The characteristic feature of stir-frying is to toss the food constantly with a shovel-like utensil called a 'charn', a spade-like scoop ideal for the continuous turning motion required. Stir-frying is regarded as a healthy cooking method, and for good reasons. The short cooking time preserves many of the food's nutrients with most of the colour and vitamins intact. As seasoned woks develop a non-stick coating, very little oil is needed.
The secret to successful stir-frying is to remember that once you begin, you must keep going. There is no time to interrupt the cooking process, even if it is to chop an ingredient or mix a sauce. All essentials should be prepared beforehand.
When the wok is heated, make sure the temperature is intense enough to sear the food and seal in any juices, so that they do not stew.
While preparing the ingredients, cut them into small, even pieces, so they cook evenly. Meat or poultry should be sliced into thin, uniform slices (slicing is easier if the meat is frozen for about 30 minutes beforehand, however never refreeze meat that has been defrosted).
Long vegetables, such as leafy stems, asparagus and green beans, should be cut diagonally to increase their surface area, thereby hastening the cooking time. If vegetables have been washed, they should be dried thoroughly so that they do not add too much moisture to the mixture. When preparing large quantities of meat, cook it in small batches to avoid stewing the food in its own juices.
CHINESE BEEF AND ASPARAGUS WITH OYSTER SAUCE
500g lean beef fillet, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tbsp light soy sauce, ½ tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
2½ tbsp vegetable oil
200g fresh thin asparagus spears, cut into thirds on the diagonal
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp julienned fresh ginger
60ml (¼ cup) chicken stock
2 – 3 tbsp oyster sauce
Place beef slices in a large bowl with soy sauce, sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of rice wine. Cover and marinate for at least 15 minutes. Heat the wok on high heat, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and swirl to coat the side of the wok.
When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the asparagus from the wok. Add another tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the beef in two batches, stir-frying each batch for 1-2 minutes, or until cooked.
Remove meat from the wok. Add the remaining oil to the wok and when hot, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Pour the stock, oyster sauce and remaining rice wine into the wok, bring to the boil rapidly for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced. Return the beef and asparagus to the wok and stir-fry for a further minute, or until everything is heated through and coated in the sauce. Serve with steamed rice.
Prep time: 10 minutes + 15 minutes marinating; cooking time: 10 minutes; serves 4.
Nutrition per serve: fat 16g; carbohydrate 4.5g; protein 29g; dietary fibre 1g; cholesterol 84mg; 1200 KJ (285 Cal).
400g dried rice vermicelli
60ml (¼ cup) soy sauce
60ml (¼ cup) oyster sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
250g chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced
2 tbsp oil, 2 stalks celery, julienned
1 large carrot, julienned
3 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1½ tbsp Asian curry powder
½ tsp sesame oil, 65g bean sprouts
Soak noodles in cold water for 30 minutes, or until soft. Drain well. Combine 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, garlic and ginger, add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and and cook for 30 minutes.
Heat a wok, add oil and swirl to coat. Cook chicken, then add celery, carrot and half the spring onion, and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add curry powder and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until aromatic. Add noodles, and then stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve hot.
Prep time: 20 minutes + 30 minutes soaking + 30 minutes marinating; cooking time: 10 minutes; serves 4-6
Nutrition per serve: fat 12g; carbohydrate 20g; protein 13g; dietary fibre 2.5g; cholesterol 20mg; 1003 KJ (240 Cal)
BEEF WITH SNOW PEAS
2 tbsp soy sauce, ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
400g lean beef fillet, thinly sliced across the grain, 2 tbsp peanut oil
200g snow peas, topped and tailed
1 small red capsicum, sliced, 1½ tsp cornflour
Combine the soy sauce and ginger in a large bowl, add the beef and toss. Heat a wok over high heat, add the oil and swirl to coat the side of the wok. Add the beef in two batches and stir – fry for 2 minutes each batch, or until the meat is golden. Return all the beef to the wok and add the snow peas and red capsicum. Stir – fry for a further 2 minutes. Dissolve the cornflour in a little stock. Add the paste to the wok with the remaining stock, extra soy sauce and the sesame oil. Stir until the sauce boils and thickens. Serve with rice.
Prep time: 10 minutes; cooking time: 10 minutes; serves: 4
Nutrition per serve: fat 13g; carbohydrate 9g; protein 27g; dietary fibre 3g; cholesterol 67mg; 1095 KJ (260 Cal).
Recipes by Elora Hossain