I never had a chance. My parents were addicted by the time I was born, and by the time I came of age, I was sitting next to them learning the ropes. I am, of course, talking about our love of Chinese food.
Some of my earliest and fondest memories involved our family outings to one of the few Chinese restaurants dotted around the Jackson metro area more than 20 years ago. The name completely escapes me now, but the experience is one I will never forget.
Bright red dragons with gaping smiles warmly met us at the door, and jade-adorned trinkets hung from the ceiling. While we waited for our food to arrive, we entertained ourselves with the Chinese Zodiac placemats and admired the rich décor. Wait staff soon brought large family-style serving platters, overflowing with steaming delicacies, to our table. We dove right in, not leaving much to take home, and finished it all with a little folded piece of Chinese wisdom baked into a cookie.
Even though the restaurant is now long gone, I recreate the same feeling anytime I have my family over for supper. A short shopping list and less than an hour in the kitchen is all it takes to relive those great memories. But this time, the only dragons we have to worry about are my dogs waiting patiently under the table.
Egg Drop Soup
1 carton reduced-sodium chicken broth (about 14 ounces)
2 green onions
Salt or reduced-sodium soy sauce to taste
Empty the entire carton of chicken broth into a medium saucepan and start boiling over high heat. In a small cup, break the egg and lightly scramble. Thinly slice the green onion diagonally. When the broth starts to lightly boil, slowly drizzle-in the scrambled egg in thin ribbons with a stirring motion into the broth. Egg should curdle as soon as it hits the hot liquid. Remove from heat. Splash with sesame oil and salt or soy sauce. Garnish with green onions. Makes two to four servings.
Beef and Broccoli
1 sirloin steak, not more than 1-inch thick
1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli florets
1/2 of one yellow onion, thinly sliced in wedges
2 tablespoons each canola oil and reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon each sesame oil and stir-fry sauce
1 capful of rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 inch of ginger root, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Flour for dusting
Cook broccoli according to package directions and drain.
Lay the steak on a cutting board. Taking a filet knife in one hand and pressing down on the steak with the other, cut through the width of the steak, running the knife parallel to the cutting board. Separate the pieces and trim any visible fat or sinew. Take a section of the meat and gently pound with a meat mallet until thin and slice into strips. Lightly toss with flour in a bowl and set aside.
Combine soy sauce, stir-fry sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch and sesame oil in bowl and set aside.
Heat the canola oil over high heat in a wok or non-stick deep-set skillet until it simmers.
Stir fry garlic and ginger in heated oil for about 30 seconds. Add meat to oil and stir-fry until browned, about five minutes. Add onion and stir-fry until just translucent, about four to five minutes. Add broccoli and stir together, cooking just long enough to re-heat the broccoli. Stir sauce again and pour over meat mixture. Stir-fry for another three or four minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Serve immediately over rice. Serves two to four.
1 package frozen white rice with mixed vegetables (corn, peas and carrots)
2 green onions
Reduced-sodium soy sauce
Cook rice according to package directions and drain.
Lightly scramble the egg in a small bowl. Thinly slice green onion and set aside.
Heat a non-stick wok or non-stick deep-set skillet over high heat. Pour the egg into the skillet, swirling the pan around to spread the egg mixture. With a spatula, start scraping the bottom of the skillet until the egg starts firming and flaking. When the egg is completely cooked, stir in rice and green onions.
Starting with the soy sauce, splash over the top of the rice while continuously stirring until it turns golden brown, adding more or less to taste. Top off rice with splashes of sesame oil and stir one more time before serving. Makes two servings.
*Note: If turning this into a dish of a meat plus fried rice (like chicken fried rice), pan-fry thin strips and/or small chunks of meat in the skillet before cooking the egg. Remove meat, wipe inside of skillet with paper towel, repeat steps four through seven, add meat again, then flavor with soy sauce and sesame oil.