Having been successful with the creation of various candle sandwiches including the sloppy joe, grilled cheese, burger, slider, BLT, and hotdog, it occurred to me that I should try making other non-sandwich and non-pastry candles. Since I had just received a silicone mold for Ramen noodles and a plastic mold for broccoli, I decided to make a Chinese inspired beef with broccoli.
Beef with broccoli is arguably one of the most popular Chinese dishes ordered by customers in Chinese-American restaurants. As with many ethnic dishes enjoyed by Americans, beef with broccoli is a Chinese inspired dish that’s not actually found in China.
The broccoli used in this dish is actually Italian. Chinese broccoli, pictured right, does not have the florets associated with the broccoli that’s commonly sold in U.S. supermarkets. Although beef is becoming more popular in China as the country’s growing middle class becomes more affluent, for many generations pork has the meat of choice in mainland China.
Pork was popular with Chinese farmers because pigs need far less space than cattle. While cattle either need grain, corn, grass, or hay to survive, pigs can eat anything that people eat including table scraps, vegetable peelings, and melon rinds.
In the United States, the advent of the railroad combined with the development of refrigerated boxcars, allowed beef to be shipped from western ranches to large cities on the Eastern coast. Prime grade beef that had once been enjoyed by the well to do at exclusive steak houses like Delmonico’s in New York City, was now accessible to the masses. Recipes for pot roasts, roast beef, and beef stew all began appearing in U.S. cookbooks during the late 19th century.
While no one knows the exact origin of beef with broccoli, we do know that the first recipes began appearing during the 1920’s. If I had to guess, I would theorize that this dish may have originated in New York City since Chinatown in Lower Manhattan borders Little Italy to its north. Italian broccoli coupled with the American love of beef may have inspired a Chinese chef to create a product that would appeal to the tourists venturing into this area.
To make a beef with broccoli candle, I improvised strips of beef using a bacon mold. I used undyed soy wax to simulate rice and coopted the Ramen mold to make steamed white rice on the premise that the distinct Ramen noodles appearing on top of this model would be obscured by the beef with broccoli.
The first candle I made was in a glass container. The process for assembling this candle was cumbersome and made all the more difficult by the fact that various components kept smearing wax over the inside of the container.
Instead of using a glass container, I decided to make a free standing beef with broccoli candle. It was a lot easier to layer all of the disparate parts without having glass sides in the way. After assembling the candle, I made a sauce by combining candle gel with brown and black dye.
To keep these candles looking nice and glossy, I finished production by spraying both with a gloss enamel spray.
This candle smells of beef, bacon, cilantro, ginger, garlic, and lemon grass. I liked how they turned out. Although these are more time consuming than assembling a sandwich candle, I think I will produce a few as eclectic candle products. Even though each candle used the same items, the fact that each of these had to be hand assembled gave each one a distinct and unique appearance.
Pictured below left is a dish of real beef with broccoli that my culinary students made this past school year. Below right is one of my beef with broccoli candles.