Welcome to the coldest week of winter… so far. At a whopping 25 degrees, it’s really cold but I’m also starting to get a little bored with soup. Keeping warm being my number one priority, I wanted to find a way to make dinner with the burners on as high as possible. Stir fry is, of course, the best way to do this. Cook everything quickly and over really high heat. When it’s finished, run back to the safety of your fleece blanket and watch Jeopardy! (Spoiler Alert: when the category is “Cape Town” all of the answers will be about Nelson Mandela, but none of the answers actually are “Nelson Mandela.”)
This is not the first time I have lamented a lack of really, truly good Chinese food in Astoria. According to Wikipedia, Astoria had the world’s largest Greek population outside of Greece back in the 80s, and a quick walk around the block is enough to convince you that this is one time when Wikipedia isn’t lying. You could eat gyro’s for days (and argue over how to pronounce “gyro” while doing so), but there’s no good quality lo mein to be found. So once again, I find myself making my own version of a favorite delivery staple.
When lo mein is good, it’s really good and when it’s bad, it’s downright awful. We have all fallen victim to the 2:00am greasy Chinese food cravings and we have all lived long enough to regret it. This is not that lo mein. This recipe is a tad on the salty side, but you can feel free to use unsalted peanuts and low sodium soy sauce to combat that. Sodium aside, this meal has a little something for everyone: carbs, meat, veggies, a really flavorful sauce and a variety of textures – guaranteed to make you rethink your next late night craving.
Beef Lo Mein
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 white onion, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced (I used orange and yellow to make it colorful, but any color is fine)
- 1 chili pepper, minced
- 1 1/2 lbs stir fry beef
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 2 tsp Thai sweet chili sauce
- 1” piece fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cup peanuts
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 1 handful cilantro, chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
Bring a large pot of salty water up to a boil. Cook the pasta one minute shy of the package directions so that it’s not quite al dente. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water before straining.
Meanwhile, saute the onion in some oil with plenty of salt and pepper. When the onions are soft, set them aside and keep warm. Saute the bell peppers with the chili until they are cooked but still crunchy. I don’t like my peppers to be too soft in order to keep a variety of texture in the meal. Set the peppers aside with the onion and then stir fry the beef.
While the beef is cooking, whisk together everything from the soy sauce on down to the red pepper flakes. Test it and add more of something if you think it’s necessary. I like my sauce a little on the sour side, so if you’re looking for something sweeter or hotter add more honey or red pepper respectively.
Once the beef is cooked and the pasta is strained, combine the beef and veggies in the pasta pot. Stir in the bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions, and cilantro. Mix in the sauce and the reserved pasta water. Cook everything over medium heat for just another minute or two until the ingredients are really getting to know each other and the pasta is cooked just right. Finally, stir in the sesame oil to finish it off and then serve.