Monday, November 17, 2008

"Hawaiian and Pacific Foods" - Green Pepper, Beef and Tomatoes

Date I made this recipe: November 16, 2008

Hawaiian and Pacific Foods – A Cook Book of Culinary Customs and Recipes Adapted for the American Hostess by Katherine Bazore
Published by M. Barrows and Company
© 1940-1947; seventh printing 1956
Recipe: Green Pepper, Beef and Tomatoes (Fan Keh Lut Tsiu Ngau Yuk) – p. 214-215

Even though I was a couple of days behind schedule, this recipe was made in honor of Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2008. You might ask yourself what on earth a cookbook of Hawaiian food has to do with Veteran’s Day but my answer is easy: my father, who served in the Marines on Iwo Jima, was stationed on Maui prior to leaving for Iwo (where he was wounded and received a purple heart). This cookbook was initially printed in the 40’s and so the recipes are authentic for the time that my father was in Maui--not that his camp necessarily served these foods. (But boy, if they did…)

Of course back thenthere was little development (if any) on Maui and according to dad, the camp’s conditions were pretty primitive (it was not for nothing that they called it “Camp Swampy”). Dad and his fellow Marines hiked up nearby Mt. Haleakala on a regular basis; these days, tourists coast down it on bicycles for fun!

My dad likes to mention that back then the big hotels on the island of Oahu were the Royal Hawaiian and the Ala Moana and that was about that. These days, those hotels are almost lost in the shuffle of development that has run rampant on the islands. Of course, to me, the Hawaiian Islands are still paradise to visit even if they are bumper-to-bumper with tourists.

I must admit to being surprised that this cookbook did not contain recipes for Spam (Spam is very popular in Hawaii) nor the Hawaiian lunch plate but maybe those items didn’t become popular until after publication. (I’ve had the lunch plate and it is outstanding even if it is not exactly heart-healthy. The lunch plate consists of a piece of meat, a scoop of rice with gravy on it and usually some macaroni salad - heavy on the mayo! Yum!!)

And while I’m not surprised that this cookbook contains many Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese and Filipino recipes (the islands are home to many an ethnic group), I am surprised that this recipe was included. The author often noted if a recipe was not authentic, yet I can’t help but wonder if this recipe was really authentic Chinese. Beef with peppers is something that I expect today in most “Chinese” restaurants but hey, it was included here so we’ll go with it.

This recipe was relatively easy to make and was fairly straightforward except for the instructions for making a “smooth” paste out of some of the ingredients. The paste I made was smooth all right—in fact, it was more of a marinade than anything but I went with it and it worked.

Another item that wasn’t clear was what, if anything, to do with the leftover chopped ginger. The recipe said to combine the ginger juice with other ingredients but it didn’t say how to dispose of the actual ginger itself so I added most of it to the recipe and it only enhanced the dish. (When in doubt, do not throw it out!)

Finally, the recipe didn’t say what to do with the beef (you cook the beef, then the veggies, and then serve) so I added the beef back to the veggie mixture and warmed up the entire dish for a few minutes over a low flame. I think the veggies could have used a few more minutes to cook but that’s my opinion.

And speaking of opinion, I know it’s hard to tear oneself away from the beautiful beaches of Maui, but if you are ever there, take a moment to go to the Marine Memorial where you can see photos of the old base from back in my dad’s day and the memorial plaques that are scattered throughout the area. It’s a lovely drive (although a little tricky to find) and a good way to honor all of our veterans who served our country so admirably. Ladies and Gentlemen of the armed forces (both former and current members), I salute you!

Green Pepper, Beef and Tomatoes – Serves 6
2 cups sliced green peppers (2 large peppers)
2/3 cup sliced onions
½ cup sliced round steak (are they kidding? I used about a pound, sliced thin. As if I had time to stuff the steak into a measuring cup!)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon soya (Note: I’m pretty sure they mean soy sauce here but when I looked it up online, soya also refers to the soy bean itself. Since the recipe called for 1 tablespoon, I’m thinking they meant the sauce)
Dash of pepper
2 2/3 cups tomatoes (3 medium)
½ cup celery
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried ginger root soaked in 2 tablespoons water

For the “gravy”
½ tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons whiskey or wine
¼ cup water
Dash of pepper

Cut the peppers into strips ½-inch wide and 1 ½ -inches long. Cut the onions into sections ½-inch wide and the tomatoes into eighths. Cut the celery and round steak into thin strips 1 ½-inches long. Mix the soya, cornstarch, sugar, ginger juice, and salt to form a smooth paste. (Mine was runny but it didn’t matter. Just toss your meat and throw it into a skillet or wok). Combine with the meat and fry in hot oil. When browned, remove the meat, and fry all the vegetables except the tomatoes in the same pan. Stir constantly and after 1 minute, add ¼ cup water and simmer for 2 minutes. Make a smooth paste of the ingredients for the gravy. Combine the gravy, tomatoes and cooked vegetables. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. (Note: I added the beef back to the wok and heated it for another couple of minutes on low).

Serve hot. (I served it with rice).

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