Monday, August 31, 2009

Making a Stir-Fry - Part 1

Intro and Step 1

Stir-fries are a quick and easy way to make a delicious meal. Really, there’s not much that’s easier to make than a stir-fry. The only drawback is preparing that ubiquitous and expected accompaniment, rice. Oh rice, you frustrating grain, you. I have been cooking for a long time, have usually had things turn out anywhere from decent to magnificent, but rice continues to confound me. I just can’t seem to get it right on any sort of consistent basis. So, we’re going to break down the art of the stir-fry into three steps: the first will deal with getting the elements of the actual stir-fry together, the second with making rice and finding alternatives to rice in oriental-style cooking in general, the third will deal with cooking the stir-fry, as well as the elements of presenting the meal.

Step 1 – Getting your Stir-Fry Together


Alright, let’s hope you’ve put something of a kitchen together since the first post. For this recipe you’ll need pretty much the exact same cookware as with our pasta recipe. The elements are almost identical. You’ll need a knife and cutting board for prep, a large frying pan (or a wok if you want to be all authentic and stuff) and spatula for the stir-fry itself, a medium sized saucepan/pot with a handle and a lid for the rice, a bowl or plate for serving the food, a fork to eat it with (although using chopsticks is much more rewarding and a damn sight sexier – at least it is according to one of my exes, more on that later).


The most important ingredient for making a stir-fry, I find, is sesame oil. It’s what gives Chinese food it’s Chinese-iness? Um, yeah… I’ve found you don’t want to get massive quantities of sesame oil as it gets bitter after a while. President’s Choice sells a 185 ml bottle which I’ve found is the perfect size.

With sesame oil and only 3 more ingredients, you can make a no-fail stir-fry sauce. So, here it is:

Nick’s Super-Easy Stir-Fry Sauce
(as with anything I cook, none of this is an exact science, fiddle with amounts as you see fit)

- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp soya sauce (or, preferably, 1 tbsp each of soya sauce and oyster sauce – oyster sauce is thicker and isn’t quite as purely salty as soya, with a subtle fishy undertone)
- ½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder (a spice mix usually consisting of fennel, cinnamon, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns and cloves; available at most grocery stores in major cities – delicious stuff!)
- 3-4 tbsp your favourite beer

Whisk all that together with a fork and that’s it! Put in a glass or ceramic container and set aside.

Stir-fry ingredients:

1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger (fresh)
½ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

As for the meat and veggies, it’s all to taste. Just dice veggies (about 1 ½ cm thick). If using carrots, slice thinner as they take longer to cook. Just think of the last time you got Chinese food and cut your veggies roughly the way the restaurant did.

For meat, I like to use beef and cut it into thin slices (almost like ribbons). With chicken, I usually cube it (you can buy chicken already prepped into stir-fry strips or cubed). You can also use shrimp or scallops (see previous post for notes on prepping seafood). Even fish filets will work, but the cooking time is a little different.

Next post: Dealing with Starch

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