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View Full Version : Let's talk stir-fry recipes, techniques and equipment


lindsaybluth
04-20-2011, 01:05 PM
For the life of me I can't make a good stir fry. Do I need a wok? What kind of wok? Higher heat? Everything I make turns out lacking that delicious crisp-tender texture and forgoing the perfect salty-sweet-spicy trifecta that a restaurant stir fry has.

So, share your tips and techniques for a good stir fry and your favorite recipes as well! If you like a particular brand of an ingredient, include that too.

pulykamell
04-20-2011, 01:21 PM
It's nigh impossible to replicate a true stir fry in a home kitchen: burners just don't get hot enough.

I use a carbon-steel wok. You don't want one of those non-stick doo-hickeys. A cast-iron pan, supposedly, also works very well. I believe Cooks Illustrated actually prefers it over a wok for the home kitchen. My technique is to heat up the wok or pan searingly hot, add a little oil, maybe some garlic and ginger, and begin by frying up/browning the meat. When the meat is sufficiently browned and almost fully cooked, I take it aside. I often do this in a couple of batches, as crowding the pan or wok will prevent the meat from browning. Then I add the veggies, with the ones taking the longest first (like broccoli) proceeding up to the quickest cooking ones (like bok choy or bean sprouts). I then add back in the meat, when almost everything is done, mix it all together, finish with whatever sauce I'm using.

lindsaybluth
04-20-2011, 01:26 PM
Wow, so I was doing just about everything wrong! That whole post was extremely helpful. I tended to toss things in all at once, so the meat wouldn't brown and it was (evidently) too crowded. Then certain veggies would come out mushy.

Do you know what brand your wok is, by chance? Asian store or Amazon? I have a crappy one that I want to replace.

What sauce do you like finishing it with? Which oil are you using to begin with, sesame, grapeseed, canola....?

Shark Sandwich
04-20-2011, 01:34 PM
Heat, heat, and more heat.

It's been my experience that gas burners are really the only way to get your pan/wok hot enough for a good stir fry. If you don't have gas burners, work in smaller batches. We have a glass-topped stove, and it seems like no matter what type of pan I used, something was just missing from my stir-frys. Then my parents-in-law got me an individual propane burner for my back porch, and that became my go to stir-fry station.

I think a real wok isn't exactly necessary for a stir-fry, but it sure seems to be easier cooking in one. The large size of the wok makes it easier to get the items in it moving around.

Don't crowd the pan/wok. Over crowding means more heat being transfered to the food, and less heat in the pan/wok, and that leads to soggy over-cooked vegetables instead of the slightly charred, crisp, fresh tasting ones that a good stir-fry is known for.

Cook fast. Have everything prepped and ready to go into the pan before you actually start cooking. There isn't a vegetable out there that when properly prepped, should take more than 3 minutes to cook in the wok. Better underdone vegetables than over done is my take on it.

I usually season very simply for our stir-fry. Nothing more than a dash of salt, or soy sauce. But if you're going to use a teriyaki or some sauce, put it in about 30 seconds before the dish is done, toss the fry a couple of times, and remove. Many of the traditional off the shelf sauces (this includes meat marinades) contain a sugar, and can burn quickly at high heats.

Our favorite stir-fry that I make pretty often includes button mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and bean sprouts. Another we like is julienned carrots, sliced cabbage, and bean sprouts. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Profound Gibberish
04-20-2011, 01:39 PM
All excellent suggestions above. You really need an outdoor setup because even if you get that kind of heat indoors, you will then have a lot of steam, grease and smoke that must be evacuated. And most home kitchen vents are not up to tht task.

Mllz
04-20-2011, 01:42 PM
I fully endorse the contents of pulkamell's post--the biggest improvements to my stir-fry cooking came from cooking the meat in small batches and putting it aside until right before the end.

Oil: because of the high temperatures involved, I find canola oil works well for the actual cooking as it tends to resist smoking better. Things like sesame oil are more useful as adding flavor to sauces.

--speaking of which--

Fish Oil. That was the other big discovery for making stirfrys taste more interesting and--"authentic" isn't really the right word--but... "closer to professional", maybe? I add some to most of my impromptu sauces.

