March 15, 2010

Anything Goes Stir Fry

Having been to the farmer's market just the other day, my crisper was filled with veggies dying to burst out from the fridge. So I released my bok choy, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and spring onions onto the kitchen bench and stared at them. It's been a while since the last stir fry, so now is as good a time as any. I pulled out a pork fillet, also begging to be used, and a packet of fresh chow mein noodles. Together with the essential staples of garlic, onion, peanut oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce and a touch of honey; the ball was ready to roll.

It's a funny thing. My pantry and my sink are all full of what I need and yet the most important things here are my wok and me. It's like an orchestra waiting to begin. I am the conductor and my wok is my wand because the magic begins and ends with us. We are the stars and the ingredients depend on us to do them justice and to bring them together in a way that will make you want to yell "hurray" and stand up and applaud.

I am in my element when I make a stir fry. I am comfortable and calm, chopping, dicing, crushing, slicing and moving fast. Preparation is key; everything must be ready before you begin otherwise you had better be quick during the concert. Oh, don't worry I've been there, but living on the edge can have it's consequences. The veggies cooked too long, the meat overdone, the noodles too soft. Timing really is critical. Aside from preparation and timing, your best friend (apart from your wok), is heat. High heat. Very high heat. Most definitely generated by gas. So with all stations ready to go; "Quiet Please". Tap, tap.

Stir Fry Of The Day

1 pork fillet, finely sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 brown onion, sliced
4 spring onions, quartered
2 or 3 carrots, julienned but not too finely
1 head of broccoli, break into even sized pieces
1 small piece of cauliflower, cut up evenly
2 or 3 bunches of bok choy, cut at the end of the leafy bit, so that you have separated the stalk and the leaf
I used 1 packet of fresh chow mein noodles recommended to feed 4; (use whichever noodles you like)
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
peanut oil for frying

What I do is I have a large serving bowl right next to the wok as I am cooking so that I can upturn the cooked ingredient into the bowl right away. I always begin with the meat. Now I only have one pork fillet so it doesn't give me a huge amount of meat but I still do not cook it all in one go. Using a generous slurp of peanut oil, fry the meat very quickly in three lots. See, you are only using a little amount at once but it gives the best results. If your quantity is any greater, you run the risk of "stewing" the meat in it's own juices even though you are using high heat. Trust Me. Don't skip to save time. You just spent all this time cutting everything up so what's a little extra going to hurt with the cooking!

Before you continue on with frying the next ingredient, make sure your wok is clean. Put in a little water, swirl and use the cleaning brush to get off any burnt bits. Please. No burnt bits. They don't add extra flavour. They taste "burnt".

Return the wok to the heat; wait till the wok is dry; add some more oil and stir fry the onions, spring onions and garlic. Work the "chan" vigorously to keep the ingredients moving till the garlic is white and cooked through; use a little water only if the ingredients are turning brown too quickly. Upturn into the serving bowl with the meat.

Clean the wok; return to the heat; add the carrots with 1/4 cup of water; cover with a lid for about a minute or two depending on how softened you like your carrot. I like just a little crunch so I cook them for just a little over a minute. Remove lid; toss the carrots till the water has evaporated. Upturn into serving bowl.

Clean the wok; return to heat; add the broccoli in a little water; toss with chan till done as desired. Upturn into serving bowl.

At this stage I juggle a bit. The water has boiled in my jug; I pour it over my noodles; cover and return to the frying. My noodles require being soaked in hot water for 3 minutes; then strained; then ready to add to the wok. Jeepers, I'm sweating, are you?

Back to the clean wok; in a little oil add the cauliflower. Toss like crazy till they get a bit of colour. Finish with a splash of water to soften only slightly. Stand back. Watch out. The oil is darting from the wok in all directions. Upturn the cauli into the serving bowl.

Clean the wok; return to high heat; cook the bok choy stalks in a little oil till they get some colour but retain their crunchiness. Usually takes about a minute. Upturn them into the serving bowl.

