One great thing about living in California, especially in San Francisco, is that we have a wide variety of cuisine choices. From Afghan to Zambian, you name it. There are also many different cross cultural influences that define brand new taste. Who doesn’t love a little Asian fusion? Today, I decided to give my good old Chinese stir fry a little Mexican twist.
Speaking of Chinese Mexican cultural mash, I remembered an anecdote from a few years ago. I was filming a fancy dinner scene in Beijing and there was a group of expat extras at the table. I got to talk to the young man sitting next to me and found out that he was from Mexico. I met quite a lot of expats in Beijing and Shanghai, but that was a first time I encountered a Mexican national. I asked if he was a student, he said no. Businessman? No. Diplomat? No. I became curious, but he seemed reluctant to tell me what he did.
Finally, after sitting next to me for hours, doing take after take, angle and angle of the same scene, he began to volunteer his story, probably out of boredom.
He said he was kind of hiding out in China. “Who are you hiding from?” I asked. “The cartel,” he said. “My father worked for the government and he was kidnapped once before. We paid three hundred thousand dollars to get him back.”
I thought his father was some government official who had cracked down on the cartel, and now the cartel was after him. But he said no. His father was a lawyer who sometimes worked for the cartel. I said, “but you just told me that he worked for the government.” He said that sometimes it was the same thing. It turned out that his father negotiated payoffs between the corrupt officials and the cartel. Something must have gone wrong and now his son was in hiding in Beijing.
As the day went on, he told me that all the male children of the family were all in hiding in different countries. I thought it interesting that the female children didn’t matter as much. For someone who was in hiding, he seemed completely carefree.
As I ate my Chinese fajitas, I told Peter the story and wondered if my Mexican “dining partner” was still alive. He might never have imagined that I would remember him over dinner in San Francisco.
Chinese Stir Fry Beef Fajitas
Ingredients for the Marinade:
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Other Main Ingredients:
8 to 10 oz beef top sirloin, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/3 onion, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp canola oil or peanut oil
A dash of Mexican chili powder
Salt and white pepper powder to taste
4 wholewheat tortillas
Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add beef to the marinade and mix well with tongs. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Heat a wok on high until hot. Add 1 tbsp of oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add minced ginger and garlic and stir for about 20 to 30 seconds. Add beef and save the excessive marinade for later. Stir the beef for about 2 minutes. Remove beef from the wok.
Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and sauté the onion and pepper with a dash of Mexican chili powder for about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the beef back in. Add the remaining beef marinade if there is any. Stir for another 1/2 minutes.
Separate into 4 servings on 4 tortillas.