Shark Sandwich
04-20-2011, 01:44 PM
Sesame oil. It really makes a difference and adds to the depth of flavor. I don't worry about it burning or smoking, because I usually toss my vegetables with it before they go in the hot wok. I really don't put any oil IN the wok at all. But I like a "dry" stir-fry. Just the juice from the items cooked. I'm not big on saucy stir-frys.

Tom Scud
04-20-2011, 01:45 PM
Cook fast. Have everything prepped and ready to go into the pan before you actually start cooking. There isn't a vegetable out there that when properly prepped, should take more than 3 minutes to cook in the wok. Better underdone vegetables than over done is my take on it.


This, in particular. Stir-frying should consist of a whole bunch of chopping followed by five minutes, at most, of cooking. Get everything chopped and set up in little bowls or whatever first, even if it means more dish washing.

pulykamell
04-20-2011, 01:47 PM
I have no idea what brand my wok is. It's just a 14-inch flat-bottomed carbon steel I bought in a Chinatown cooking supple store (along with a nice meat cleaver.) I don't think the brand particularly matters, as long as you get something large enough with a flat bottom. A cast iron wok will also work well.

I found this article (http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/getting-the-most-from-your-wok/) on the New York Times with a bunch of helpful stir-fry hints.

As for the sauces, I mostly just improvise. The very basic would be something like a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, maybe rice wine, and maybe some chili or chili-garlic sauce. Sometimes, it'll just be plain oyster sauce with a little broth. Sometimes I have a little cornstarch to thicken, sometimes I don't. I'm a big fan of Thai-style stir fries, so something as simple as fish sauce with a little bit of sugar and a boatload of basil and hot chili peppers is another one of my favorite ways to finish a dish.

billfish678
04-20-2011, 01:48 PM
Lots of good pointers here.

I'll note that when I was in my stir fry phase pork was my favorite. IMO chicken is too easy to get dry and beef is too "heavy" a meat. IMO thin strips of well seared but barely cooked pork hit the sweet spot so to speak.

pulykamell
04-20-2011, 01:51 PM
I fully endorse the contents of pulkamell's post--the biggest improvements to my stir-fry cooking came from cooking the meat in small batches and putting it aside until right before the end.

Oil: because of the high temperatures involved, I find canola oil works well for the actual cooking as it tends to resist smoking better. Things like sesame oil are more useful as adding flavor to sauces.

I agree. I only use sesame oil in my finish, and a little goes a long way, but I do use the dark sesame oils, and not the lighter cold-pressed types (which may be fine for stir-frying, I don't know.) I can't imagine stir frying something in 100% dark sesame oil.

silenus
04-20-2011, 01:58 PM
What they said, plus fish/oyster sauce and Asian death peppers. Find an Asian grocery store and experiment with flavors.

lindsaybluth
04-20-2011, 02:11 PM
Wow, thanks everyone! Both for the advice on prep, small batches, oils and what sauce mixtures to use. I especially appreciate the advice on what vegetables go well with what other veggies; the mixtures I'd been using came out weird.

Am I screwed because I have a *shame* electric coil stove? I am moving at the end of July and will have a new gas stove, so that's good news.

In the meantime, I think I'll try a stir fry on my future MIL's grill, her side gas burner.

Brands of fish and oyster sauce - do they matter? What's everyone's favorite cut of beef?

billfish678, what kind of pork? Loin? Tenderloin?

Shark Sandwich, julienned carrots, sliced cabbage, and bean sprouts sounds wonderful.

I can't imagine stir frying something in 100% dark sesame oil.

Yeah, last time I made this spicy noodle dish (http://www.burghilicious.com/2007/09/thats-spicy-noodle.html) (with snap peas, bell peppers, thinly sliced carrots) I realized I'd run out of regular sesame oil. Toasted sesame oil is not an acceptable substitute :smack:.

