Stir fry is a style of cooking that is quick, versatile and involves a lot of stirring, as the name suggests. It's usually cooked on a medium-high to high heat, while constantly stirring on an open fry pan or wok, which gives the ingredients enough space to evenly cook and does not have the risk of over cooking or burning the food.
Stir fries can be made using just vegetables or with chicken, beef, lamb, or sea food. You can add any seasoning, sauces, broths, bouillon or oils for flavouring.
The crispy beef stir-fry is my take on a beef vegetable stir fry dish, but with an extra crunch. The coated and deep-fried beef slices give the recipe an extra depth in texture and flavour. The coating also gives the beef a crispy surface to hold on to the sauces without making it soggy.
A change in the sauces and seasoning you use will give the dish a different taste and flavour every time, which makes it so versatile. Here, I have used my all-time favourite flavours of fried garlic, spicy dried red chillies, and soy sauce for an East Asian flavour.
Using slices of ginger, with or without garlic, will change this stir fry completely. When you add a handful of chopped spring onions and a couple tablespoons of sesame oil, you cannot miss the distinct flavours of Korea.
Add a bit of peanut oil or peanut butter, a splash of fish sauce, lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar, and you have a Thai stir-fry.
For a continental take, simply use a broth, or bouillon, salt and pepper and a generous amount of butter. With a stir-fry, and so many different ingredients to choose from, you can never go wrong.
Serve it with a plate of steaming hot rice, fried rice, roll it up in a pita bread, or fry it with some pre-boiled noodles, and give your family a restaurant style meal every night of the week.
If you're watching your weight, or have someone in the family trying to control their blood sugar, just serve the stir fry on its own and you will not feel the need to eat carbs or have any cravings for rice and bread that a usual diet of cold salads and steamed vegetables bring. Eating healthy does not have to be a compromise on taste.
Eat well, stay well. Happy cooking everyone!
CRISPY BEEF STIR-FRY
1 can mushrooms
3 medium sized carrots
3 large onions
1 large garlic
10 dried red chillies
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 cup cornflour
oil for frying
Cut the beef into thin strips or thin bite-size pieces. Cut the garlic and carrots into thin slices. Cut chillies and mushrooms in halves. Chop the onions and capsicums in large chunks or cubes. Take the onion layers apart for faster cooking time.
In a mixing bowl, add salt and pepper to a cup of cornflour. Place the beef pieces and mix it thoroughly to evenly coat all the beef with cornflour. In a wok, pour enough oil to deep fry the beef. When the oil is hot, add the beef and fry till golden brown and crispy. Strain, place on paper towel and set aside.
Remove most of the oil from the wok, leaving about 2-3 tablespoons. On medium-high heat, add garlic and red chillies. Fry till the garlic is golden in colour, aromatic and the chillies are fragrant. Add mushrooms and fry till the water has evaporated, the surface is slightly fried and has a golden colour.
At this point, you can increase the heat.
Add beef and stir to mix. Add carrots and stir fry for a minute or two. You don't want to cook the carrots all the way. They should be slightly cooked and have a crunch to them. Pour the soy sauce and oyster sauce, stir quickly to evenly distribute. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper according to taste. Add the onions and capsicum. Stir fry till the onions are translucent. Turn the heat off, you don't want the onions and capsicum to be limp.
Serve while it's piping hot.
Tip: The recipe here is a dry stir-fry, but you can always make a slurry one with cornflour and water and make a sticky gravy.
The beef has been thinly sliced so that there's less cooking time involved. You can always have bigger, bite sized, thinly sliced pieces or use cubes of meat. If you're using meat cubes, prawns or calamari, it's best to brown each side in shallow oil in a fry pan before adding the vegetables.
The vegetables I used here are very basic, easily available, and always in season. You can also use, broccoli, cauliflower, long beans, snow peas, baby corn, snake gourd, and much more.
To make the stir fry, I used a traditional Chinese wok. The subtle rounded shape of the wok gives a large cooking surface that helps to makes it easy to constantly stir and get a nice brown, charred flavour on the vegetables.
If you don't have a wok, I find our very own deshi "korai" also does the job well. You can skip all these and use any basic aluminium, stainless steel or non-stick fry pan as well.
Food and Photo:Nafisa Ahmed Sonali