Tasting the Conspiracy, item L6: Pepper Steak with Onion

If it’s not clear what this is or why I’m doing it, check out the intro post.

Built up a backlog again! Sometimes it’s nice to get these out in a burst, with a bit of compare-and-contrast.

Pepper Steak with Onion

Larger chunks of stuff in here than you usually see in a stir-fry, mostly onion and green pepper.

What exactly is this dish? Sliced beef with large chunks of pepper and long slices of onion, in a slightly thick but otherwise generic brown sauce (soy sauce, ginger, maybe some garlic).

How authentically Chinese is it? “Meat and veggies in brown sauce” is, as I’ve mentioned before, a pretty straightforward and unimaginative presentation, and something along those lines with every possible combination of meat and veggie seems like it should pop up in Chinese cuisine somewhere. And, indeed, there’s a Fujianese dish which is the clear originator of this one, qing jiao rou si. There are several notable distinctions, though: traditional QJRS is made with pork (although that’s not obligatory; I found a recipe for it using chicken instead), the peppers are sliced thinner, and the sauce is much simpler, consisting of soy sauce with very little else (sometimes rice wine or a very little ginger). There’s no cornstarch, needless to say; the sauces thickened in that inimitably cornstarchy way that are a mainstay of Chinese-American cuisine are apparently much less common in actual Chinese cuisine. This is one of the few cases where the American dish is unambiguously more flavorful than its Chinese forbear: QJRS seems to depend on the green peppers to provide the dominant flavor component, which is why they need to be sliced thin, I think, since big chunks in the American style stirfried quick impart very little pepper flavor to the sauce.

Is it any good? It actually hits a more interesting note in some ways than the typical brown-sauce dish, probably because of all the onions. Wilt that much onion into a sauce, and it’s definitely going to add a sharp-edged note to the flavor. The texture, flavor , and color of the meat in mine made me halfway confinced they’d goofed and used pork instead of beef (which would actually make it more authentic, see above), but it was basically satisfactory.

How does it complement the rice? There’s sort of an oily sauce, lightly thickened by the cornstarch, which I think maybe had more volume than it might due to moisture from the onions. That all soaks into rice pretty well. There wasn’t quite enough of it to season my full half-carton of fried rice but it was at least a tasty sauce.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

One Response to Tasting the Conspiracy, item L6: Pepper Steak with Onion

  1. Pingback: Tasting the Conspiracy, item L0: Introduction | The Ecclesiastical Revue

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