Johnny Angel
04-20-2011, 02:36 PM
So, if understand this, the procedure is something like this:

1) Decide what's going in and get it ready to toss in at a moment's notice.
2) Heat the pan.
3) Put in the oil. Also spices?
4) Put the meat to be used first, to give it a chance to brown. Cook it in small batches then set it aside.
5) Throw in the vegetables that cook the slowest.
6) Throw in the quicker-cooking vegetables
7) Toss the meat back in
8) Apply a finishing sauce and/or oil

Is that stir-frying in a nutshell?

Tom Scud
04-20-2011, 02:49 PM
So, if understand this, the procedure is something like this:

1) Decide what's going in and get it ready to toss in at a moment's notice.
2) Heat the pan.
3) Put in the oil. Also spices?
4) Put the meat to be used first, to give it a chance to brown. Cook it in small batches then set it aside.
5) Throw in the vegetables that cook the slowest.
6) Throw in the quicker-cooking vegetables
7) Toss the meat back in
8) Apply a finishing sauce and/or oil

Is that stir-frying in a nutshell?

You can also, if your wok is big enough and the amount of food isn't too large, just jam the meat off up the side of the wok away from the direct heat. (And it's definitely worth the time to slice the meat up very thin to allow it to cook quickly).

silenus
04-20-2011, 02:52 PM
Pretty much. Blooming your spices in hot oil really lets them shine through.

lindsay - Pretty much any brand of oil or sauce will do. They are fairly interchangable (http://www.asianfoodgrocer.com/category/sesame-oil-chili-sauce?gclid=CKDx74bvq6gCFQI8gwodRnvuHQ).

pulykamell
04-20-2011, 02:55 PM
Brands of fish and oyster sauce - do they matter?

They do. Some of the Filipino brands I've had have an odd ammonia-like flavor to them that I don't like. This brand (http://importfood.com/sarp4201.html), for instance, I stay away from. One brand that is widely available and is my fish sauce of choice is Squid brand. As for oyster sauce, the Lee Kum Yee Premium is very good. I usually just look at the ingredients and see which brands have "oyster extractives" as the first ingredient, rather than being buried behind water and sugar.


What's everyone's favorite cut of beef?


Any steak cut works well. For more economical cuts, flank (cut across the grain) and top rounds are good. Sometimes, I even buy something generically called "sandwich steak," which is already sliced very thinly for you, and slice it thinly again into very thin strips.

For pork, loin and tenderloin work best, as they are lean steak-like cuts suitable for fast and furious cooking.

For chicken, anything works, but I like breast in stir fries. I also like to cut it into extra thin strips, if I have the time.

As for blooming the spices in the oil, that is almost always a good idea, but just be careful not to let the spices burn. Anything involving dried peppers requires paying attention (because of their sugar content) and moving around the spices quickly so they don't burn.

Johnny Angel
04-20-2011, 03:20 PM
Again with my stupid questions:

This all sounds very much like what people do with pasta: i.e., put some oil in the pan and use it to heat a mixture of fettuccine, mushrooms, onions or whatever the hell else you want to throw in there. And it also sounds like a lot of curry recipes in which you basically toss in and stir ingredients in a sequence that maximizes the properties of each, ending up at the end with some kind of sauce. Is there a unified theory of throwing stuff in a hot pan, or are these considered distinct practices?

lindsaybluth
04-20-2011, 03:40 PM
They do. Some of the Filipino brands I've had have an odd ammonia-like flavor to them that I don't like. This brand (http://importfood.com/sarp4201.html), for instance, I stay away from. One brand that is widely available and is my fish sauce of choice is Squid brand. As for oyster sauce, the Lee Kum Yee Premium is very good. I usually just look at the ingredients and see which brands have "oyster extractives" as the first ingredient, rather than being buried behind water and sugar.

Perfect, thank you :). They're on my grocery list; one as a must buy and one as an avoid!

Any steak cut works well. For more economical cuts, flank (cut across the grain) and top rounds are good. Sometimes, I even buy something generically called "sandwich steak," which is already sliced very thinly for you, and slice it thinly again into very thin strips.

For pork, loin and tenderloin work best, as they are lean steak-like cuts suitable for fast and furious cooking.

For chicken, anything works, but I like breast in stir fries. I also like to cut it into extra thin strips, if I have the time.

