As someone who loves Chinese food, the title of this cookbook grabbed me like only “Double Awesome Chinese Food” could.

And if anyone in New England knows really good Chinese food, authors Andrew, Irene and Margaret Li do. The siblings own The Mei Mei Group, a Boston-based restaurant, food-truck and catering business. They also are award-winning chefs and leaders in the region’s local food movement.

They rolled out their food truck in 2012; later that year it was named Boston’s Best Meal on Wheels. In 2013, they opened a restaurant, which Eater Boston picked as Restaurant of the Year. And consider: Irene Li is a four-time James Beard Rising Star Chef semifinalist.

Unfortunately, the first recipe I tried from “Double Awesome Chinese Food” didn’t live up to the trio’s reputation. This, though I prepared traditional Chinese Beef and Broccoli exactly as directed, including adding extra water to the sauce to make it less salty. But if I had to sum up where the dish went wrong in one word, it’d be just that: salty

Courtesy of Roost Books

On the positive side, the dish was a snap to make, coming together in 45 minutes. And after preparing it, I discovered the Li’s “A special note on salt” in the book’s introduction. This section was one of their many helpful guides that made me want to give this handsome hardcover a second chance.

It’s “impossible to say exactly how much salt a dish should have,” they noted, urging readers, “No matter your preferences, make sure you season and taste throughout the cooking process.” This I did. But perhaps in another go-around I will use less fish sauce, which is famously salty, or less tamari.

I appreciated several other things about “Double Awesome Chinese Food,” such as the dietary restrictions denoted on every recipe, which indicate whether it is dairy free (DF), gluten free (GF), vegetarian (V), or vegan (VV), or if these choices are optional (O). Since I have a gluten allergy and eat 100-percent gluten free, it was a helpful (and rare, in my experience) guide.

I also loved the history and culture of Chinese cooking the siblings detail, including an explanation of the Chinese culinary “trinity” of ginger, garlic and scallions.

The chapter on sauces and garnishes offers delicious-sounding recipes, such as cranberry sweet and sour sauce and soy ginger dressing, both of which could be used in a simple bowl of rice and pork. And the vegetable dish recipes look traditional, yet easy to execute, like the golden fortune stir-fry with carrots, green beans, corn and peanut sauce.

Unexpected and flavorful-sounding choices show up in “From the pasture” and “From the ocean,” for example cumin lamb shepherd’s pie and ginger scallion lobster rolls. Out of pure curiosity, I plant to try the oolong tea panna cotta in the final chapter, “Drinks and desserts.”

From the group photos of the Lis clowning around to the book’s whimsical layout, the three siblings look like they have fun cooking — and fun in life, in general. The book reads a bit like a family photo album. And the silly references — like the chapter named “Rice, noodles and other food in bowls” — make it unintimidating for the rookie cook.

“Double Awesome Chinese Food” is packed with adventurous recipes. Couple those with the many guides and tips, and the cookbook feels like a new friend.

Beef and broccoli (GFO, DF)

BEEF:

1 pound flank, skirt or hanger steak

1 tablespoon soy sauce (substitute tamari if gluten-free)

1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

kosher salt

BROCCOLI

1½ pounds broccoli, stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into chunks, tops cut into florets

¼ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

SAUCE:

1½ teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola

2 garlic cloves, minced

One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons soy sauce (substitute tamari if gluten-free)

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

GARNISH:

¼ cup garlic panko (omit if gluten-free)

Zest of 1 lemon (optional)

 

Marinate the beef

Combine the beef, soy sauce, wine and 1 tablespoon of oil in a sealable plastic bag. Marinate for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the broccoli and the sauce, or up to a day.

Cook the broccoli

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the broccoli on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with the salt, then use your hands to toss and fully coat the broccoli. Roast for 15 minutes, then carefully flip the pieces of broccoli over with tongs. Roast for another 5 minutes, then check to see if the broccoli has a good char. If not, continue to roast, checking every 5 minutes, until well browned.

Make the sauce

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, honey, soy sauce, water and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a low boil for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning until thick and sticky. Stir in the vinegar and taste for seasoning; if the sauce is too salty, thin with a little water or meat stock.

Cook the beef

Lay the beef on a cutting board and, if necessary, cut in half crosswise so both pieces fit into your pan. Pat dry with paper towels, then season lightly on both sides with salt. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. Using tongs, carefully lay the beef pieces flat in the pan and sear until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, about 3 more minutes, turning the heat down if it gets too smoky. This may be enough to cook to our preferred medium rare (125 degrees); if you prefer it more well done or have a thick steak, cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into thin pieces against the grain (across the fibers of the meat).

To serve, put the broccoli and beef on a plate and drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with panko and lemon zest, if using. Serve immediately with white rice or a side dish of your choice.

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