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The World of Stir-Fries: an Inexpensive Alternative

by Asinus Asinum Fricat Sun May 4th, 2008 at 06:25:55 PM EST

Have wok, will travel! Who doesn't love a good, healthy stir-fry on a summer night? Or a winter night for that matter? It can be as elaborate as you wish or just a quick fix. Stir frying is an umbrella term used to describe two fast Chinese cooking techniques: chao and bào. The term stir-fry was introduced into the English language by Buwei Yang Chao, in her book How to Cook and Eat in Chinese, to describe the chao technique.


There are countless options & combinations at your fingertips, with meat or poultry or without, fish or vegetables or both, with rice, or noodles, using any kind of pulse, beans, fungi, grains, fresh or dried...and it's a great way to clear what's in your refrigerator: put the wok on, pour a little oil of your choice, and begin stirring in whatever takes your fancy or the leftovers from the the previous day. This is SURVIVAL food! By thinking ahead and plan menus, you should be able to incorporate more grain in your diet, a great way to not only stay healthy but also to "watch your pennies"!

First, you'll need good utensils, a proper, shallow stir-fry pan, preferably one that comes with a wooden handle, and its two acolytes, the ladle and the steel spatula, as seen below. Once you have purchased these stainless steel items, you have them for life.


I'm not crazy about cooking on an electric range, I much prefer gas, as the flame can be controlled rapidly, when one needs to.

We're set. Now, what do we cook? Here's my list. I have several favorites and I could write an entire book on stir-fries. First, in no particular order or preference, I submit a hearty dish of chicken breast, Toulouse sausage and penne pasta, with wild mushrooms thrown into it and snow peas (mangetouts) tossed in at the last minute for crunchiness and truthiness. This is for 6 to 8 persons.

Ingredients: 4 chicken breasts, 1 pound of Toulouse style sausages (you can use any good pork & veal sausages for this) 150 grams of (fresh) wild mushrooms (any kind will do: cepes, black ears, oyster mushroom, field mushroom, even button mushroom. If not available use the dried kind, but 50 grams is enough) 2 red onions, finely minced, 6 garlic cloves, also minced, 250 grams dried penne pasta, cooked al dente and drained, 200 grams of snow peas (mangetout)a knob of fresh ginger, finely sliced, olive oil, a dash of Tamari (or soy sauce) salt & pepper to taste

The first thing to do is to bake the sausages at moderate heat, till almost cooked. Always prick them with a fork so that they won't explode. When done, slice them into bite-size chunks. Cook and drain the penne pasta. Cut up the chicken breasts into thin slices. In the wok, over a high flame, pour some olive oil, the onions, the garlic and the chicken. Stir continually (hey, this is a stir-fry!) making sure the chicken cooks thoroughly, add the Tamari, stir, the ginger, stir, the sausage bits, then the mushrooms, keep stirring, add the snow peas, stir for a few seconds, then add the pasta, Stir for another 30 seconds or so, and it's done. Next!


Something a little bit more exotic: Honeyed Duck & Singapore Noodle Stir-fry. This works great with roast duck meat. If you can buy one from the Chinese deli, do so, or roast your own. I'm sure you know how to proceed. This is good for 4 persons.

Ingredients: 1 roasted duck, 2 red bell peppers & 1 fennel bulb, all cut into thin strips, 4 garlic cloves, minced, a small bunch of scallions, cut into strips, 2 small bunches of bok choy, chopped up roughly (if you can't find bok choy, use spinach leaves)2 chilis, seeded and cut into strips, a small knob of fresh ginger, cut into a fine julienne, 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil, a tbsp of turmeric, a small amount of Tamari or soy sauce, and a packet of flat Singapore noodles.

Cook the noodles into a saucepan in which you have added the turmeric to the boiling water, it will give the noodles a pale yellow color. Drain and set aside. Next, take the meat of the duck off the bone and chop it up into strips, skin and all. In your wok, pour a little sesame oil and throw the fennel strips first, toss a little, then add the garlic, the bell pepper strips, the ginger, the chilies, stir, then the duck bits, the bok choy, stir, then the noodles, keep stirring and add the Tamari, then the chopped scallions, a final toss and it's over.


Spicy Shrimps & Wild Rice Stir-fry: this is for 6 persons. I really love wild rice. It's incredibly versatile, nutritious and healthy. I bet some of you didn't know that wild rice is a native of North America! A peripatetic Choctaw told me this in Australia, I had always assumed it came from the East. Then again I had forgotten that we grow wild rice too in the South of France, and its color is red, not black.

