Where's the Beef? . . . From the Plum Tree Inn in Chinatown

Times Staff Writer

Dear SOS: I recently dined at the Plum Tree Inn restaurant in Chinatown and had their delicious specialty, orange beef. Can you obtain their recipe?

--MRS. G.D.

Dear Mrs. G.D.: The Plum Tree Inn people graciously complied with the request. Food Section tasters, as well as a few hallway strays who drifted into the Test Kitchen because of the fragrant aromas, said "thank you."

PLUM TREE ORANGE BEEF

1 pound top sirloin steak

1/4 teaspoon salt

Oil

Flour Mixture

5 small hot dried chiles

5 pieces dried orange peel

4 slices ginger root

4 green onions, chopped

Sauce

Cut beef across grain into strips 3/4 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long. Rub beef with salt. Blend 3 tablespoons oil with Flour Mixture. Coat beef strips.

Heat 6 cups oil in large wok or skillet to 320 degrees. Drop beef, piece by piece, into oil. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove beef from skillet and drain excess oil. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Heat, then add chile peppers, orange peels, ginger root and green onions. Saute 30 seconds. Add Sauce, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens and boils. Return beef to skillet. Stir-fry until beef is coated evenly with sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Flour Mixture

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup water

1 egg

Combine cornstarch, flour, water and egg. Mix well. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Sauce

6 tablespoons vinegar

6 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Combine vinegar, sugar, chicken broth and cornstarch. Makes about 1 cup.

Dear SOS: Will you please send me a recipe for the pastry for making apple turnovers? Thank you.

--LOIS

Dear Lois: There are several types of apple turnover pastry suitable for the job, but I like the rather chewy pastry that is golden and shiny with an egg yolk wash that my father, a terrific coffee shop/diner cook, used to bake for his restaurants in New York. How about the complete recipe with filling?

AL'S APPLE TURNOVERS

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

2 (1-pound) cans apple pie filling

Pastry

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 egg yolk, beaten

Add cinnamon, cloves and allspice to pie filling. Roll out Pastry to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut 6 (6-inch) circles, using saucer as guide. Place 2 tablespoons filling in center of each circle. Dot with butter and fold dough over filling to make half moon. Seal edges by folding 1/4 inch or crimp, using water, if necessary, to make seam adhere. Place turnover on well-greased baking sheet and brush tops generously with beaten egg yolk. Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 35 minutes. Makes 6 turnovers.

Pastry

2 cups unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening

4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour with salt. Cut shortening into flour mixture until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing lightly with fork until flour is moist and cleans side of bowl. Form dough into ball. Makes enough pastry for 1 (8- or 9-inch) 2-crust pie or 6 turnovers.

Dear SOS: Several years ago I had the opportunity on two occasions to feast on the most delicious Hot Crab Dip ever. I asked the hostess for the recipe, but she never shared it with me. I am wondering if you have something similar. It contained cream cheese, almonds and mushrooms.

--CLAUDIA

Dear Claudia: Here's one without mushrooms, which, of course, you can add. Try a tablespoon or two of chopped canned or fresh mushrooms.

HOT CRAB DIP

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 (6 1/2- to 7 3/4-ounce) can crab, undrained

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Spread almonds in shallow pan and bake at 350 degrees 4 minutes or until golden. Turn out of pan. Beat cream cheese with lemon juice, undrained crab and curry powder until well blended. Mix in half of toasted almonds. Turn dip into 2-cup baking dish or oven-proof bowl. Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 30 minutes, depending on shape of dish (deeper dish takes longer). Dip is done when pick inserted in center comes out fairly dry and center is hot. Top with remaining almonds and serve hot with chips or raw vegetables.

Dear SOS: I had a meatball soup recipe that I found in Home magazine about 13 or 14 years ago. I have misplaced it and would like it very much.

--BETTY

Dear Betty: The soup has been a Food Section favorite since it was published. This Balkan soup is a variation on the Greek lemon soup theme, made with meatballs.

BULGARIAN MEATBALL SOUP

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

3/4 cup rice

Salt, pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon savory

Flour

3 1/2 quarts water

1 bunch green onions, sliced

1 large green pepper, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

3 to 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 yellow chiles

1/2 bunch parsley, minced

2 eggs

Juice of 1 lemon

Combine meat, rice, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, paprika and savory. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Form into 1-inch balls, then roll in flour. Combine water, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, green onions, green pepper, carrots and tomatoes in large kettle. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Add meatballs, cover and bring to boil again. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add chiles and simmer, covered, 40 minutes or until rice is cooked. Add more water as needed. Add parsley during last 5 minutes of cooking time. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Just before serving, beat eggs with lemon juice. Stir 1 or 2 tablespoons of hot soup into egg mixture, then stir egg mixture into soup. Heat and stir until soup is thickened slightly. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Dear SOS: I am enclosing a clipping of an item describing the pasta carbonara served at the President's luncheon recently. I am most anxious to find a recipe for this dish as it would be great for a buffet luncheon.

--LAVON

Dear Lavon: Here is a basic recipe for spaghetti carbonara. You can prepare it ahead and reheat it by microwave or in a steamer.

SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA

1/2 pound spaghetti

Boiling salted water

4 slices thickly sliced bacon

6 slices prosciutto, finely chopped

1/2 cup half and half or whipping cream

2 eggs, beaten

Pepper

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 to 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until tender. Meanwhile, slice bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook until done, but not crisp. Drain off fat and reduce heat. Add prosciutto. Drain off fat, then turn off heat.

In separate bowl, beat half and half with beaten eggs and season to taste with pepper. Mix well-drained spaghetti with prosciutto and bacon in skillet. Add butter and mix until it melts. Toss spaghetti with egg mixture until well mixed. Add Parmesan cheese until liquids begin to thicken. Turn out onto heated spaghetti plate and serve garnished with parsley, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Only recipes of general interest will be printed. We are unable to answer all requests. Please include restaurant address when requesting recipes from restaurants. Send your letter with self-addressed, stamped envelope to Culinary SOS, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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