Iron Wok Jan's Green Pepper Beef
One of the more interesting manga on the market today is ComicsOne's Iron Wok Jan. It's about a teenage prodigy who's an arrogant genius when it comes to cooking. Volume 6 is noteworthy because it features a recipe that looks easy to make in North America.
In the book, Jan (the aforementioned teenage prodigy) is asked by his friend Takao to teach the latter how to cook (Takao's been working at Jan's restaurant for over a year, but still hasn't mastered the basics). Jan agrees and then explains the 3 basic principles of Chinese cooking to Takao while he shows him how to make a homespun dish called "green pepper beef."
A note of caution: because the author Shinji Saijyo is not a professional cook, you do need to take everything he writes with a grain of salt. It's like the manga authors who write about martial arts techniques who aren't really black belts, but invent a move because it looks cool on the page.
Anyway, back to the lesson: Jan's three principles are lian guo (heating and preparing a wok), pao you (cooking in oil), and wan xian (seasoning).
Lian guo refers to heating the wok, putting oil in to coat the wok, disposing of that oil (to get rid of any food residue from previous use), and then adding more oil to the heated wok. (Apparently the Japanese are not fond of the concept of "wok hey.")
For pao you, Jan has Takao toss in some marinated meat and vegetables, in what looks to be about a cup of oil in the wok, heated to medium. I found this interesting because the ingredients for the marinade are easy to get in the West: salt, pepper, water, baking soda, egg and cornstarch.
It's the same case with the seasoning mixture, wan xian. The ingredients listed are sake (rice wine), soy sauce, pepper, sugar, soup (I'm guessing beef broth), scallions (green onions) and cornstarch.
Well, the illustrations looked simple enough, so I worked up the nerve to try it. I skipped the lian guo part, opting for my Urban Peasant method of heating the wok dry before putting oil in. As it turns out, this version isn't really a stir-fry, but it worked out into the consistency of a thick stew with the vegetables still crunchy. You can ladle this over steamed rice.
Here's how it works out, for 4 to 5 servings:
Green Pepper Beef
1 lb. (500 g) flank steak, cut into pieces the size of dominoes
6 dried Chinese mushrooms
2 green bell peppers
1 cooking onion (optional)
1/2 cup peanut or corn oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup beef broth
1 green onion, minced
dash mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
dash of light soy sauce
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1. Combine the marinade ingredients together and marinate the beef for a minimum of 20 minutes in the refrigerator. At the same time, soak the mushrooms in boiling water.
2. While the mushrooms and beef are soaking, cut the green peppers and onions into bite-sized pieces; julienned slices would be ideal. Also, make the seasoning mixture by combining the ingredients together in a separate container (a large measuring cup will work).
3. Heat the wok, dry, over medium heat. While the wok is heating, take out the soaked mushrooms, cut off and discard the stems and cut into matchstick slices.
4. Pour in 1/2 cup of oil and swirl it around the wok.When the wok oil is heated (if you stick a chopstick in the oil, bubbles will form), put in the mushrooms and stir them around for a few seconds, then put the beef (including marinade) in. Brown the beef in the oil, stirring with a spatula to make sure that the pieces don't clump together.
5. When you're satisfied that the meat is cooked, put the remaining vegetables in. Mix the meat and vegetables together, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.
6. Pour in the seasoning, mixing everything together. Cover and let simmer for about 3 more minutes, then give the dish a final stir and transfer to a large plate. Serve over steamed rice.