Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pepper Steak

Well, it's been a while since I've written. That's because the nasty flu bug has come down upon our home. Most of the family members, including the dog, have been sick. It's hard to write about food, when you can't keep it down, and you're cleaning up after every one around you who can't keep it down.

Thankfully that is over.

After getting past all of that I started thinking about what has inspired me to love cooking so much.(Obviously my appetite was returning) I really didn't consider myself much of a cook, or interested in cooking as a kid. Then I had a flashback of Chun King Pepper steak.

Why did this come to me? Well, I was craving beef after being drained by the flu. I probably needed vitamin B. I happened to have some carne asada meat in my fridge and thought that a stir fry would taste better than Mexican food right now. All of a sudden, pepper steak popped into my head. Then I remembered how much I loved pepper steak as a kid, and then it came to me. That was one of the first dishes I ever cooked, and I cooked it for the family. It was just meat, and a packet of Chun King spices and bell pepper if I remember correctly. It tasted good and I made it, all by myself. My parents ate it! Mom didn't even criticize my cooking. I think that was where it started for me. I found out I could make something yummy and others would eat it and enjoy it.

So I made my adult version of pepper steak for dinner. Actually it was tomato beef enhanced. I have a wonderful Chinese cookbook called The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, by Grace Young. Many of the recipes are complicated and difficult to make because I can't find the ingredients where I live, but I discovered the tomato beef recipe. A very simple and delicious recipe. I of course messed with it and added my own things, bell peppers being the main addition, since I felt the need to relive the "pepper" steak meal I had made as a kid. The main difference from my childhood dish was the salt. Far less salty then the Chun King version. But it was beautifuly simple and so soothing to eat. The sauce was a subtle reminder of my pepper steak dish from 30 years ago, but so much better. Less salty, smoother and simple. The bell peppers were a good addition. The only thing missing were the crunchy egg noodles on top. That would have really taken me back to my child hood meal.
So, now that I'm feeling better, and I have recalled my first official cooking experience, I am excited to be planning a trip to Oakland's Chinatown. We're having a little family vacation, and on the way home we're stopping to visit a good friend who hopes to take us to Oakland's Chinatown. I am so excited. I'm pulling out my Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen cookbook, and I'm making a list of all of the ingredients I can't get here, and I hope to get as many of those ingredients as I can while we're there. My other big hope is to visit a truly authentic Chinese restaurant. A place that serves the true Chinese food that they would eat in China. Not the over salted, sweet and sour, Americanized stuff we usually get. I'm talking the real thing. The scary stuff, the suckling pig, the Shark fin soup (yes I know that's not eco groovy), the roast duck, jelly fish and octopus. You can't find any of that in a Chinese Restaurant where I live.
This is the place I hope to dine at:

And they serve this:

Yummy! Suckling Pig and Dim Sum! I can't wait!!!!!

So, somehow the flu has taken me to my original cooking experience, which was Chinese influenced, all the way to planning a trip to enjoy real Chinese food. I've always loved Chinese food. My mom use to tell me she thought I must be part Chinese the way I loved it. Now, to have the opportunity to try "real" Chinese food is so incredible! I can't wait! I'll be letting you know how it goes.

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