Pepper steak is one of those Americanized “Asian-style” foods, kind of like chop suey. Its origins are murky, but it is tasty.
When I was growing up, we occasionally enjoyed a canned version of pepper steak. I remember being impressed that it was actually two cans in one; a smaller can on top held the beef and gravy, while the larger can on the bottom contained the vegetables. There were no Chinese restaurants in my childhood, so we didn’t eat a lot of Asian cuisine. Pepper steak was an exotic culinary adventure, bean sprouts and all.
As the cook in my own family, I’ve also purchased the two-can pack and fixed it with some rice for a fast meal every now and then. But setting aside the convenience factor, there are some downsides to it:
1. It is somewhat expensive to feed to a family (especially with two hungry boys);
2. It is full of preservatives and the meat is of questionable quality; and
3. It is more than a little soggy.
Many years ago, I came across this recipe in one of my books of recipes contributed by a civic group in the town where I grew up. It works well and is nearly as convenient as the canned version. (The rice is going to take a while to cook, no matter what, so I prepare this while the rice is simmering in the pan.) I have added more vegetables to it than the original called for, and I prefer at least one red pepper when they’re available – it lends a sweetness the green peppers lack. A plain white onion can be substituted for the scallions in a pinch, but the green onions are recommended.
1 pound sirloin steak, cut into strips (I often use flat iron or flank steak instead)
1 tablespoon (or more) paprika
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 cup diced green onions, including tops
2 green (or red) peppers, cut in strips
1 can bean sprouts, drained (or half a package fresh sprouts)
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 can sliced mushrooms, drained (or 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced)
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3-4 cups hot cooked rice
Sprinkle paprika on beef slices and allow to stand while preparing other ingredients. Heat large skillet and quickly saute beef strips and garlic in butter or oil. Add peppers, onions, sprouts, water chestnuts and mushrooms; cover and continue cooking until vegetables are wilted – about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Blend water with cornstarch and soy sauce. Stir into steak and cook until thickened. Serve on a bed of hot rice. Makes 6 servings.