STIR FRYING BASICS
Wonderful Wok: Stir Frying Basics
by Dina Giolitto
to enjoy the tantalizing taste of Asian food at home?
Invest in a wok! Stir-frying is one of the easiest ways
to create a delicious, healthy dinner in minutes. Learn
to prepare meals the Asian way: light on meat, heavy
on the vegetables, and quick-cooked on high heat to
retain vitamins and flavors. A few basics are all you
need to get cooking!
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on state
of the art cookware. A standard, stainless-steel wok,
purchased for less than $50, will serve its purpose
well. The heavier the wok, the better it will retain
heat. This is important because you must cook at a high
temperature to avoid stewing or steaming your ingredients.
Before you use your wok for the first time, you must
season it. Seasoning the wok is a way to "break
it in" to ensure even heat distribution during
stir-frying, and helps lock in the flavors of the food
as it is cooking. When you remove your wok from its
packaging, you may notice a greasy film on the surface.
Wipe this film away, and wash your wok in warm, soapy
water. To season your wok, put it on the stove over
medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add a drop or two
of oil, and swirl it around to coat the surface evenly.
Remove from the stovetop to let cool for a bit, and
then use a paper towel to wipe out the oily residue.
You may want to season your wok once more before you
begin cooking with it.
Professional chefs use a mesh ladel to toss meat and
vegetables around in the wok, but if you don't have
one of these, a wooden spoon will do just fine. Place
several large, clean bowls and plates on the counter
next to your wok so you can set your cooked items aside
as you prepare them in batches. Other items you'll need:
a chef's knife, cutting board and several bowls of different
sizes to store liquid mixtures and chopped herbs and
and dry food prep
The most time-consuming part of stir-frying is preparing
the ingredients. You will want everything portioned
out and cleaned, chopped, sliced and diced in advance.
The actual stir-frying is fast and furious (you've probably
heard those pans rattling like mad while waiting for
your Chinese takeout!) so meat, vegetables, noodles,
spices and oils should be ready and within reaching
distance so you can grab and get on with it. Chop everything
into bite-sized chunks to ensure quick and thorough
cooking. Make sure there is no extra water or other
liquid in your wok while stir-frying meat and vegetables.
As mentioned earlier, liquid in the wok will cause your
meal to stew instead of lightly fry.
Properly stir-fried food retains its crisp, firm exterior
and tender, juicy inside by cooking small portions at
a time. Heat the wok, drizzle in enough oil to coat
the surface, and add enough small cuts of beef, pork
or chicken to just cover the bottom. Fry on medium-high
heat, tossing the entire time. When your first batch
of meat is thoroughly cooked, remove from the wok and
drain on paper towels. Fry the second batch in a little
more oil, and then set aside. Oil the pan once more,
toss in a few cloves of crushed garlic and / or ginger,
and stir-fry the vegetables, adding the thicker ingredients
like potatoes and carrots first, and then tossing in
quicker cooking ingredients like scallions (spring onions)
and mushrooms at the end. When the vegetables are done,
return the meat to the pot with the vegetables, and
finish with your liquid sauces and seasonings. Give
everything a quick toss, simmer for a few minutes and
then remove from heat.
Thai cooking is immensely popular right now; similar
to Chinese, but with its own exotic spices and flavorings,
some of which take their cue from Indian cuisine. Malaysian,
Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean fare all boast their
signature recipes as well. With practice, you will learn
which spices and sauces go with what and how to identify
their flavors. You can buy most of what you need at
an Asian specialty store.
have some Asian cooking staples on hand: soy sauce,
oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce. Fresh ginger,
garlic, chillies, galangal, Asian shallots, scallions,
kaffir lime leaves, cilantro and lemongrass. Green or
red curry paste, shrimp paste. Noodles and rice. And
of course . . . plenty of fresh meat, fish, tofu and
vegetables. Pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, prawns, scallops.
Onions, carrots, broccoli, snow peas, bok choi (Chinese
cabbage), mushrooms (regular, oyster mushrooms, shitake
really is no limit to what you can do with a wok, an
assortment of meats, vegetables, spices and sauces.
If you are the creative chef, feel free to experiment.
If you are a by the book cook, go out and purchase
a stir-fry cookbook which will explain each technique
in detail as well as familiarize you with the exotic
ingredients. Above all: know that stir-frying is a healthy
way to prepare and enjoy the foods you love in the comfort
2005 Dina Giolitto
article was written by Dina Giolitto who provides
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