The problem with Chinese food is that you have to shop somewhere special in order to make it. Trips to Chinatown after work are as cumbersome to plan as they are difficult to pull off
That needn't preclude Chinese dinner chez vous. Forgo the bean paste and hoisin sauce, and depend instead on less-esoteric ingredients (that doesn't mean canned chop suey). A tasty, quasi-authentic oriental meal can be created using nothing more exotic than fresh ginger, scallinos, sherry and a little soy sauce.
If you have teen-agers in the house, substitute cauliflower for broccoli in the vegetable stir-fry, put the Police on the stereo and call your menochromatic dinner (including white fish and rice) Punk Chinois.
If it's a household of normal people, they'll appreciate the vivid green that broccoli gives to the meal. Any mild white fish fillets -- common in most supermarkets these days -- can replace the expensive (but delicious) red snapper fillets. Boiled rice completes any Chinese meal. If the supermarket shelves offer green tea, that would make a nice addition.
A quick trip through the supermarket express lane can provide a dinner that will satisfy a craving for Chinese without requiring logistical expertise. Flour, sugar, salt, pepper and butter or oil should already be on your kitchen shelf.
EXPRESS LANE LIST: fish, sherry, soy sauce, ginger, scallions, rice, broccoli or cauliflower, green tea (optional). STEAMED FISH (4 servings) 1 1/2 pounds red snapper (or other mild fish) fillets 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 2 tablespoons dry sherry 2 tablespoons soy sauce 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger 4 scallions, split and cut into 2-inch lengths 2 cups hot, cooked rice
Rinse the fish and pat it dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt. Line the basket of a steamer with a piece of foil. Place a little water in a large skillet or saucepan and place the steamer basket in the pan. Place fish on foil and add remaining ingredients (except rice), one at a time. Steam, covered, for approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to serving platter. Serve hot with rice and pass extra soy sauce, if desired. SITR-FRIED BROCCOLI (4 servings) 1 pound broccoli florets 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon sugar 2 tablespoons water Freshly ground black pepper
Trim any large florets into bite-sized pieces. In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over high heat. Add broccoli. Stir a few times and add salt, sugar and water. Cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add pepper. Toss and serve.