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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stir Fry Beef with Coconut Rice

When you feel under the weather, comfort foods soothe the belly and the soul. I have had a cold now for four weeks (!). Due to allergies, I can't take any medication so I have to wait it out. So I took a couple of days off work, watched Season 2 of Bones and tried to get some rest.

When I don't feel great, I reach for the foods I grew up eating: those comforting meals my mother made that made me feel better when I was feverish, tired & curled up in bed. (It's amazing no matter how old you get, you are always your mother's child.)

One of the foods I long for when I am under the weather is the soul-satisfying stir fry beef. A venerated a Chinese restaurant staple, this dish is so simple & deliciously easy to make it at home. It's very flavourful, so comforting and quick, you'll be diving into a steaming bowl within minutes.

This is not exactly my mother's recipe as the marinade for the beef is enhanced by a touch of malt vinegar. This addition came from one of my favourite cookbooks, Simple Chinese Food, by Kylie Kwong. Her cooking is simple, accessible and wildly delicious. In her fabulous cookbook, she has a recipe for stir-fried beef where she adds a dash of malt vinegar. When I tried adding malt vinegar to my regular stir fry beef, I knew I could never go without it again. The malt vinegar adds a zippy, perky flavour that enhances the umami of this dish.

Coconut rice isn't exactly something I grew up with, but for some reason, I had a craving for it. The rice has is lightly fragranced with a faint hint of coconut flavour. It is a nice match for the stir fry.

Stir Fry Beef with Coconut Rice

1lb beef - sliced thinly (sirloin or flank work well)
1/4c + 1 tbsp light soy sauce, separated
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp malt vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 tbsp water
3 green onions - sliced thinly
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled & finely sliced into matchsticks*
1 large red pepper, cut into bite sized pieces

Coconut Rice
2 c white rice
1 c coconut milk
1 c water
1 tsp salt

optional: 1 tsp sesame seed

1. Marinate beef with soy sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch. Set aside (in your refrigerator) for at least 30 minutes, but ideally 2 hours. Overnight is fine as well.
2. Meanwhile prepare rice by rinsing rice until water is clear. Put rice, coconut milk, water & salt into a rice cooker. Set on. (If you don't have a rice cooker, use a medium sized sauce pan with a well fitted lid. Bring ingredients to a boil without lid on, then cover & reduce to medium-low and simmer for at least 5 minutes. Reduce to low and cook until all the liquid is absorbed about another 5 minutes.)
3. Drain meat from marinade. Reserve marinade liquid.
4. Heat a wok or a large fry pan, add vegetable oil and watch for vegetable oil to shimmer but not smoking. Carefully add meat in batches and allow meat to sizzle and brown - about a minute or two. (Depending on the thickness of your beef.) When you have cooked all of the meat, remove and set aside. Turn down heat to medium-low and add ginger and red pepper to the pan (add a tsp more vegetable oil if the pan is dry.) Stir after about a minute. Toss in green onions. Return the beef to the pan alongside any liquid that may have accumulated. With reserved marinade, add 3 tbsp water, 1 tbsp soy sauce & stir re-incorporate the marinade and add to pan. Turn up the heat slightly.
5. Remove from wok/fry pan when the liquid transforms into a clinging sauce. Serve over coconut rice. Add sesame seeds if using.

*if you find ginger too spicy - try using half of the amount or try ginger powder which is far less "warm"
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