Also perfect. The cuts you mentioned were what I suspected but wanted to confirm.

Pretty much. Blooming your spices in hot oil really lets them shine through.

I love the spices in hot oil thing. That I'm good at. Yup, pulykamell beat me to itAs for blooming the spices in the oil, that is almost always a good idea, but just be careful not to let the spices burn.

I've burned many a red pepper flake. Hey, at least back then they weren't Penzey's :p

lindsay - Pretty much any brand of oil or sauce will do. They are fairly interchangable (http://www.asianfoodgrocer.com/category/sesame-oil-chili-sauce?gclid=CKDx74bvq6gCFQI8gwodRnvuHQ).

Good to know. Guess I'll just look for sauces that aren't too high in the sodium department.

This all sounds very much like what people do with pasta: i.e., put some oil in the pan and use it to heat a mixture of fettuccine, mushrooms, onions or whatever the hell else you want to throw in there. And it also sounds like a lot of curry recipes in which you basically toss in and stir ingredients in a sequence that maximizes the properties of each, ending up at the end with some kind of sauce. Is there a unified theory of throwing stuff in a hot pan, or are these considered distinct practices?

I'm by no means an expert (see: this thread) but you don't need a wok or high heat for the pasta stuff. Nor are you going for the crisp-tender thing that's been difficult to obtain for many people.

Does anyone add sugar, or is fish sauce the particular taste I'm craving in my own stir frys? How many of you are adding grated ginger and minced garlic?

crowmanyclouds
04-20-2011, 04:19 PM
... I have a crappy one that I want to replace. ...IIRC, from an older thread about this subject The Wok Shop (http://www.wokshop.com/store/main.php).

I've woked on electric, the trick was to really let the pan get hot. You want to see smoke, if you think it's hot enough, it ain't!

CMC fnord!

lindsaybluth
04-22-2011, 10:29 AM
Hmm, I'm debating getting a good one and using it at my SO's mom's home (inside or outside) or getting an electric in the interim. I'm leaning toward the former, since I will have a new (possibly even semi-professional) gas stove in July.

This thread has been great :)

silenus
04-22-2011, 10:51 AM
Don't spend a bunch on the wok. There are plenty of great models out there for not much money. The shape is more important than cost.

GilaB
04-22-2011, 10:51 AM
My default stir-frying fat is actually peanut oil. It's got a higher smoke point than anything else I keep in my kitchen, so I can crank up the heat as high as possible without worrying about burning it.

Ibanez
04-22-2011, 11:10 AM
I use a telfon frying pan for my stir-fry.

1) Med-high heat, olive oil
2) add chicken or beef with garlic, curry paste, pepper, seasoned salt. Cook long enough to sear the meat with the spices. Not cooked all the way through put it aside.
4) Then I cook what ever vegetables I want cook on med heat for 15 minutes add a little more olive oil.
5) put the meat back in with a can of chicken or beef broth and whatever other sauces/spices I want. Let that simmer for another 15 minutes and for the last 5 minutes I usually add a couple of tablespoons of flour to thicken up the sauce.
6) serve on a bed of basmati rice.

Yum.

pulykamell
04-22-2011, 11:29 AM
Don't spend a bunch on the wok. There are plenty of great models out there for not much money. The shape is more important than cost.

Yeah, I don't think I spend more than $20-$25 on mine. Other than the shape, be aware of the material. You don' want non-stick. Why? Couple of reasons: You don't get good browning on a non-stick pan. Second: you're not supposed to super heat teflon like you should for wok cooking, because of some gas it releases at high temperatures. Basically, when cooking with a wok, you want to get that sucker up as hot as it possibly can go. Teflon pans are not meant for such high heat cooking.

Chefguy
04-22-2011, 11:34 AM
The only steps all you folks have left out is:

1. Turn on your exhaust fan.
2. Turn on a floor fan and point it at the nearest smoke detector.
3. Open some windows.
4. Wok the wok and tok the tok.

lindsaybluth
04-22-2011, 11:42 AM
Don't spend a bunch on the wok. There are plenty of great models out there for not much money. The shape is more important than cost.

Flat bottomed and large, correct? And not non-stick.


