Food has always held a sense of nostalgia for me. Most of the stuff that I really enjoy cooking has a tie to something in my past. Whether it is a dish that I loved forever, a crap meal I had once that I wanted to be great, or even hearing a story about something cool that I wanted to try, I am heavily influenced by events past. I am sure that I have said this before but I feel as though it bears repeating. So this little post, which will more than likely end up as two, is no different. I have a rather obscene love for western style Chinese food. Every once and a while I wake up just craving the stuff. Now here are the disclaimers. I do know that what I am talking about here is not authentic Chinese cooking. I love the authentic stuff too but it is tough to find Chinese food that doesn’t have a touch of some sort of fusion in it, here anyway. If anyone knows of a place that does really authentic Szechuan food in the greater Victoria area let me know. So, I know it is not really real Chinese cooking but I still love it. I also know that real Chinese cuisine is very regional and what I am talking about here is pretty much the same if you are anywhere from Vancouver to Halifax. I don’t care it is tasty. Maybe too much MSG has seeped into my body over the years but I can’t help loving the stuff. Chow Mein, pork fried rice, deep fried spring rolls, ginger beef, and the day glo red glory of sweet and sour pork I love them all.
I think that my love for this food stems from a very young age. My mom worked as a receptionist for a chiropractor in a strip mall in the town I grew up in. The office was wedged in between an adults’ only toy store, which was run by a lovely woman named Fran, and a Chinese Buffet restaurant. I used to visit my mom at work and kill time while she finished up. It became ritual that I was given a little bit of money and sent next door to the restaurant to grab a drink. I would walk through the doors and be hit with the new to me smells of Chinese food. I would be greeted by the owner, a Chinese dude named Tony, no lie, and he would set me up at the bar. My drink of choice was New York seltzer and Tony would sneak me a little plate of whatever was going on the buffet as long as I didn’t tell my mom. I never told, sorry mom. It was here that I was introduced to western Canadian Chinese cuisine. It was love at first bite for sure. That is where the love came from I think. As I started to cook more I always knew that I wanted to know how to cook this stuff. I have taken it on and here is a little home buffet for you to try out at home. It is super easy to pull off and a great way to feed your friends.
So here are the first two recipes of a little four dish home buffet. These dishes have my spin on them so they are perhaps not the most authentic renditions of the not really real Chinese food but they are really tasty and that makes them work for me. Give one or all of them a try.
Spicy Chow Mein with Prawns to the tune of Fall at Your Feet by Crowded House
½ lb of prawns, shelled and deveined
1 pkg of noodles, I lean towards a thicker noodle like a shanghai style but whatever you like
1 onion, diced
1 Thai chilli, diced, more if you are feeling bold, you can take the seeds out if you like but I don’t
1 clove minced garlic
1 bell pepper, diced
Some Bok Choy if you like
2 tbsp fish sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
2 tbsp sesame oil, vegetable oil works too
-heat a wok over high heat, add oil, toss in your onion, garlic, chilli and let them work for a little bit.
-add in your noodles and give a toss, add in your fish sauce, soy sauce and water. Cover and let it work for a couple of minutes.
-add in your peppers and Bok Choy. Toss to coat everything. Add your prawns in at the last minute and as soon as they turn pink you are done. You got yourself some Chow Mein.
Sweet and Sour Pork to the tune of You Can Do Better Than Me by Death Cab For Cutie
So this one gets a disclaimer I have not yet broken the code of how to make the sauce from scratch and even if I had I know that I could not get the wonderful yet frightening red color I will always associate with this dish. So sadly, dear reader, the sauce comes from a jar.
2 pork chops cut into cubes
½ cup of flour
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ cup pineapple tidbits
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 jar sweet and sour sauce
1 bell pepper diced
-dredge your pork in the flour, salt, and pepper.
-heat oil in a frying pan and toss your pork in and fry until golden brown.
-add in your sauce, pineapple and peppers and cook until the peppers are al dente.
Now you have yourself some sweet and sour pork. To finish off your at home buffet check out the next post which will be up soon. Have fun out there.