Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lost in Translation

পেয়াজ পাতা দিয়ে গরুর মাংশ 

Beef With Leeks

Completely unrelated to the post - I need a new wok

Procuring and perfecting this recipe has caused unnecessary anguish in my life - driven primarily by Bengali-English translation issues between my mom and me. I grew up knowing that this dish was beef cooked with "piyaz pata", or translating literally, onion leaves. I'd always assumed that onion leaves referred to spring onions, but no matter how much of it I used, I never managed to recreate the flavours I remembered from my childhood. It was only by chance that my mom offered to teach me how to cook this a couple of years back for the blog, and in the process I realised the onions leaves in question were actually leeks! Queue a fond reunion with a long lost food memory, and a slight improvement to my atrocious Bengali vocabulary. 

This dish is a stir-fry that back home would be categorised as Bangla-Chinese - a type of cuisine reliant on "Chinese" ingredients and cooking techniques - but manipulated extensively for the local palate. Bangla-Chinese has quite a history in Bangladesh, stemming from the old trendy "Chinese" restaurants that sprang up around the city mid 80s and onwards. Even my mom's wedding meal was held in one of them. These restaurants have taken a bit of hit now that a greater variety of venues have set up shop in town, but the food remains popular in Bangladesh. Just Google a recipe for "Chinese vegetables Bangladeshi style" and it'll quickly  become obvious how widespread a phenomenon this is.

  • 400.00 g of beef
  • 1.00 tablespoon of ginger paste
  • 0.75 tablespoons of garlic paste
  • 2.00 tablespoons dark soya sauce
  • 1.00 tablespoon light soya sauce
  • 2.00 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 100.00 g of leek
  • 50.00 g of spring onions
  • Fresh chilli, to taste

  • Cut the beef into thin strips for easy stir-frying. It may be easier to buy pre-cut meat - chunky and uneven cuts often cook wrong and flavours go awry as the marinade fails to permeate the flesh 
  • Once the meat is sliced add the garlic, ginger, soya sauces, oyster sauce and black pepper, leaving to marinate while preparing the vegetables

Beef in marinade

  • Finely slice the onion and chilli and set aside
  • For the leek, chop off the root and the darker part of the green leaves at the top. Discard the rougher outer layers and wash the remaining layers thoroughly
  • Slice the leek vertically along its length to obtain two halves, and slice the halves again to obtain quarters
  • Chop the quarters horizontally to obtain 100.00 g of leek looking roughly as below

Leeks, chopped and washed

  • Chop the spring onions into rings, discarding only the roots and the tough white stem
  • Heat some oil in a wok and add the beef, stir frying for 3 to 4 minutes

Confession: I've never done well with meat
I've cut myself. The above is store-bought

  • Take the wok off the heat, and transfer the meat to a different dish and set aside
  • Put the wok back on stove, adding some more oil if necessary. Add the onion, stirring to mix in with juices from the meat. Fry until golden brown
  • Add the leek and chilli, and continue stir-frying for another 3 to 4 minutes

The onion fried to golden brown, and the leeks just added

  • Return the meat (along with any gathered juices) to the wok, mixing in with the veg and continue stir-frying for a final few minutes, depending on how well cooked you like your meat (and veg).
  • Mix in the spring onions and take off the heat, allowing to cool for a few moments before serving with rice

The dish just prior the being taken off the stove

Additional Info:
The beef-leek combo in this dish may hold special childhood significance for me, but there is no reason why the leeks can't be substituted or accompanied by other vegetables. Next time I try this, I'm also thinking of adding some cornflour and warm water to create a thicker sauce - will report back if I ever get round to it 

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