As a sort of Julie & Julia-type project for Voracious, I'll be taking on the mighty recipes of the United Methodist Church of Urbana, Ohio. Every Tuesday, I'll whip up one of the Midwestern classics and chronicle the cooking process, while offering up the recipe for you to give it a try at home. Having been brought up on mostly Persian cooking, I'll be venturing into an entirely new genre of homemade cuisine.
For the past month, I've spent most of my cooking trials with Midwestern-style food that Urbana's church mommas contributed to the cookbook. This week, however, I decided to try out a recipe that attempts to mimic another type of cuisine. What I found was the "Chinese Supper," a Midwestern take on what generic Chinese food tastes like.
Looking back on the creation of this cookbook, the man who started it all was Pastor Mark Chow, whom one contributor fondly referred to as a "little, young, Chinese minister." To help out struggling Chow put the book together, Mrs. Chow also offered up some of her cookbook classics.
Among those, a mere two pages before the "Chinese Supper," was Mrs. Chow's recipe for "Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry." Now, I only made the Midwestern version, but in comparison with Chow's authentic-sounding (as least, much more authentic-sounding) Chinese recipe, one is left to wonder what the quality of Chinese restaurants in Urbana was in the '70s.
Here's the Midwestern version:
--1 lb. ground chuck
--1 medium onion, chopped
--2 10 3/4-oz. cans golden mushroom soup
--1/2 c. water
--1 16-oz. can Chinese vegetables
--1 c. quick cooking rice, uncooked
--1 tsp. soy sauce
Drain vegetables. In skillet, brown beef and cook onion until tender. Stir to separate meat. Pour off fat. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat. Cook 10 minutes or until rice is done. Stir often. Makes 6 cups or 6 servings.
And here's Chow's dish (note the title difference, to start off):
--3 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
--1 1/2 lb. boneless pork, cut in 1/4-inch strips
--1 tsp. minced ginger root
--2 c. broccoli flowers
--2 red peppers, cut in strips
--1 onion, thinly sliced
--1 clove garlic, minced
--2 tbsp. soy sauce
--1 tbsp. oyster sauce
--2 tsp. cornstarch
--1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
--1/4 c. cashews
Along with the heightened detail in Chow's recipe, the ingredients that add spice and diverse flavor to her dish are the key components that I wish "Chinese Supper" could have had. A can of already mixed veggies wasn't as exciting as a fresh mixture could have been, and a teaspoon of soy sauce was barely enough to call this Chinese. And of all the Chinese dishes I've eaten, homemade or professionally cooked, I've never had ground beef as the meat base for an Asian-inspired dinner.
What I created tasted like a dish that could have come out of a Hamburger Helper box with a couple of chopsticks on the front. But to say the truth, having made most of my own food out of boxes, this creation was one of the best out-of-a-box-like rice dishes I've ever had.