Ten Tips for Stir-frying
"Well done is quickly
Somehow, I don't think Augustus Caesar was referring to cooking when he made this particular observation. Still, the quote is quite appropriate to the subject of stir-frying. In Chinese Home Cooking, Helen Chen states that stir-frying "requires quick, intense heat and short, rapid, cooking." It looks easy when you watch an expert like Martin Yan wielding a spatula on television, but the truth is that stir-frying is a very precise art.
I frequently receive emails from readers wondering why their stir-fried dishes never turn out quite right - the vegetables are soggy and so forth. I hope these ten tips will help. Taking care of the wok and cleaning it properly is also important.
One final tip: don't become discouraged if occasionally a dish doesn't turn out as you expected. After all, the Chinese have had hundreds of years to perfect their skills: stir-frying has been around at least since the Han dynasty.
1. Make sure you have all the ingredients you need ahead of time.
2. Make sure all the food is cut according to directions before you start. Never try to prepare food while stir-frying.
3. Heat the wok for at least a minute before adding oil. (You may want to skip this step if you have a nonstick pan - it can damage the coating.)
4. Add the oil so that it circles around the sides of the wok before reaching the bottom. This coats the sides of the wok in oil, and causes the oil to heat faster.
5. Before adding other ingredients, add a few pieces of garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes. This will add a nice flavor to the dish.
6. If the recipe calls for meat and vegetables, cook the meat first and then set it aside. Add the meat back when the vegetables are almost cooked.
7. Stir-fry vegetables according to density, with the densest vegetables being stir-fried first and for the longest time. (Green leafy vegetables - such as bok choy - require less cooking time than vegtables such as carrots and eggplant.)
8. To stir-fry, move a spatula through the wok, tossing the ingredients every few seconds.
9. When stir-frying meat, wait a few seconds before tossing so that it has a chance to brown; when stir-frying vegetables, begin moving them immediately.
10. Serve the stir-fried dish immediately.
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