Ingredients: 200 grams of wild rice (whichever wild rice you get, make sure you soak it for at least four hours before cooking, rinse well, and cook slowly for one hour, drain, sprinkle a little oil on it and set aside) allow 6 mid-sized shrimps per person which you plunge into boiling water for ten seconds, and take out, then drain, 2 red onions, chopped finely, 6 garlic cloves, minced, 6 Thai chilies, 2 yellow bell peppers, cut into strips, 100 grams of fresh green beans, tops and tails off, the juice of two limes, a small bunch of cilantro (if you don't like cilantro, use basil) a tbsp of curry powder, a little olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste

You know the drill! Pour a little olive oil into the wok over a high flame, add the onions and the garlic, then the chilies, the shrimps, stir well, add the bell peppers and the green beans, stir, then as soon as the shrimps are cooked throughout, add the rice, and as you stir, add the chopped cilantro and the lime juice. Sometimes I add a few slivers of fresh coconut if available.


Root Vegetables & Lentil Stir-fry: a legume that goes well in stir-fries is the humble lentil. This is for 6 persons, or more.

Ingredients: 1 pound of green lentils. All the following root vegetables should be cut into thick julienne (except the radishes and garlic); 4 carrots, 2 large white onions, 8 garlic cloves, 150 grams of celeriac,  
200 grams of turnips, 1 pound of baby potatoes, 150 grams of Jerusalem artichokes, a bunch of radishes, olive oil, and a little tamari sauce, salt & pepper to taste.

Soak and cook the lentils. Boil the potatoes, then cut in half or quarter. Get the wok ready, pout the olive oil, and start cooking the onions, garlic, carrots, the turnips, keep stirring, then add the Jerusalem artichokes, then the radishes, add oil if you need to, then the lentils. Keep stirring till well mixed, then add the tamari. A good thing to add to that is a handful of toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds...or both.

Here are a few suggestions, these are all well tried stir-fries I have done in the past:

Spicy Turkey, Japanese eggplants & Wild Red Rice.
Squid & Mussels, Leeks & Couscous Grains.
Smoked Tofu, Bok Choy & Polenta.
Braised Pork Belly Strips with Gingered Red Cabbage & Udon Noodles.
Roast Lamb Strips, Mint & Barley, flavored with tomato chili relish.

BTW, for those of you who are into food, I post a daily recipe here.

I apologize for the photo links, still can't work out this site's rules. Better days ahead!

Yum, those recipes look great.  I love stir fry.  I have an electric hob so although temperature can be adjusted it still isn't as good as gas for wok cooking, since only the bottom and not the sides are hot enough for fast cooking.  But still, stir fry rules!

As for photos the code is < img src="URL"> without a space before img.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 04:01:06 AM EST
limit your width to 640 for the pics as well.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:01:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, 600.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:26:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See the New User Guide.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:27:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I like stir-fry. Try as I might I just can't make electric do it properly.

however, Toulouse sausages are close enough to British sausages for me to have an opinion in how to cook 'em. Don't prick 'em. Grill them further from the heat at a lower temp and turn them often, but don't prick 'em.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 08:07:09 AM EST
A Teflon coated aluminium wok on a ceramic top works for me. You just need to stir.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 08:44:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I tend to find you just cant get them hot enough to flash fry things , so the taste is never right on electric

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 08:59:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I use first pressing rape seed oil (very healhy, made in Finland) which will cook at a lower temp anyway as well as having a great taste. I also tend to use liquid (wine etc) as well, once the spices have cracked open. The liquid increases heat to surface contact, and as it renders down you get rich flavours.

If I really want to do something ultra fast, I'll cut the veg etc really matchsticky. But the point of a wok - with its small heat contact area but voluminous bowl - is that only part of the stirfry is in contact with the highest heat at any moment, and thus you need the judicious use of spatulas.

If I want the flash fry wth a bit of singeing I don't use a wok anyway. I'll use a ribbed cast iron plate on the hob. The plate should never be washed with detergent. After a while of proper use they develop a teflon-like coating of oil.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 10:00:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That should be Toulouse sausage without the s, because it doesn't come in links. It's one long sausage you cut to the desired length and cook in a ring or spiral.

Bake, grill, or fry at moderate heat (not too slow, or it loses its juices). Some people prick, some don't. I don't.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:40:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That looks like a Cumberland sausage!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 11:30:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the secret of Chinese Rice.

Boil it the night before, then wash all of the loose starch out. Put it in the fridge till the next day when you want to use it. then fry in your wok at high temp with a single beaten egg, flipping it regularly so the egg is in small pieces

Take it off when the egg has solidified and the rice warmed through.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:04:24 AM EST
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:07:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When you say boil it, ho long for ? I always end up over-cooking rice, which is why I nowadays use noodles all the time. I've effectively given up on rice.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:15:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Steam, don't boil.

Ever since we got a steamer (originally for veg and fish) and discovered how good steamed rice is (white or brown), we've eaten less spaghetti.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:21:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 minute less than it says on the packet, and importantly DO NOT STIR IT, you'll break the husk, turn out mush,and overcook the insides, while the outside will be overcooked.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:41:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My rice cooking times are always 20% to 40% less than what is recommended on the package. This has been true regardless of type of rice.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 07:29:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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