This incredibly fun Chinese cooking technique combines high heat and delicious ingredients to create a dish that is well balanced and extremely tasty. Stir-frying is fast, simple, and fun. With proper preparation and techniques you can create the dishes that you’ve grown to love at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Ingredients are quickly sautéed in a very hot pan called a wok. Concave with a rounded bottom, a wok conducts heat in the center but dissipates up the ascending sides.
Stir-fry is a healthy balanced meal that includes a wide array of ingredients. To master this Chinese cooking technique, all it takes is a little knowledge and quick wrists. To produce fast, tasty dishes, there are a few helpful tips below that will help anyone create a number of delicious stir-fry recipes in the home kitchen.
Wok: Cooking Tool of the Pros
Woks have been around for thousands of years, and they are versatile cooking vessels most commonly used in Asian cuisine. A wok has a round bottom and is generally used for stir frying. However, woks can also be utilized for other culinary techniques like steaming, braising, soup making, or deep frying. Although there is a wide array of woks available on the market, selecting a wok is quite easy. When beginning the journey into Asian cooking, beginners should consider wok sets. A set is great for a novice because it comes with a wok turner, ladle, ring, and strainer.
Seasoning A Wok
Upon purchasing a wok, certain types like iron and steel will need to be seasoned. Seasoning will help to keep the food from sticking. A stainless steel wok cannot be seasoned, so therefore extra oil will be needed during cooking. To season a wok, brush cooking oil (polyunsaturated) on the inside of the wok and then place in the oven for 3 to 4 hours at 300 F. After each hour passes take the brush and spread the pooled oil up the sides. For woks with plastic or wooden handles, the above process will need to be done on the stove top. Once your wok is properly seasoned it is ready for a wide variety of cooking techniques and countless recipes created and adapted for its use.
Caring for Your Wok
Once the wok has been seasoned it cannot be scrubbed or washed. To clean a seasoned wok, rinse with hot water and gently wipe clean with a soft dish cloth. If food should ever be burned in a wok, it will need to be washed thoroughly and then re-seasoned.
Ingredients: Plan Ahead
Stir-fry recipes tend to require many seasonings, sauces, and vegetables that most cooks do not readily have available in the pantry or fridge. When preparing any stir-fry recipe, take it along to the market and plan on spending a few moments looking for the various ingredients. From bamboo shoots to sesame oil and fresh vegetables, stir-fry is prepared quickly but only if all ingredients are present.
Noodles and rice are generally found in many stir-fry dishes. When cooking these foods, all directions must be followed carefully. Asian varieties of noodles and rice do not always cook the same as those found in other cuisines.
Some popular pantry items for use in preparing stir-fry recipes:
- Soy Sauce – Fermented soy beans produce this strong sauce which has a distinct salty taste. Soy sauce is used in a wide array of stir fry dishes and comes in two types: light and dark. The light will impart a saltier flavor and is somewhat thinner, whereas the dark is slightly sweeter and richer. Also, Chinese soy sauce is not to be confused with Japanese soy sauce because the process to make them is different.
- Sesame Oil – From the nutrient filled sesame seed, this oil is commonly found in all stir fry dishes. Sesame oil is a necessary cooking ingredient, and it is important to note that it comes in either light or dark. The dark sesame oil is best for stir frying, but the light oil is better for deep frying. This oil also comes in toasted and un-toasted.
- Rice Vinegar – Chinese rice vinegar comes in three varieties: white, black, and red. With each one being very distinct, white rice vinegar is generally the one that is used the most. It is added along with other sauces to marinate meats like beef and pork for recipes such as Hoisin Pork or Beef and Chinese Broccoli.
- Oyster Sauce – This extremely dark sauce is made with sugar, salt, cornstarch, and oyster essence. Very sweet and deeply savory, oyster sauce is a great flavoring for meats and vegetables that are going to be stir fried.
- Fish Sauce – The amber colored sauce is prepared from salted, fermented fish. Popular for its robust taste and intense aroma, fish sauce often makes up one component of a stir-fry sauce recipe.
