A Very Jewish Christmas: Chinese and a Movie

Why not make spicy Chinese eggplant and beef stir-fry, served here with a side of refreshing cucumber and herbs salad for the holiday?

Vered Guttman

My kids love Christmas. It’s the only time of year we eat Chinese food, a cuisine I’m not particularly fond of. But tradition is tradition, and I’m not the one to break the generations-long ritual of Chinese and a movie.

This tradition is indeed so well established, that when I called to make dinner reservations at our local Chinese restaurant, the friendly receptionist offered me the desirable spot for 4:00 in the afternoon. “But only if you’re done eating by 5:00”, she added.

Hmmm, it might be easier to just make it at home, I thought.

Israeli Jews do not have that special relationship with Chinese food as their American brothers do. For years, what Israelis did know about the Asian cuisine was delivered to them by original and first Israeli master chef, Israel Aharoni, who opened the first fancy Chinese restaurant in Tel Aviv in the early 80’s and wrote the “Aharoni’s Chinese Cooking” cookbook (in Hebrew) a few years later (the same Aharoni later introduced Israelis to the French and Italian cuisines as well).

So here’s an adaptation to one of Aharoni’s all time favorites, spicy Chinese eggplant and beef stir-fry, served here with a side of refreshing cucumber and herbs salad.

Can anyone recommend a good movie?

Spicy eggplant and sirloin steak stir-fry

It’s important to have all the ingredients ready next to you before you start cooking.

Serves 4
Ingredients
2 medium-sized regular eggplants
Kosher salt
Peanut or grape seed oil for frying
1 tablespoon sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and sliced
1 lb. Sirloin steak, fat removed, sliced to thin strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons chopped green onion

Directions
1. Cut eggplants to 8 wedges lengthwise and then cut each wedge to half. Sprinkle with salt. Put a tablespoon of oil in a wok over medium-high heat and swirl to coat. When wok is very hot add half the eggplant and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer eggplant to a bowl, repeat with the rest of the eggplant, adding oil as needed.
2. Add 3 tablespoons oil to the wok. Add sugar, stir for a few seconds (pay attention not to burn the sugar), then add garlic, ginger and Serrano pepper, stirring constantly. Add sirloin strips and a teaspoon of kosher salt, and stir-fry for one minute. Add soy sauce and rice vinegar, stir, then add eggplant and cook until sauce thickens, stirring gently, about two minutes longer.
3. Serve over rice. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onion.


Cucumber, mint and basil salad

Serves 4

Ingredients
6 Persian or greenhouse cucumbers, skin on
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt to taste
¼ cup torn basil leaves
¼ cup mint leaves

Directions
1. Thinly slice cucumbers using a knife or a mandolin. Put in a bowl.
2. In a small bowl mix lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic clove. Pour over cucumbers and mix. Add salt to taste. Add herbs, mix and serve.