Clean the wok; return to high heat and in strictly less than 30 seconds cook the bok choy leaves in some peanut oil. Place into serving bowl.

Add about 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil to the wok and toss in the cooked noodles. Toss, toss, toss, till the noodles are gleaming and shiny and coated with the oil. Return all the cooked ingredients in the serving bowl back into the wok; quickly add the oyster sauce, the soy sauce and the honey. Using tongs and the wok chan, mix and toss thoroughly to ensure all the ingredients and the sauces are well combined. This should honestly take less than a minute. Carefully and with a strong wrist, immediately place into the large serving bowl; and yep, you guessed it; serve immediately. Use chop sticks, forks, fingers whatever, just don't hang around, get into it!

As I slump into my chair, honestly, who said stir fries are easy. Well they are easy. But don't be fooled. You gotta know what you are doing man. And if you don't; well like me; I guess you will have to just keep on practising until you get it right. And 'get it right' I have! The family goes quiet. Silence. I can't hear "hurray". I hear the tinkering of forks and chop sticks as they work the bowl, I hear the slurping of noodles, I hear crunching and munching and I see everyone's head down over their bowl enjoying the fast, efficient and utimately triumphant efforts of this conductor. That's all good and well, but what about the applause!! I guess I shall have to settle for the contented faces instead.

Anyone for a glass of wine? Or maybe three!


  1. That is a fantastic stir fry Mariana! you could be an Asian chef if I didnt know you already :)

    You know all the tips...the furiously high heat, the ready chopped pieces, the tossing, the darting oil, the addition of little water..teh cleaning of the wok in are amazing..where did you learn all that..? And don't tell me your husband is Chinese!

    it is tiring if youre cooking for 10 people though. the worst part of a stir fry is you have to eat it immediately to get the best of it and In my country that would mean sweat sweat sweat for dinner as well! LOLOL

  2. Yes,you decribed the making of a stirfry so well ...emotionally as well as technically!! I think the only stirfries I make are "with what needs to be used". I very rarely order it when I go out to dinner as I think it is something so easy to make at home. Can't wait for the next little bit of info on your blog.

  3. zurin - Oh you made me laugh so much zurin. You reminded me of an episode in my life a couple of years ago where my recipe was a state winner in a national competition. The host of just about the only cooking show on television those days was called Geoff Jansz. He cooked my "stir fry" on television and he mentioned my name about seven times. He said on national television, "are you Chinese Mariana, because this recipe is very much how a Chinese person would cook". He proceeded to ask it a few times and then he said "well Mariana, if you are not Chinese then you should be". Gosh, you brought it all back to me zurin with your comment. I nearly fell off my chair laughing. And my dear friend Gayle or 'stormy' as she has chosen to be known actually taped the program for me because I was away at the time. I still have it on video somewhere, but I don't have a video any longer otherwise I would watch it right now. Oh, gee they were the good old days. So very pleased you dropped in with your great compliment. LOLOL.

  4. Stormy - so pleased you liked my description of the process. I really do think I have it down pat these days. I couldn't agree with you more about not ordering one eating out. Not that I would know very much about eating out. You for one ought to know how little I venture out to restaurants, but certainly a stirfy would not be the attraction.

    Aww, aren't you sweet. Hope my next entry doesn't let you down then.

  5. I haven't had stirfry in yeeeears! I had kind of forgotten how wonderful it can be, thank you for reminding me!!

  6. Well I'm glad I reminded you Tumbleweed Woman - now I would love to encourage you to make one!!

  7. I am so glad I found this post. I have never thought to wash the wok between the various ingredients and I always get those burnt bits! It annoys me so much. I am keen to get going on my next stir fry. Thank you.


  8. Your comment made me so happy Patricia. I just love that you feel you have learnt something. It's all those little 'extra' things during the cooking stage that really help to produce a great outcome. Thanks for dropping by.