Almost all Chinese food found in restaurants in this country was adapted to American tastes early on. The first wave of Chinese immigration brought miners and railroad workers to California in the 19th century. Eventually, laws were put into place preventing the Chinese from owning land. “Chinatowns” grew as the Chinese lived together in what really amounted to Ghettos. It was there that the Chinese opened restaurants that served mainly the local Chinese populations. San Francisco was the home to sophisticated Chinese cuisine and some truly luxurious restaurants. But as the Chinese population moved out of California and into smaller towns, they opened restaurants. Often their owners were self-taught home cooks. These chefs improvised with both cooking techniques and ingredients. In the process, they created American Chinese cuisine to please American tastes. Very often their dishes were blander, thicker, and sweeter than anything on offer in China itself. But their popularity only grew and as Americans discovered a taste for Chop Suey and Chinese take-out.
Beef with Broccoli first appeared on Chinese restaurant menus in the late 1920s. I’d been looking for a recipe for the dish for quite some time but not quite that long. I had made versions that left me cold. The beef was tough, the broccoli had lost its verdant green color and the sauce was wimpy and all but disappeared into the pile of white rice I’d poured it over. Then I made two discoveries: Shaved Beef at Trader Joe’s and a suggestion to cook the beef and the broccoli with leftover rice from our last Asian dinner delivery. Usually leftover rice lives in our refrigerator until it is discovered some weeks later inedible. This was a use I could get into. Throw in scrambled eggs and I couldn’t wait to get started. Shaved Beef is found in Trader Joe’s meat section. It’s fresh, very thinly sliced rib-eye and bottom round. It makes the most fantastic cheesesteak sandwich but that’s another post. Here I lifted the individual pieces out of their container and arranged them on a cutting board. They were ideal. If there’s no Trader Joe’s in sight, I’d use sirloin, sliced at thin as I could. Get everything ready first because the whole dish takes under 30 minutes to make. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Beef with Broccoli and Fried Rice
Serves 4 to 6. Takes under 30 minutes.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
8 ounces Shaved Beef or very thinly sliced sirloin.
1 medium broccoli crown (about 12 ounces), cut into bite-sized small florets (about 5 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce, divided
4 cups cooked brown or white rice, chilled
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
Freshly ground black or white pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1. Parboil the broccoli in highly salted boiling water until it just turns green. Remove and drain. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick frying pan or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef, break it up and cook until halfway cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli, cover, and cook, stirring every minute or so, until the broccoli is crisp tender and the beef is cooked through, about 4 minutes total.
Add the garlic, drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the tamari or soy sauce, stir to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl; set aside.
3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan over medium-high heat. Add the rice, remaining 2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce, and sesame oil. Season with pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is heated through, about 4 minutes.
Push the rice to one half of the pan and add the beaten eggs to the other half. Season the eggs with salt and pepper, then stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until almost set, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, add the broccoli and beef, sprinkle with the scallions, and gently fold everything together with the rubber spatula, breaking up any large pieces of egg. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.