to think more deeply. For as Chuang-tze says, a good chef knows where to place the blade so that it appears as work without effort but is really work with insight.
Chinese New Year is here, time for duck and noodles. Here’s my duck friend again. I can’t help it — I just love him!The duck and noodles mean prosperity and long life. But I just got a great recipe for orange beef, possibly my favorite beef dish of all, and right up there with the great Chinese inventions.
Orange Beef Ken Hom
- 1 pound lean beef fillet or sirloin steak
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Slice the beef, then stack the slices and shred them. Combine it with the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 2 large fresh red chiles, deseeded and minced
- 2 tablespoons minced dried orange peel (or grated fresh peel)
- 2 tablespoons chicken broth (I always need at least twice as much)
- 2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon chili bean paste
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon roasted ground Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil (or 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds)
Heat a wok or big skillet until hot then add the oil. When it begins to smoke add the beef and brown for 1 minute, then stir-fry for another minute. Drain, leaving 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet. Reheat the wok, then stir-fry the garlic and ginger for a few seconds. Add the chiles and orange peel and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the stock, wine, bean paste, soy sauce, peppercorns, sugar and sesame oil and cook for 30 seconds. Return the meat to the wok and heat briefly. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with green onions. Makes 4 servings.