… from the California Kitchen
How you doin’? Here is a spicy, crispy orange beef recipe that has been an American Chinese takeout classic for years. It features thin slices of crisp sirloin steak tossed in a spicy, sweet and savory orange sauce. You can make it at home in less time than it takes to get delivery from Panda. And the taste? Well, it tastes better, too!
Where did this style of Chinese food come from, you ask? Different regions of China have different types of food — vastly different. Orange beef, with its hot-and-spicy flavor, is commonly associated with Hunan cuisine, but actually it’s an example of American Chinese food… much like Chop Suey. The history of Americanized Chinese food is rich and fascinating, and more detailed than I could do justice in a short blog. Here is a quick, condensed version.
In the 1800s, gold rush rumors spread not only across America, but out to South Chinese citizens who immigrated to the United States to search for gold and provide services for miners and workers around the San Francisco Bay area. Over time, many more immigrants followed, and with the influx of Chinese folk and the dwindling of gold, there was a need for many Chinese immigrants to open small businesses to make a living. Many opened restaurants to serve food to the booming Chinese population who craved the foods they left behind in China.
Over time, these restaurants gained popularity and expanded geographically, and the restaurant owners realized that they could find more success outside of the Chinese American population by changing their dishes to suit broader American tastes using local ingredients. At that point, they began creating much sweeter, boneless, often fried versions of their classic recipes. Americanized-Chinese food became extremely popular in New York City, where master chef T.T. Wang of Hunan Restaurant first introduced Crispy Orange-Flavored Beef. Since then, both Orange Beef and Orange Chicken have become extremely popular takeout options. This recipe comes from my China Rose collection.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: serves 4
1-1/2 pounds sirloin steak (rib-eye or filet) cut into thin slices about 1/4-inch thick
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 medium-sized navel orange (skin and juice)
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 thinly sliced red jalapeño
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 scallions bottoms cut in circles
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, or substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup beef or chicken stock
1 teaspoon corn starch
2 scallions tops cut in circles or brushes for garnish
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
ChefSecret: Use a candy/frying thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil. It makes it easy because it clips onto the side of the frying pot.
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: “I can’t go out because of the pandemic—that sounds weak and whiny. So I tell everyone, I swore an oath of solitude until the pestilence is purged from our lands. I think that sounds more principled, valiant and heroic and people might even think I am carrying a sword and defending the realm.”
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