2. Turn on a floor fan and point it at the nearest smoke detector.

Ahh, yes this is important. The others I would have remembered :p

Oslo Ostragoth
04-22-2011, 11:16 PM
From a previous thread: Awesome Graphic: Taming the Breath of a Wok (http://www.seriouseats.com/assets_c/2011/02/wok%20cutaway_1500%20pixels-142665.html).

Starving Artist
04-23-2011, 01:06 AM
Unlike some of the other posters here I can't stand cooking with a flat-bottom wok. For me it's much easier to flip and toss the food with a round-bottom wok using a round-edge spatula that conforms to the shape of the wok. Also the hot spot is smaller so you get a higher concentration of heat and better control over how much food is getting how much heat. In other words, it's easier to move stuff up the side of the wok to keep warm if you want/need to. With a flat-bottom wok and stirring furiously, you tend to run into the edge separating the flat bottom from the sloped sides and food tends to spill out of the spatula and back onto the hot spot.

I've always used an electric range with the wok set directly on top of the burners - which of course are set on high - and while I don't get the heat that Chinese restaurants get with flames roaring up the side of the wok, I still get adequate heat to make very tasty and enjoyable dishes. Easily enough heat to get past the smoking stage and to quickly burn the food if it isn't kept moving. Gas, of course, is better yet, but it's not like you can't cook great tasting food on an electric range.

I've always used peanut oil for its neutral taste and high smoke point but canola would do just as well. You want something without a noticable flavor of its own and with a high smoke point so it doesn't burn.

I've cooked a lot of Chinese dishes over the years and overall the best ones (the ones that taste most like the food you get at Chinese restaurants) come from Martin Yan's cookbooks. His recipes tend to be heavy on ingredients and preparation but I haven't had a bad one yet.

I'm going to list below a recipe that is fairly simple but very, very tasty. It's easily the favorite of everybody that I've ever cooked Chinese stir-fry food for and I've been cooking it regularly for over twenty-five years. I think it will give you a good idea of the process and it will reward you with a very tasty dish (provided you can handle just a little bit of heat) when you're done.

Chicken with Walnuts

1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil (keep oil handy as you may need more)
2 medium green peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 green onions, bias-sliced into 3/4-inch lengths
1 cup walnut halves

In small bowl blend soy sauce into cornstarch; stir in dry sherry, gingerroot, sugar, salt, and red pepper. Set aside.

Preheat wok over high heat; add cooking oil. Stir-fry green peppers and green onions in hot oil 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from wok.

Add walnuts to wok; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes until heated through. Remove from wok.

(Add more oil if necessary.)

Add HALF of the chicken to HOT wok; stir-fry 2 minutes. Remove from wok.

Add a little more oil if needed and stir-fry remaining chicken 2 minutes, then add cooked chicken back into wok.

Stir sauce mixture as cornstarch will have settled, then stir into chicken. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. (You can add a little more cornstarch if sauce fails to thicken.)

Stir in vegetables till sauce and chicken are thoroughly incorporated; cover and cook (still on high heat) 1 minute more.
(This is an important step which will blend the flavors. The food will not burn even though it seems like it will. :))

Remove lid, stir thoroughly and serve immediately with rice of your choice.

This (http://cgi.ebay.com/NORPRO-10-PIECE-CARBON-STEEL-14-WOK-SET-NEW-/390302049767?pt=Cookware&hash=item5adfd0a5e7) is the wok set I use. It's inexpensive and as you can see it comes with everything you need: lid, spatula, wok ring and so forth. I've been using this same set since 1984 and it's been a real workhorse.

Starving Artist
04-23-2011, 03:43 AM
Oops, left this out. The walnuts go back in the wok along with the cooked vegetables.

One other thing. Leftovers are very good the next day cold. It's has a completely different flavor but still very good.

Girl From Mars
04-23-2011, 05:59 PM
I also prefer a round bottomed wok. We got ours from a local Asian supermarket, but it's important to properly clean and season it before you start cooking. Done well, it becomes really non-stick, and you don't need to do more than scrub it briefly with hot water before drying over high heat again (perhaps a final slick of oil if you are storing it away. I think I read somewhere not to use soap (destroys the surface) - certainly we don't need to.

