Quick Stir Fry

Recipe ideas & how to: 1. Gingered Zucchini (fantastic with seafood) 2. Curried Tomato (great for chicken) 3. Whiskey Gingered Carrot Cake Marmalade (excellent w/ beef) 4. Cinnamon Eggplant Jam (lamb)



4/9/20215 min read

1.  Prepare your meat or protein by cutting it into thin strips.  Stir fry dishes certainly don’t require the inclusion of meat, so if you’re vegetarian, feel free to make a stir fry with a substitute like tofu or with just vegetables.  If you are including meat (or tofu, etc.) in your recipe, begin by cutting it into small, thin pieces so that it cooks quickly. Speed is key when it comes to stir-fry cooking - you’ll want your ingredients, especially any meat, to cook as quickly as possible.  Always marinate your meat.  It keeps meat tender and adds to the flavor. 

2.  Prepare your vegetables as needed.  Have all ingredients chopped and measured before you start.  Most stir-fry dishes include vegetables of some sort.  As with your meat, you’ll want your vegetable pieces to be fairly small and thin so that they’ll cook quickly.  Vegetables should be uniformly sliced to ensure even cooking.  This means that any peppers should be cut into thin slices, any onions should be chopped up, etc.  You can also marinate the vegetables.  Mushrooms will absorb rice wine vinegar for a good flavor combination.   Be sure to dry off vegetables before adding them to the wok.  Wet vegetables will not properly stir fry, resulting in a braise.  This will also prevent a soggy stir fry.   Below are just a few of the vegetables you might consider adding to your stir fry - feel free to add more as you please!

  1. Bell peppers

  2. Hotter pepper varieties (red peppers, etc.)

  3. Water Chestnuts

  4. Bok Choy

  5. Onions

  6. Carrots (sliced or cut thin)

  7. Broccoli

  8. Garlic

  9. Pea pods (especially thin snow peas)

  10. Mushrooms

  11. Baby Corn

3. Heat up your pan or wok. Preheat your wok before you add the oil.   Traditionally, stir-fry dishes are cooked in a steep, sloping style cooking pan called a wok.  The most wonderful thing about a wok is that it allows you to move the ingredients out of the cooking zone (the very center) so that they stay warm, but don’t overcook.  After the meat is cooked, move it up the edges of the wok.  However, it’s possible to use flat-bottomed Western-style pans as well.  All that’s important is that the pan is made from sturdy metal and that it has room for all of your ingredients.  Set your pan (with no ingredients yet inside it) over a stovetop burner on medium-high heat for about 1 to 2 minutes.  Usually, a wok is at the right temperature when it starts smoking.  Make sure the wok is fully heated, then quickly remove it from the heat and swirl it in oil to prevent smoking.   You can also test your pan’s heat by tossing a drop of water in - if the water droplet sizzles and boils away immediately or “dances”, your pan is hot enough.

4. Put a small amount of oil (1-2 tablespoons) in your wok.  You won’t typically need much oil - you’re stir-frying, not deep frying.  Once you add the oil, give it a swirl to coat the base and side.  As stir-frying is done over high heat, it’s best to use oils with a high smoke point.   Peanut oil and safflower oil can tolerate more heat than other vegetable oils.  At this point, you’ll also want to add any seasoning and/or spices you’re using to your dish.  You have many options here.  You may, for instance, choose to drop in some red pepper flakes for a spicy kick or add a dash of a liquid ingredient like soy sauce to the oil for a classic flavor.  The choice is yours - below are just a few more suggestions…

  1. Sherry or rice wine

  2. Minced garlic or garlic powder

  3. Salt and pepper

  4. Ginger (if using, take care not to burn)

5. Add your meat, stirring frequently.  If you’re including meat or another protein source, add it first.  Add meat evenly to the wok and leave it for 20 seconds.  This allows the meat to sear.  Stir fry for a few seconds, then sear for another 20 seconds and continue stir-frying.  If your pan is hot enough, it will sear very quickly.  Once an initial sear is obtained, keep the meat in motion, stirring very frequently until it is just cooked through.  This usually requires about 5 minutes.  Note that the addition of meat will lower the temperature of your pan temporarily.  To counteract this, you may want to turn the burner up slightly for a minute or so.  Always cook your meat first in small batches to seal it and keep it tender.  Adding too much meat will reduce the temperature of the wok and make it stew, resulting in tough, flavorless meat.  Don’t overcook the meat at this stage as it will continue to cook when it’s returned to the wok. 

6. Add slow-cooking vegetables next.  When your meat is just barely done, you’ll want to start adding your vegetables.  Start with thick, firm vegetables that take a relatively long time to cook - you’ll want to give these a head start of several minutes to soften up before adding the other veggies.  Stir-fry onions first, then add hard vegetables such as carrots and broccoli.  If using veggies that have a combination of both textures, such as gai laan, add the stems first and the leaves later.   Below are a few common vegetables that may take extra time to cook:

  1. Broccoli

  2. Snow peas

  3. Carrots

  4. Onions

7. Add faster-cooking vegetables last.  Next, add the rest of your vegetables.  Quick-cooking vegetables, such as snow peas, leafy greens, and bean sprouts, should be added toward the end of cooking.  These veggies shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to soften.  Vegetables you may add at this point include:

  1. Bean sprouts

  2. Mushrooms

  3. Any vegetables from a pre-cooked or ready-made package

8. Add any stir fry sauce you are using at the very end.  Finally, add any sauce you desire to your stir fry.  Add sauces and pre-cooked noodles last.  They only need to be stir-fried until just heated through.  While you may previously have added a dash or so of liquid flavor, you’ll now want to add the main portion.  However, it is best to be fairly conservative with your sauces.  Try not to add too much sauce at once, as this can make the vegetables soggy in addition to lowering the heat of the wok.  Below are a few examples of sauces you may want to add at this point.

  1. Gingered Zucchini Marmalade (fantastic with seafood)

  2. Curried Tomato Marmalade (great for chicken)

  3. Whiskey Gingered Carrot Cake Marmalade (excellent with beef)

  4. Cinnamon Eggplant Jam (perfect for lamb) 

  5. Plum and Gin (wonderful with pork)

9. Cook for 3-4 minutes.  Give your stir fry a chance to cook and reduce slightly.  Continue to stir as needed - if you’re confident, you can even “flip” your ingredients with a quick wrist motion every once in a while.  After just a few minutes, the vegetables and sauce should be done. 

10. Clean your wok by washing it in hot water.  To stop your wok from rusting, make sure it’s completely dry and then wipe the surface lightly with vegetable oil before packing away.