I was first introduced to Happy Family during my college days. I was in graduate school, back in the Midwest, and not quite cooking up a storm like I am doing now. So, hitting local Chinese buffets and take-outs was a good place to be for someone like me who misses their Chinese food. It was also then that I got acquainted to all the popular American-Chinese food selections. I was mostly intrigued by the American version of Sweet and Sour Chicken, BBQ Ribs, Crab Rangoon, Egg Drop Soup, to name a few, and among these, Happy Family was one of them. Although spending a whopping US$13 (I was a poor international student then) for a large order of Happy Family with white rice on the side seemed hefty for a college student, my friends and I would usually save up to order a few items and share among ourselves, sometimes enough to last us for 3 days! Being so far from home, Chinese food—albeit the Americanized version—was always our comfort food.
I missed home dearly, particularly mom’s cooking. At the end of the day, mom always made sure we had a balanced meal. A typical family dine-in experience is usually served with dishes consisting of meat, vegetables and seafood of some sort. And that is exactly what the dish Happy Family is! It is a popular Chinese stir-fry dish with colorful vegetables (broccoli, water chestnuts, baby corn, bamboo shoots, mushroom, carrots, etc.), meats (beef, pork/BBQ Pork and chicken) and seafood (shrimp, lobster/crab meat and scallops) cooked in a simple brown sauce.
I don’t think I have ever encountered any dish quite like Happy Family. It’s a great one-pot meal filled with goodness and taste! In my book, Happy Family is one of those delicious guilt-free happy meals that symbolizes a well-balanced Chinese dish and an American-Chinese creation that I actually enjoy.
What is your favorite American-Chinese dish?
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup cut onion, green and red bell peppers
2 cups mixed vegetables
(broccoli florets, sliced carrot and trimmed sugar snap peas/snow peas)
1 1/2 cups canned vegetables
(straw mushroom, bamboo shoot sliced, young baby corn and water chestnut sliced)
1 cup meat, sliced
(pork/BBQ pork, chicken breast, and beef)
1/2 cup mixed seafood
(peeled and cleaned shrimp, lobster meat/crab meat and sea scallops)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon dry sherry wine, or any Chinese cooking wine
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 dash of ground white pepper
2 tablespoon dry sherry wine, or any Chinese cooking wine
1/2-3/4 cup chicken broth mixed with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
Salt and sugar to taste
Marinade meat and seafood with a little salt, pepper, sugar and a dash of cooking wine. Set aside. In a bowl, mix all the seasoning ingredients for the Brown Sauce and set aside.
In a wok, heat 2 tablespoon oil to smoky hot, stir-fry onions and peppers until lightly charred, add in minced garlic, briskly stir-fry until fragrant, toss in the broccoli florets, carrots, and continue stir-frying for about 2 minutes, dash a little salt and pepper, mix well and dish up. Set aside.
Lightly clean up wok with damp paper towel. Heat up wok with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, stir-fry shrimp, lobster/crab meat for 1 minute, toss in sliced beef and pork/BBQ pork and continue to stir-fry for another 1 minute, or until lightly browned.
Toss in the mixed canned vegetables, stir well, add in the Brown Sauce seasoning, pour in the chicken broth and continue to stir-fry until vegetables are tender enough to your liking, meat and seafood is thoroughly cooked. Adjust salt, sugar, or other flavorings as per taste. Dish up and serve with hot steamed rice.
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