You've had some good tips about the actual practice of stir frying - but might help to not think about stir fries as a single cuisine; many Asian countries stir fry but there are distinct differences in ingredients and flavours - a Thai stir fry differs from a Malaysian, Cambodian or Chinese (and there are many types of Chinese based on the region).

So for Thai you try to get a balance of sweet (sugar or palm sugar), hot (chilli), sour (lime juice, tamarind paste etc), salty (fish sauce or dried shrimps) and sometimes bitter. They use more coconut milk, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, and are served with jasmine rice (where basmati is used more in Indian cuisine). A Malaysian stir fry (like Char Kway Teow) still uses garlic, sugar, dried shrimp and chilli paste, but involves more soy sauce and less of the sour notes etc. Getting a little more familiar with these nuances can help you mix up your cooking rather than doing the same thing just with different vegetables.

One chilli paste we like which really gives our Thai a kick is this brand of Nam prik pao (http://grocerythai.com/pantainorasingh-chili-paste-pantainorasingh-p-122.html). I also became addicted to Golden Mountain sauce (http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Mountain-Thai-Seasoning-Sauce/dp/B000F72006)when we were in Cambodia (seemingly a bottle on every table), and it's my go to sprinkle for a basic savoury stir fried rice. We use Golden Boy fish sauce (http://grocerythai.com/golden-fish-sauce-golden-p-781.html) (similar to the Squid brand, but I like the label more!)

And a tip for mixing eggs into a stir fried rice dish - I always used to put the egg in at the end and end up with a murky brown slush as the egg combined with the sauce. Now, I cook the egg like a little omelet right at the beginning and then remove it when almost cooked (like you would meat). Popped back in right at the end along with bean sprouts, nuts etc and it breaks up into lovely fluffy strands, much more like a restaurant version.

Kyrie Eleison
04-24-2011, 12:01 AM
I cook ingredients in groups, longest cooking first - i.e. roots, meats, leafy stuff in that order.. Once each batch is largely done, I slide it up on the side of the wok and throw the next into the cooking area. At the end, everything gets a quick firing followed by saucing.

So for me, the most important reason to stay away from nonstick has yet to be mentioned. I want to be able to shove cooked bits of food up on the sides of the wok away from the heat and have them stay there while other bits cook. On a nonstick wok, if you do that, they have a tendency to slide right back down into the cooking area.

I've had my cheap-ass hand-hammered carbon steel wok since college, but I've tried cooking with others. IMHO, wok design hasn't improved over the ages -- electric, stainless, nonstick, whatever, the best are still the inexpensive ones you find at Asian food stores.

I prefer flat-bottomed for an electric stove, but round on gas is better.

And I won't buy anything but Tiparos fish sauce. I'm sure there are other good ones out there, but there are not-so-good ones as well.

pulykamell
04-24-2011, 12:41 AM
I prefer flat-bottomed for an electric stove.

I'm not even sure how a round-bottomed wok could even work effectively on an electric stove.

I could see why some people like the round-bottom for gas burners; I prefer flat because I have more of a hot surface area to work with--I just don't have anywhere near enough of a "hot zone" with the round wok. But on a electric range, I don't think you would have any choice.

Starving Artist
04-24-2011, 12:53 AM
I set mine directly on the burner and it does just fine. The wok came with a tapered wok ring that you can be used to stabilize the wok. It's placed over the burner wide side up for electric burners, thus bringing the bottom of the wok as close as possible to the cooking surface, and it's placed narrow side up over gas burners to raise the wok and not crowd the burner while still allowing plenty of contact with the flame. I eventually quit using the ring altogether, though, and just stabilize the wok as needed with my left hand (using one of the wooden handles) while stirring with my right. It's become so automatic that I don't even think about it.

I mean to mention also about electric woks. Most (any I've ever known of, for that matter) don't get hot enough, nor anywhere near quick enough. Plus they have flat bottoms and teflon interiors which, like Kyrie Eleison says, allows food to keep falling back onto the hot spot.

lindsaybluth
04-25-2011, 01:44 PM
Starving Artist, great recipe, that looks delicious. Girl from Mars, that post was hugely helpful. I also really appreciate the brand name shout outs, since I've had some bizarrely tasting jarred/canned Asian stuff in the past.

