The secrets to a successful stir-fry are organization and preparation, which are also the keys to accomplishing pretty much any complex task. Cooking is a small mirror held up to life (profound, huh?). If you can pull off a good stir-fry, you can probably successfully manage three complex software development projects with deliverables expected in late December, or the equivalent. We’ll see.
Before you even start cooking, you’ll want to get yourself and all of your ingredients organized. When the cooking starts, it goes fast, so you’ll need to have everything ready and at hand. The first thing I do is cook the starch, either rice or noodles, such as Chinese ramen-style noodles or angel hair pasta. The rice will steam and then stay warm while I’m preparing the stir-fry. The noodles will be done fast and then can sit in their pot until I’m ready to mix them in and reheat them.
Second, prepare the protein. I usually use boneless chicken breast for this dish, but turkey, pork, shrimp, scallops, fish or tofu should also work just fine. For 2 people, I use about ¼ pound of protein. Remember, traditional stir-fries are skimpy on the meat and generous with the vegetables. Cube the meat and let sit in a mixture of 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. sherry and ¼ cup water while you prepare the vegetables.
Choose 2-3 vegetables for the dish, enough to make ½ pound. Keeping it simple keeps both you and the stir-fry from getting overwhelmed. Dice or slice each vegetable into as nearly uniform pieces as you can make them. Arrange the cut vegetables in bowls in order of their cooking time, with the longest cooking vegetables first:
- Mushrooms: 5-10 minutes, depending on type and thickness
- Cabbage, spinach, other greens: 4-6 minutes
- Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, green beans: 3-5 minutes
- Peppers, snow peas, sugar snap peas, summer squash, zucchini: 2-3 minutes
- Bean sprouts: less than 1 minute
These are just suggestions. You may want to try other vegetables.
In addition, mince 2 garlic cloves and ½ tbsp. ginger root, and place them in line behind all the vegetables.
Next, prepare the sauce. My base stir-fry sauce is a mixture of ¼ cup chicken stock, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. cornstarch and 1 tbsp. flavoring, such as a bottled Asian sauce, sake or rice wine, or fermented black beans soaked in sherry. Feel free to experiment. I give a suggested variation at the end of this post.
Finally, get your garnishes together. Chopped nuts, sliced scallions, raw bean sprouts and minced fresh herbs all make good garnishes.
The last step is to prepare a coating for the protein for cooking it. Drain away the marinade and toss the chicken (or whatever you’re using) in a mixture of ½ tbsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. cornstarch and 1 tsp. flour.
Now you’re ready to assemble the stir-fry:
- Heat 1 tbsp. peanut oil in a nonstick skillet over high until shimmering
- Add the protein in a single layer and cook without disturbing until browned
- Flip each piece and brown the other side in the same manner
- Remove the cooked protein to a plate
- If needed, add another ½ tbsp. peanut oil to the pan
- Add the vegetables in order of their cooking times and stir-fry, keeping the food moving constantly, until tender
- Add the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry 30 seconds
- Reduce the heat to medium
- Return to the protein to the pan and mix in the sauce
- Stir-fry until the sauce thickens
- If using noodles, stir them in and heat through
- Remove from heat, garnish and serve
Sweet Chili-Garlic Stir-Fry Sauce
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. honey
- ½ tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1-2 tsp. chili sauce, depending on taste
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
Tagged: Asian, Asparagus, Bean Sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Chicken, Chiles, Entrees, Fish, Garlic, Green beans, Greens, Mushrooms, Peppers, Sauces, Scallops, Shrimp, Snow Peas, Spinach, Stir-fries, Stir-frying, Sugar Snap Peas, Summer Squash, Turkey, Zucchini