Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stir Fry Night

As a big fan of Asian food, I long dreamed of making the perfect at-home stir fry. You know... where the vegetables are still crisp and there's just the right amount of sauce - not a soupy salt lick experience. I screwed it up for a long time, and then a few years ago I did a little research and bought a proper wok. Here's what I've learned:

1. Buy an authentic wok - not the non-stick silliness that all of the major stores sell. It sounds like an expensive piece of equipment, but I actually bought my carbon steel wok from the Wok Shop online for between $20-30.

2. Cook in small batches, and group what goes in a batch according to like cooking times. For example, I wouldn't do mushrooms and broccoli in the same batch since the mushrooms will have turned to mush by the time the broccoli is ready to come out.

3. Don't be afraid turn the dial up to high heat. If you've done steps 1 and 2 and you're keeping an eye on it, it's not going to burn.

4. Take it out of the wok before it's finished cooking. This is the key to your vegetables maintaining some texture. Since they'll keep cooking after you remove them from the wok, get them out when they're about 3/4 of the way to where you want them.

4. Add less sauce than you think you need.

Now... ready to stir fry?

What You'll Need:
  • Oil - I keep it simple with vegetable oil.
  • Plenty of minced garlic
  • Minced ginger (though I usually omit it to accommodate family tastes)
  • Stir fry sauce - I like the Iron Chef and Panda Express brands at our grocery store
  • Rice OR soba noodles
  • A chopped dark, leafy green. My husband won't eat spinach or kale otherwise, so this is a good way to sneak some in. If you go with kale, be sure to remove the big ribs.
  • A protein souce. Edamame or tofu marinated in your stir fry sauce are great.
  • A variety of chopped vegetables in a rainbow of colors. The more diverse your rainbow, the better the variety of nutrients.
What You Do:

1. Prepare your rice or noodles. (Do you own a rice cooker? I love mine so very much. Use it a ton.) Also, marinate your protein if that suits what you're doing.
2. Get everything out on the counter and ready to go. Plan on what's going in with what as a small batch. Once you get started, you're going to be busy and things are going to move quickly.

3. Put some oil in your wok and turn it close to high. Toss your garlic and ginger in. As soon as it sizzles....

4. ... throw in your first small batch. When it's reached the 75% done-ness level, put it in a bowl off the heat.

5. Make sure that you have oil in your wok, and throw in your second batch. With leafy stuff, you really have to toss it around to get everything to wilt/cook down. Again take it out at the 75% point and set it in the bowl. (I went with Napa cabbage for this time. Not dark green, so I made sure to include the broccoli in the next batch to get some of the dark green nutrients in.)

6. Again check to be sure there's oil in there, and throw in another small vegetable batch. For this round I used broccoli and cauliflower. For these guys I turn my heat down just slightly and use the wok lid to help steam them a bit. Remove them to your bowl when they're 75% ready. 

7. Put your heat closer to medium and add a little more oil and another round of minced garlic. When it sizzles, add your tofu (or meat, if that's what you're doing) - do NOT dump all of the marinade in - and toss it around periodically just until it's either a little crispy (for tofu) or not pink anymore (for meat). Remove to another bowl.

8. The kids are quiet. Go check on them.

 9. With the heat still on medium, add all of the vegetables back in. If you're using noodles, add those as well. Now is the time to add the stir fry sauce - remember a little goes a long way. Toss to coat and turn heat off.

10. Add some tofu, and ta da!

A note about choosing vegetables for your stir fry. It can take a LOT of time to chop vegetables up when you're using so many, so I always choose at least a few shortcut vegetables for mine. You see a couple here: pre-sliced and washed mushrooms and pre-sliced carrots.

Happy stir frying!

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  1. We love Asian food! And I LOVE my rice cooker! Probably one of my most used kitchen gadgets.

    1. I know! I use mine more than the slow cooker.

  2. This looks great! We will be making a stir-fry tonight.

    1. Thanks, hope your stir fry is yummy tonight!

  3. Ok this is going on the menu for next week. I don't have a wok, I need to go buy one for this?

  4. Lesley, if you're going to make a habit of stir fry night, I do think it's worth investing in a carbon steel wok. To just try it out to see if it's something you like, a large frying pan should work for testing purposes. You might have to hold back on the heat, though.


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