This is a great thread!

overlyverbose
04-25-2011, 02:52 PM
Most of my "stir fry" comes out like an Indian-ized version of Chinese, mostly because I do stir fry the meat and veggies, but my husband likes lots of extra sauce, so I stir fry the vegetables first, then take them out, stir fry the meat, then put double to quadruple the sauce in and simmer on high heat for 4-5 minutes. It makes the meat extra tender and helps permeate it with sauce. Certainly not true stiry fry, but it works well for us.

And I hate non-stick woks. They have never worked for me. I either use my big dutch oven (higher sides help you avoid getting hot oil splatters) or a stainless steal pot.

Here's my favorite not-really-stir-fry-but-that's-what-we-call-it recipe:

1 pound chicken breast or tenders
1 bag broccoli wokly stir fry mix (or 2 sliced carrots & 1 head broccoli florets; 1 cup of snap peas if desired)
2 cups bean sprouts
1 large onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1-inch chunk ginger, chopped
1 small bunch coriander/cilantro
1/4 cup peanuts or cashews

Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp water
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
3 dried chilis (optional)
1 tbsp Sriracha or other chili sauce + more for adding on later (optional)
1 minced or pressed garlic clove
1/2 inch ginger, grated on a microplane
Can also add a splash of vinegar or gin (yes, gin; if I use vinegar, I use balsamic because of the sweetness) or mirin rice wine

Turn heat on your pan up to high. Mix sauce ingredients. Set aside. We don't use the chilis if we're feeding this to the kids, of course. Pour in the oil (about 2 tsp - 1 tbsp). Put in the garlic, ginger and onion and the dried chilis. Stir fry for about 2-3 minutes (chili peppers should be kind of dark to blackened - remember to keep your windows open for this part; the smoke will make you cough). Then toss in the vegetables and stir fry 1-2 minutes. Remove from pot. Throw in the chicken (also works with beef, shrimp, etc.). Stir fry 3-4 minutes (less if you have shrimp; actually, you can wait until you simmer the sauce to throw in the shrimp).

Pour in the sauce and nuts, if using, with the chicken. Cover and simmer 3 minutes. Throw in the vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 more minutes, or until you're satisfied with the vegetables' texture. Serve over rice.

It's not traditional at all, but we like it and it makes chicken breast really tender and delicious.

lindsaybluth
05-11-2011, 12:36 PM
Hey guys, bumping this, hope you don't mind.

In lieu of a real wok, I tried my 3 quart Lodge dutch oven and got pretty good results considering the electric coil stove. I found a box at Trader Joe's filled with over a pound of great veggies: snap peas, carrots, broccoli, onion, bell pepper, baby bella mushrooms, baby corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, cilantro and maybe one other thing. For $4 it would have cost almost that to put it all together myself.

Now, as far as brand recommendations go, here's what I found: Oyster sauce: recommended Lee Kum Kee premium. Found: Lee Kum Kee, sun luck, dynasty.

Chili paste found: dynasty, kikkoman, thai ktichen regular, thai kitchen roasted.

Based on what I found for oyster sauce and chili paste, which is best?

Hoisin? Recommendations?

I found and bought Squid fish sauce. Stuff is stinky but good.

Ahh and since I didn't buy anything but the Squid, I went with this at the grocery store in the heat of the moment Kikkoman stir-fry sauce (http://www.kikkomanusa.com/homecooks/products/products_hc_details.php?pf=10504&fam=105). Very nice and light, surprisingly, not that thick surgary stuff you sometimes get at certain restaurants.

ETA: Oh, I also stir fried the onions and broccoli first with some garlic and ginger, then put the other veggies in (in batches) with some chicken and put fresh bean sprouts over the whole thing. Really tasty.

silenus
05-11-2011, 12:42 PM
Lee Kum Kee makes a good hoisin sauce. As for chili paste, the stuff in the pantry is Thai Kitchen, I think.

lindsaybluth
05-11-2011, 12:58 PM
You guys are the best, seriously :D Added to the grocery list just now!

pulykamell
05-11-2011, 01:01 PM
I generally think you can't go wrong with Lee Kum Kee.

