We have the Chinese to thank for creating one of the world’s most popular methods of cookery — stir-frying. With fuel expensive and living conditions cramped, Chinese cooks sliced vegetables, meats and fish into thin strips so they could be cooked quickly in one pan. Distinctive halfmoon-shaped pans — woks — were designed to channel the heat up the sides of the pan as it nestled on the burning wood or coal.
Special flat-based woks have been developed for electric hobs. However, they must be heavy so they retain heat. An alternative is a heavy frying pan.
For best results, prepare all the ingredients before you start stir-frying. Cut meats and vegetables into thin strips or pieces of about equal size. This applies especially to vegetables that are dense in texture such as carrots, cauli and beans. Blanch first, then pat dry if preferred.
Prior to cooking, heat the wok or heavy frying pan for a couple of minutes before adding the oil. Begin with the dense ingredients, a little at a time, stir-frying continuously to ensure they don’t ‘stew’. Sometimes, vegetables take more time to cook than meats so cook these first, remove from the pan then cook the meat. Return the vegetables to heat through.
DUMPLINGS WITH STIR-FRIED VEGETABLES
The dumplings are available from Asian food store and supermarket freezers.
1 tablespoon rice bran oil
250g pork and prawn dumplings
1/2 cup water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 medium red capsicum, seeded and cubed
3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
100g snow peas, trimmed
2 small bunches bok choy, chopped
Sauce: 1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons each: oyster sauce, Chinese cooking wine, plum sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Place half the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok Add the dumplings and stir to coat in oil. Cook until one side is golden. Turn them over, add the water and cover and simmer for 5 minutes, until cooked through. Place aside.
Clean the pan. Heat the remaining oil. Add the garlic, capsicum and corn. Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and bok choy. Stir-fry until the bok choy is wilted.
Combine the sauce ingredients well. Stir into the pan. Return the dumplings and heat through. Great garnished with sesame seeds. Serves 2.
STIR-FRIED TOFU, GINGER & GARLIC
Great served with rice or noodles.
Sauce: 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped root ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons each: water, rice wine vinegar, canola oil
2 teaspoons cornflour
Stir-fry: 300g firm tofu
2 each: medium carrots (135g), courgettes (175g)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 spring onions, finely chopped
Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
Place the tofu on a paper towel and press out any water. Cut into 2cm cubes approximately. Press out any remaining water using a paper towel.
Trim the carrots and courgettes. Peel the carrots if preferred. Spiralise both or, using a potato peeler, cut into long thin ribbons.
Heat half the oil in a large wok or non-stick frying pan. Stir-fry the tofu — in batches if necessary — until golden on all side. Drain on paper towels.
Add the remaining oil and stir-fry the carrot until crisp-tender. Add the courgettes and stir-fry until crisp-tender. Return the tofu to the pan and add the sauce ingredients. Simmer until thickened. Serve sprinkled with the spring onions. Serves 3-4.
CAULIFLOWER & SHIITAKE MUSHROOM STIR-FRY
5 shiitake mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons rice bran oil
1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Remove the stalks from the shiitake mushrooms. Thinly slice the caps.
Heat half the oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry gently until browned. Remove and place aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan. Add the onion and brown sugar. Stir-fry until caramelised. Return the cauli to the pan together with the mushrooms, garlic and soy sauce. Stir well. Cook for 3 minutes then add the sesame oil. Serves 4 as a side.