24 September 2008

Hoisin Beef with Green Beans

It's been a few days again and this is what I've come back with? Blah. One of the problems with stir-frys is that they all sort of look more or less the same. A dark sauce on vegetables and meat. And then this one has only one colour of vegetable - green beans - so it doesn't even get a bit of interest from carrots or... something.

Worse than boring, it didn't even taste that good. I didn't know it was possible to make a stir-fry sauce that was made of several ingredients but actually tasted like nothing.

This tasted like nothing. Not green beans, not steak, not soy sauce, not hoisin sauce, not chili sauce, not ginger and garlic. Just an unrelentingly sweet and salty mask for otherwise tasty things.
I knew it would be sweet - hoisin and sweet chili sauce are both made of a lot of sugar. I knew it would be salty - soy sauce and hoisin are both very high in sodium.

In this respect, I think it's the worst thing I've made from one of Sandi Richard's book. The soy sauce soup was pretty awful, too, but this was worse. Maybe I'm so much more bothered by this because I, most of us I imagine, could make a basic stir-fry in our sleep and have it taste better.

Sandi Richard does basic, family friendly recipes very well. She makes things I can imagine eating for everyday occasions. Things I could have imagined my mom making, had my mom been more inclined to try out new things. (Rather more steak and fish than my mom would ever use, but otherwise...) I have had far more successes than failures from her books, so maybe that also is why it bothers me so much. She says in her notes that her family could eat this meal again and again, but I just... why? Why would you want to? Maybe it just didn't translate well to single serving cooking, but this sort of thing usually does translate very well. So I don't know.

The rice was exquisite, though, for brown. You can see how to make it yourself here. I've made, per usual, enough for five meals, so I've got it all single-serving frozen and ready to go. Yay!


  1. Oh no! I just got this book and was going to make this tonight and even went out of my way to go to a farther supermarket just to get Hoisin sauce that my neighborhood market did not have. Then I found this by accident trying to see what else I could make with the unused sauce. I'm not much of a cook do you have any suggestions of how to improve the dish I have yet to be disappointed by?

  2. From her comments in the book, I think my reaction was probably atypical, but if I cut it down to my basic problems, I found it too sweet, too salty, and too boring.

    So I don't know what to do about the saltiness, since I wouldn't leave out the hoisin or the soy. You could maybe cut down the soy sauce - replace part with beef broth maybe?

    For the sweetness, I'd probably cut out the sweet chili sauce and use some extra Sriracha or Sambal Oelek to up the spiciness (thus making it less bland, though your mileage on spiciness could vary). Also for the boringness, I'd probably add some other vegetables, just for some colour interest and some different flavours.

    But... like I said, her recipe testers and her family apparently like that recipe a lot, so it might just not have appealed to me.

  3. If you've still got Hoisin left, here's a really tasty recipe that uses it:

    Fusion Chicken, Serves 4. From a Better Home and Gardens cookbook.

    1/4 cup water
    3 tbsp hoisin sauce
    2 tbsp peach preserves (I've used everything from apricot jam to marmalade to passionfruit jam)
    1 tbsp sugar
    2 tsp soy sauce
    4 med. tangerines or 2 lg oranges
    3 tbsp cilantro, snipped
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~1.5 lbs total)
    1 tbsp oil

    Combine water, hoisin, preserves, sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl. Add 1 tsp rind, finely grated from one of the tangerines. Set aside.

    Peel and coarsely chop oranges, removing seeds. Toss oranges with cilantro. Set aside.

    In a large skillet, brown the chicken in oil over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Drain the fat. Pour hoisin mixture over chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170F).

    Remove chicken from the skillet. Boil sauce gently, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until reduced to 1/3 cup. Return chicken to the skillet. Heat through, turning to coat with sauce.

    Serve over hot rice with tangerine mixture.