One of my favorite restaurants to eat here is a little family Chinese joint, a sort of tiny hole in a wall with no name in the middle of São Paulo’s Asian neighborhood, where almost none of the owners speak Portuguese and they barely understand us when we order something. We happened to stumble upon it one evening with my roommate while shopping in the neighborhood and we were drawn in by the familial and chattery atmosphere we saw inside with large families of ten or more people sharing food around big round tables. I love the concept of ordering plates for the entire table to share rather than individual dishes, it reminds me of when I went to India and Singapore and I always find that those types of meals are so much friendlier. The tables have a big revolving plate in the center where you put all the food and you can just turn it to help yourself to whatever food you want instead of sprawling yourself across the table to reach for a dish. So clever. You make the food come to you. Plus it feels all fancy, just turn the plate and you have a big bowl of food that humbly presents itself under your eyes. I’m thinking of getting one of those for my house.
We’ve kept going back to the place since then, each time bringing more and more friends to discover the place. It’s super basic, not at all meant to attract tourists, which is why I love it, and it’s very cheap with traditional Chinese dishes like chicken blood soup, bean curd and stir-fried tripe on the menu. Now I’m a curious person when it comes to food, but I stick to the more classic Peking Duck and Chicken Chop Suey kind of dishes to be honest. Among some of my favorite things they serve there are the sauteed bok choi with shitake mushrooms, the broccolini with garlic, the steamed carp and the stir-fried beef with curry. Oh the stir fried beef with curry.
The only small problem I have with this place is that I’m not sure about how they prepare the food. The food is lick-your-fingers delicious, however I think they use vegetable oils and soy sauce in a lot if not all of their preparations and that leaves me belly aching (and, un-glamourously, snoring) through most of the night after eating there. I generally try to take from dishes that don’t seem to have soy sauce, but it could very well be hiding in those also. And then last week Freddy looked at me with his little enthusiastic eyes the day after another very satisfying dinner (yet painful night) and asked if we could try to make their stir-fried beef with curry together since it’s his favorite dish from there.
No problem darling, let me just get out my fancy wok tools and my Asian culinary know-how.
But then again I thought, it can’t be that hard. It’s beef, onions and curry. Plus, as I mentioned in my last post, getting Freddy enthusiastic about cooking together is almost too good to be true and I didn’t want to sabotage his one request to make something together. Since he gets home late on most nights, we never actually get the chance to dabble in the kitchen the two of us, so we took out our calendars and set a date for Friday night to try to reinvent our Chinese-joint-with-no-name’s famous stir-fried beef with curry. Romance people, you gotta keep it alive. It turned out delicious, not quite Chinese-joint alike but in my opinion, better, with a touch of Mylittlejarofspices, some fresh ginger and no belly aching.
Recipe: Beef and Curry Stir-Fry
1.5 lbs (650-700g) of boneless sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips
2 tsp of curry
2 small onions (1 red, 1 yellow)
2 tbsp of coconut oil
1/4 cup (60ml) of water
1/4 cup (55 grams) of flat parsley or cilantro, chopped
4 scallions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp of ginger, minced
Salt and pepper
Sesame oil and sesame seeds, for topping
1. Trim the fat from the sirloin steak and cut into thin (1/2 of an inch) strips against the grain. Salt and pepper generously and let the meat “rest” at room temperature for 20 minutes (this will avoid it getting hard when it hits the pan).
2. Chop the onions finely in half-moon slices. Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat and saute the onions, stirring them around occasionally for 3-4 minutes. When they are translucent and barely tender, add 1 tsp of curry powder and stir around to coat all the onions. Continue to cook until they start to become crispy and the bottom of the pan begins to brown. Add the water and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Let the onions simmer on high heat for a few more minutes until liquid is reduced and onions are tender, then remove from the pan and transfer to a bowl.
3. In the same pan, heat the remaining coconut oil on high heat. Once it is hot, add the steak strips and cook for 3 minutes, stirring around. Add the remaining curry powder, the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes (for well-done meat). Add the cooked onions, parsley (or cilantro) and chopped scallions to the pan, stir around to combine the ingredients and serve topped with sesame seeds and fragrant sesame oil.