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Unraveling the Secrets: Authentic Chinese Stir fry Dishes from Your Kitchen

Chinese stir fryIf a quick dinner at home is what you’re craving for, there is another option than just ordering a take out from some fancy fast food or restaurant: Chinese stir fry. Who doesn’t love the goodness of richly-flavored vegetable-meat mix cooked briefly over a big flame? It is served piping hot, the veggies are still crisp, the meats are laden with flavors, and the sauce is to die for. It is a great way to keep dinner simple, fast and super delicious.

There is one big problem though; the Chinese have been tight-lipped when it comes to their cooking secrets. If you are a big fan of Chinese style stir fry food, you know there is that particular taste and texture that you couldn’t copy at home. Despite your best effort, what comes out of your wok is not close enough to what you are hoping to achieve. Maybe it still tastes good, but something’s amiss.

Demystifying the Chinese Wok and Stir-frying

If you are tired of eating Chinese takeout, or you want to surprise family and friends with your delicious stir-fried dishes, check out what David Rosengarten wrote for The Huffington Post:

The Secrets Of Chinese Stir-Frying: Why Does It Always Seem To Go Wrong At Home? He said that the reason you’ll find it hard to get an “exact copy” is:

Because the fundamentals that go into real Chinese stir-frying are usually left out of the cookbooks purporting to help you stir-fry! Sure, the right way is a little more difficult, but the results are well worth the effort.”

Rosengarten shares a step-by-step guide so you can say goodbye to soggy steamed-like vegetables and bland meats. He “demonstrated” the cooking process using “Crispy Beef with Oyster Sauce.”

The Step-by-step Stir-frying Guide

Step #1: Get a big wok that has enough room for all the ingredients. The worst enemy of stir-frying is putting in too many ingredients or having a very small wok.

The tip: Don’t crowd the wok so each bit of vegetable gets stir-fried. If you’re cooking a big dish, cook in small batches.

Step #2: “Stir-fry over the biggest flame you can muster: another key!” The “Chinese taste” you are looking for is the result of using a wok over high heat. When the temperature drops, you’ll end up having a platter of veggies and meat that look like they’re braised or steamed.

Tip: Get the “taste of wok” by setting your burner at its hottest and keeping the work very hot. The best stir-fries are cooked in super high heat.

Step #3: Get everything ready. Everything goes quickly, make sure everything has been prepped before taking out the wok – the meat marinated and/or precooked, the veggies chopped/sliced/diced, the nuts roasted, the sauces and oils within arm’s reach.

Tip: Be organized; you don’t have the time to leave your post once you start tossing the ingredients in the wok. Cut the vegetables just large enough to keep the center crisp at the end of the cooking process.

Step #4: Heat the wok for 1-2 minutes before dumping the vegetables. Those that take a longer time to cooked are pre-cooked so all textures are the same – nothing soggy or tough.

Tip: The key principle here, as the Chinese say, is: hot wok, room temperature oil! Swirl the oil down the inclined sides of the wok.

Step #5: After scorching the veggies, the aromatics go next. These include garlic, scallions, ginger, lemongrass, fresh chilies, herbs, or preserved/pickled vegetables.

Tip: Aromatics burn fast in a very hot wok; don’t put it in early.

Step #6: It is time to add the proteins that merely require a quick-toss. If it’s the star of the dish,

pre-cook or marinate it to imbibe flavor. If it is used for its flavor, ground or chop it.

Tip: Cut the vegetables just large enough to keep the center crisp at the end of the cooking process.

Step #7: Ladle enough broth to make the sauce. With prepared cornstarch slurry, add a small amount to thicken it. Often sauces are built using soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sugar, chili pastes and fermented bean pastes.

Tip: Remember to make just enough sauce to coat the veggies and meat, and never make the sauce too thick.

Step #8: Make the dish smelling Chinese with a dollop of sesame oil drizzled over the dish. Give it one big mix. Garnish it with toasted spices, herbs or sliced vegetables and it’s good to go.

Tip: Complete the process by getting the dish turned out on a platter just like in your favorite Chinese restaurant.

What Happens to the “Crispy Beef with Oyster Sauce?”

In the recipe, the veggies and meats are cooked in the manner presented above. Start by preparing all ingredients:

  • Veggies to prepare: Soak Chinese mushrooms, slice bamboo shoots, and slice up all the vegetables ready for adding. Make sure that when you slice the veggies, they will have big surface areas exposed to get in contact with the hot wok.
  • Aromatics: The usual aromatics are garlic, ginger and scallions.
  • Beef: Cut the beef into thin slices. To achieve this, freeze the meat for 30 minutes, so it will be firm enough to be thinly sliced. To pre-cook beef, marinate and coat the beef before frying. Give the beef a velvety texture by sprinkling a little baking soda (1/2 tsp. per 1/2 pound of meat) and letting it rest. After 30 minutes, wash and coat it with cornstarch for some crispiness.  Deep-fry in hot oil (about 375 degrees) for as quick as a minute. Season to taste and set aside for a while.
  • Sauce: Mix the following ingredients: beef stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing (rice wine), and sugar. Make a cornstarch slurry in the thickness of heavy cream.

Once everything is ready, it is time to heat the wok and put in the ingredients as outlined above.

Craving for an authentic Chinese stir fry? Whip one right from your own kitchen.  With a wok, some sauces, veggies, proteins and a handful of tips, your favorite Chinese restaurant may soon miss you. Gè bǎo (个饱)!

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