How to Stir Fry at Home
The Chinese have a way of manipulating food that is easy to learn and open to lots of possibilities and variation. So dig out that wok you got for a house warming present or a wedding gift, a sharp chopping knife and bood cutting board and let’s try stir fry!
What I learned about the ancient technique of Stir-Fry is you have to be prepared before you start. The French term for this is Mise en place. Often I talk about prepping ingredients before you start cooking, but this is a must when stir-frying. In fact prepping the ingredients will take longer than the actual cooking. This is very important because once you have begun the actual the cooking process you will not be able to stop.
Stir-frying will also give you some practice with your cutting skills since each ingredient will be bite size (have you ever seen a knife in a Chinese restaurant?) and have different cuts.
Once prepped, put the ingredients in individual bowls separated by cooking times (mise en place). The technique is to quickly fry the ingredients in a large pan over high heat while constantly stirring to preserve flavor, color and texture of the food and keep the vegetables crisp.
Typically one uses a wok – a large deep bowl made of thin metal with gentle curved sides. The heat concentrates at the bottom of the pan and the curved sides allow you to push the ingredients to cooler areas. You can use a typical frying pan, but it won’t cook as fastresuoting in less than crispy vegetables.
Other than a few specialty ingredients, you can use whatever you have on hand to make a stir-fry. It’s a great way to clean out the vegetable drawer. Because you’ll be cooking at very high heat, you want to use a high smoking point oil like peanut, safflower, corn, or canola.
Some of the specialty ingredients that you should be able to find at your local supermarket are soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and chili sauce. Short or medium grained rice is best for accompanying your stir-fry.
You start by prepping the meat or chicken.
Cut the meat into thin bite-size slices and marinate to protect it from overcooking. The marinade can be made with a variety of liquids depending on the flavor you are trying to obtain. Typical marinade ingredients include chicken or beef stock, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili sauce, corn starch, brown sugar, rice wine or dry sherry.
Marinate meat for a least one hour, longer is better.
Prepare an aromatic mixture consisting of finely chopped herbs and spices that will add flavor and aroma to the stir-fry. Typical aromatics include garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes, shallots, and chili peppers to name a few. Next prepare your vegetables by cutting them into small pieces and separating according to their cooking times. Slower cooking vegetables like asparagus and green beans will be added before faster cooking vegetables like pea pods and tomatoes.
Stir fry cooking is an easy cooking technique to learn. Relish the endless possibilities of this handy process.