- Hoisin Sauce – Prepared from soybeans, garlic, red chilies, vinegar, and spices, Hoisin sauce is a popular choice for stir-fries. Depending on the brand or recipe preparation, the sauce can exhibit a number of flavor profiles including sweet, tangy, and salty.
- Szechuan Sauce – Hot and spicy stir-fry sauce brings some heat, some tang, and a touch of garlic flavor to your Chinese inspired dishes. Szechuan sauce is perfect for stir-frying when you desire a full-flavored dish with a little bit of heat.
- Sweet and Sour Sauce – This is a great sauce to prepare from ingredients in the pantry. Typical make at home sweet and sour sauce includes ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce. A touch of pineapple juice can add an element of sweetness.
- Rice Wine – Not technically a wine, as it is not prepared from fermenting grapes, rice wine is very popular in preparing stir-fry sauces. Rice wine is 18-25% alcohol, but typical sauce recipes only call for very small amounts in preparations. Shaoxing wine is one of the most popular varieties.
- XO Sauce – Spicy seafood sauce prepared from dried shrimp and scallops and seasonings including chilies and garlic. The sauce is primarily used in seafood stir-fries. Available at some supermarkets and Asian specialty stores, the condiment can be a bit pricey.
Prepping Meats and Vegetables: Smaller is Better
All meats and vegetables should be cut into small thin strips. Not only will the meat sear and cook thoroughly, but the vegetables will remain flavorful and crispy. It is important to note that meats for stir-fry recipes will sometimes need to be marinated. Also, if planning on having stir-fry quite often, cook all the meat at once and refrigerate or freeze. Then later add thawed portions to various stir-fry dishes just before the vegetables are fully cooked.
With the above tips, stir-fry recipes can easily be accomplished in almost no time at all. Create popular stir fry dishes at home including fried rice, moo goo gai pan, beef with broccoli, and garlic chicken. These stir-fry recipes are not only simple to prepare but fun as well.
Learning to Wok
There are two methods for stir-frying: chao and bao. There are countless recipes for each stir frying style.
A wok is heated to high heat, and then a little bit of oil is added along with seasonings such as ginger and garlic. As the seasonings become aromatic, small strips of meat are put in and seared. Upon searing the meats such as beef, chicken, or pork, vegetables and liquid ingredients are stirred in. At this time the wok can be covered momentarily so that the liquids can warm up and steam the ingredients. Sometimes in order to keep the meat juicy, Chinese cooks have been known to remove the meat before adding the remaining ingredients and then add it back just as the vegetables finish cooking. Also, some stir fry dishes will call for the meats and vegetable to stay separate while cooking so that the flavors stay distinctly singular.
Once the dish is done it is stirred and immediately tossed out onto plates. For dishes that require more cooking time, a small amount of water is added after the stirring and then covered again. When steam billows from underneath the lid the stir-fry is ready.
The wok is heated to the highest heat setting and then all ingredients along with oil, broth, or sauces are added. It is best when using this technique to use an oil like peanut because it has a high smoke point. There is no covering or steaming with this method. All ingredients are tossed or stirred rapidly, only stopping for a moment to add broth or sauces. When the stir-fry is considered to be done, it is then ladled into plates or bowls.
The most important thing to remember is that the wok must be immediately rinsed after cooking. This is to prevent any food from becoming burnt onto the wok. If food does burn, then the wok will need to washed and seasoned with oil to build back the non-stick coating of the pan, however this only applies to certain types of woks.
Popular Stir Fry Dishes
From Moo Goo Gai Pan to Beef and Broccoli, popular stir fry dishes continue to win the taste buds of everyone. There are countless wonderful recipes for delicious stir-fry dishes. Below are a few popular stir fry dishes and descriptions of their ingredients and flavor profiles.
Moo Goo Gai Pan – Moo Goo Gai Pan is a mild recipe that includes chicken, button mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Earthy textures and flavors mold together to form a dish that is not only easy to make, but truly Asian inspired.