If you find the Squid fish sauce stinky, I'm glad you picked that one up and not some of the other brands. :)

The Thai Kitchen products are really good, too, but I find them a bit pricey.

lindsaybluth
05-11-2011, 01:14 PM
The Squid is really good stuff! It's good to know Lee Kum Kee is overall good.

I actually thought Thai Kitchen looked suspiciously white-people branded, so I was highly suspect of it overall. Now I know it's good stuff; it is pricey but it seems like it goes on sale fairly often 'round here.

I've always heard good things about Kikkoman soy sauce from Real Asians(tm) so I figured the bottled sauce would be a good stopgap.

pulykamell
05-11-2011, 01:22 PM
I actually thought Thai Kitchen looked suspiciously white-people branded, so I was highly suspect of it overall. Now I know it's good stuff; it is pricey but it seems like it goes on sale fairly often 'round here.

To be honest, that's kind of how I view it, too. I've never had any major issues with any of their products, although some of them do seem to make some concessions for American tastes, being not quite as pungent or spicy as their Asian-brand equivalents. For example, I don't much like any of their curry pastes. Mae Ploy is the Thai brand I generally get. Everything else I've had by them (like their fish sauce, their coconut milk, etc.) has been very good, except at 3-4 times the price of what you'd get it for with Asian brands. However, the quality of the product has always been very good, in my opinion, if not always to my tastes.

lindsaybluth
05-11-2011, 03:58 PM
So I guess a good rule of thumb would be "when in doubt or in a hurry, go with Thai Kitchen" because it'll at least be pretty good albeit expensive. We always like things fairly explosively pungent/spiced, so I know what you're saying.

Thanks for the (unintentional) curry paste rec too!

pulykamell
05-14-2011, 05:43 PM
I was stir-frying today, and I just remembered an excellent stir fry preparation that's a little bit non-obvious and unusual.

Here in Chicago, there's a great Sichuan restaurant called Double Li in Chinatown. One of their signature dishes is black pepper beef. It's basically stir fried tenderloin (or whatever stir fry cut of beef you like) with oyster sauce, lots of black pepper and garlic, and--here's the interesting part for me--finished with butter.

Here's a video of it being made. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqVluRMSt54)

Now, the way he does it, he basically deep fries the beef. Personally, I do it just the standard way I outline above, frying the beef (or chicken, which is what I used today) in a neutral oil, and, when making the sauce, I use a copious amount of garlic, coarsely ground black pepper, oyster sauce, and butter. It's kind of a blend of Chinese and European traditions and one that I think works amazingly well.

medstar
05-14-2011, 07:43 PM
They do. Some of the Filipino brands I've had have an odd ammonia-like flavor to them that I don't like. This brand (http://importfood.com/sarp4201.html), for instance, I stay away from. One brand that is widely available and is my fish sauce of choice is Squid brand. As for oyster sauce, the Lee Kum Yee Premium is very good. I usually just look at the ingredients and see which brands have "oyster extractives" as the first ingredient, rather than being buried behind water and sugar.

Any steak cut works well. For more economical cuts, flank (cut across the grain) and top rounds are good. Sometimes, I even buy something generically called "sandwich steak," which is already sliced very thinly for you, and slice it thinly again into very thin strips.

For pork, loin and tenderloin work best, as they are lean steak-like cuts suitable for fast and furious cooking.

For chicken, anything works, but I like breast in stir fries. I also like to cut it into extra thin strips, if I have the time.
As for blooming the spices in the oil, that is almost always a good idea, but just be careful not to let the spices burn. Anything involving dried peppers requires paying attention (because of their sugar content) and moving around the spices quickly so they don't burn.

I'd like to recommend that for any meat you use, it's a lot easier to cut into thin strips if the meat is semi-frozen. If it's hard frozen, it's difficult to cut through and if it's room temperature, it's difficult to get sharp, precise strips.

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