Southwest Stir-Fry Beef

The Importance of Taste

by Mary Abbott Hess


If you are average, you were probably born with about 10,000 taste buds.

These taste buds have receptors which detect the four primary tastes of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. There is some evidence that suggests other tastes, such as metallic and savory, are also detected.

Working along with taste and smell are the sensory nerves of the face and head, detecting irritants such as pepper and carbonation. Add the important factors of texture, temperature and appearance, and the result is, in the broadest sense, flavor.

Many different substances have flavor-enhancing capacity, including salt, sugar, and the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate. Although some of these substances provide flavor of their own, they also accentuate and blend other flavors.

For example, a pinch of salt can intensify the chicken flavor in soup, monosodium glutamate can harmonize the flavors in salad dressing and lemon juice may be added to a bland dish to sharpen its flavor.

Research shows that both taste and smell diminish during aging process. Thus, higher intensities of flavor are often required for older people to perceive the presence of a particular flavor. Some medications, chronic disorders and certain medical treatments can alter taste perception, resulting in loss of appetite. The use of flavor-enhancers for the elderly—and anyone else with a reduced sense of taste—can make a difference between a nourishing, delicious meal and a flavorless meal, left uneaten. Here are some tips for flavorful meals:

  • When shopping, choose foods that are beautiful, fresh, and full-flavored.
  • When planning meals, choose a variety of foods with different shapes, colors, temperatures and textures.
  • Experiment with flavor enhancers such as herbs, spices, extracts, acids (such as lemon juice and vinegar) and monosodium glutamate.
  • Eat slowly, chew food thoroughly to release flavor molecules and help you smell food aromas better.
Southwest Stir-Fry Beef
Southwest Stir-Fry Beef

Yield: 12 servings


  • Picante Salsa—4 cups
  • Soy sauce—2 cups
  • Ginger powder—2 tsp.
  • Garlic powder—1 tsp.
  • Sesame oil—1 Tbsp.
  • Dry sherry—1 cup
  • Flank steak, 2-inch x 1/4-inch slices—3 lbs.
  • Scallions, 1-inch slices—2 cups (6 oz.)
  • Red and green peppers, sliced—1 qt. (1 pound)
  • Broccoli florets—5 cups (11 oz.)
  • Chopped peanuts—1 cup (6 oz.)
  • Baby corn—1 cup (3/4 lb.)
  • Peanut oil, divided—1 cup


Combine the salsa, soy sauce, ginger powder, garlic powder, sesame oil, and sherry. Cover and refrigerate 4-1/2 cups until needed. Pour remaining sauce over flank steak and marinate for 1 hour. After 1 hour, drain marinade from the steak, cover and refrigerate.


Combine the scallions, peppers, broccoli, peanuts, and baby corn, and refrigerate until needed.

For each serving, sear 1/4 pound of reserved steak in 2 teaspoons of hot oil; remove from the pan and keep warm. In the same pan, sauté 1/4 pound of reserved vegetables in 2 teaspoons of hot oil for 1 minute, add the reserved meat and 2 ounces of reserved sauce; bring to boil and mix well. Serve 10 ounces per portion over 3 ounces of steamed rice.

Note: Chicken or shrimp can be substituted for beef.

Recipe provided by Nabisco Foods Group


All About Marinades

This page originally published as a FoodDay article (circa 1997).

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This page modified February 2007

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