Kung Pao Chicken – Deliciously deep fried chicken mixed with red chili peppers and Szechuan peppercorns produce a boldly flavored dish. This versatile recipe can be done several ways by either deep frying or stir frying the chicken. Also, various vegetables like carrots, celery, and broccoli can be added to round out this recipe. As for the peppers in this dish, they can be easily replaced with bell peppers and onions to reduce the heat.
Shrimp Fried Rice – For those craving seafood, shrimp fried rice is a traditional comfort Asian food. This simple recipe is made up of vegetables, shrimp, and rice that is stir fried in a savory oyster sauce. The shrimp in this dish can be exchanged with chicken or pork for those that want a meatier dish.
Beef and Chinese Broccoli – Thin slices of beef accompanied with delicate Chinese broccoli mesh together to create a recipe packed full of flavor and depth. One key to this dish is making sure the beef is cut into small strips so that it is cooked evenly and quickly. To really infuse the beef with a lot of flavor, marinate it overnight in the refrigerator in a resealable container. Another important step is to not overcook the ingredients. Finally, the best beef with broccoli is bathed in a thick delicious sauce.
Hoisin Pork – Served over rice or egg noodles, Hoisin pork stir fry is an unforgettable dish. Hot and spicy best describe this Asian dish that is made up of mushrooms, scallions, and pork. This recipe can be quite hot in flavor, so it may not be palatable to some.
Food Blog Favorites
37 Stir-Fry Recipes:
Here are some of our favorite stir-fry recipes from around the food blogosphere:
15 Minute Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry – at Can You Stay for Dinner
30 Minute Sweet Asian Chili Pork, Ginger and Tangerine Stir Fry – at Half Baked Harvest
Asian Honey Chicken – at Damn Delicious
Asian Stir Fry – at Elanas Pantry
Asparagus Stir-Fry Recipe – at 101 Cookbooks
Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry – at Jamie Oliver
Bok Choy Recipe – at Steamy Kitchen
Chicken and Asparagus Lemon Stir-Fry – at Skinny Taste
Chili and Basil Scallops – at Steamy Kitchen
Chinese Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry Recipe – at Cookin Canuck
Chinese Broccoli Beef Noodle Stir Fry – at Steamy Kitchen
Crispy Peanut Tofu Cauliflower Rice Stir-Fry – at Minimalist Baker
Easy Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry Recipe – at Rachel Cooks
Easy Broccoli Stir Fry – at Edible Perspective
Flank Steak Stir-Fry with Asparagus and Red Pepper – at Simply Recipes
Garlic Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry – at Steamy Kitchen
General Tsos Chicken – at Diethood
Ginger Beef, Mushroom & Kale Stir-Fry – at Gimme Some Oven
Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry with Asparagus – at Cooking Classy
Honey Ginger Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry – at Pinch of Yum
Kung Pao Shrimp – at Rasa Malaysia
Leek and Asparagus Stir-Fry with Mushrooms – at In Sonnets Kitchen
Orange Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry Recipe – at Natasha’s Kitchen
Oriental Pork with Noodles – at Jamie Oliver
Pork Green Curry Stir-Fry – at Simply Delicious Food
Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry with Coconut-Ginger Brown Rice + Crushed Cashews – at Ambitious Kitchen
Shrimp Stir-Fry with Sugar Snap Peas – at Very Culinary
Spicy Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry – at Simply Scratch
Spicy Cauliflower Stir-Fry – at The Pioneer Woman
Spicy Kale and Coconut Stir Fry – at Cookie and Kate
Stir Fry Ginger Beef – at Simply Recipes
Stir-fried Fish Fillet with Black Bean Sauce Recipe – at Rasa Malaysia
Sweet and Spicy Mushroom Stir Fry – at Simply Recipes
Thai-Style Scallops – at Healthy Green Kitchen
Todd’s Bacon and Shrimp Ramen Stir Fry – at White on Rice Couple
Tofu That Tastes Good: Stir Fry – at Minimalist Baker
World’s Easiest Garlicky Green Beans Stir Fry Recipe – at Kalyn’s Kitchen