Simple Chinese Stir Fry
There are a few technical issues that are really the key to stir-fry success. You need to get your pan hot enough (which is generally impossible to do with a wok because of the BTUs of American stoves and the thinness of the wok metal), but a non-stick skillet will do what you need it to do perfectly.
The other misstep is when you try to cram too many ingredients into the wrong-sized pan—this is my most common stir-fry failure. Easily solvable, with a little thing called patience.
The Six Steps
1. Stir-fries cook quickly so act like a scout and be prepared. Cut all vegetables small enough that they'll cook fast, and line up all ingredients next to the stove in the order they'll go into the pan. Always dilute soy sauce in a ratio of 1 part soy to 1 part water—when it hits the hot pan it will reduce, gaining back its strength.
2. Choose your noodle. I find all noodles are good noodles as long as they're long. Cook them to al dente and cool them—I like to steep rice noodles instead of boiling them, which only takes about 10 minutes.
3. Cook the protein first, adding half the diluted soy after the protein has caramelized. Remove the protein to a plate, wipe out the pan, and reheat it.
4. Sear the vegetables until tender. Be sure to add the vegetables that take the longest to cook to the pan first. Carrots first, ginger and garlic last.
5. Combine everything in the pan and toss just till it's warmed through, adding the remaining diluted soy sauce last.
6. Add the garnish—here, chives and scallions—which in Asian food isn't optional. It's an actual ingredient that needs to be added for flavor.
Still want a recipe? Here are a few for inspiration:
• Shredded Pork and Chinese Celery Lo Mein
• Spicy Grilled Chicken Salad with Noodles
• Thai Curry Noodles with Shrimp
Tom Hirschfeld is a contributor at Food52. He's a stay-at-home dad and a trained chef. He taught at the local culinary school for 5 years, and has a small farm where he gardens, and raises chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks. He talks about small farm life at www.bonafidefarmfood.com.
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