Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stir Fry !!!

The other day my sister- Chittrayo who lives in Boston asked me for tips and suggestions to boost up her stir fry dishes. She lives on this literary. Stir fry is the most fun, creative, quick, healthy and tasty dishes. You don’t need to be a pro to do this.  This is one way of cooking to empty the fridge before I travel.

The rules of thumb for stir fry are - quickly cook food in hot oil wok/pan for some minutes that vegetables are still crisp and meat or seafood are tender and juicy. The wok/pan needs to stay fairly hot while you cooking so you hear sizzle while you’re cooking. Cutting of meat, seafood and vegetables also plays very important role. They should not be cut too thick or too big. The pieces should be in bite sizes. It does take practice.

Stir fry became very popular in USA in early 90's. I remember trendy/scene restaurants were featuring something stir fry or grilled something with stir fry something. Also it was a hit theme for cooking and health shows on TV. Friends used to ask me how to do it. I think many Asian at that time were asked the same question. I grew up eating stir fry or Pad (calls it in Thai) every day! Stir Fry has developed and fused into hundreds of flavor and mixtures since then. 
My favorite combinations are mostly based on my Asian root. Growing up and living in 3 continents (Asia, North America and Europe) I discovered new fresh produces and herbs. I will share my basic combinations of flavor, spices and herbs with you

Some notes before you start:
Sauce - decide yourself how much sauce you want in your stir fry. It should never be a swimming pool. I know that western people love sauce. Add liquid if your stir fry too dry using water or stock of chicken or vegetable. You can use cube stock by adding little water. Remember that cube stock already has salt in it. You have to reduce the amount of salt or omit it completely depend on the amount of stir fry and taste. I recommend using corn starch mix with water or soup stock to thicken the sauce. It should be added shortly before you finish so you can check and adjust the consistence and flavor of your dish.
Oil - I recommend ground nuts oil to add nice flavor to Asian flair but using vegetable oil is fine.
Jazz it up - using aromatic herbs such ginger, scallion, garlic chive, coriander, finely chopped lemon grass, rosemary, thyme, etc or dried mushrooms soak in water such Shitake, trumpeter mixing soaking water with corn starch for sauce or sprinkle with roasted sesame seed or nuts, add fresh chili or sambal oelek chili (Indonesian chili sauce) sauce for a little kick or dash of Sesame Oil. Create your own combination!
Tips - Short steamed or blanched vegetables beforehand can make it easier for some stir fry. It depends upon vegetables you use. Please try it out. Make sure that the vegetables stay crisp.
Leftover meat is also great for stir fry. It already had flavor to it.
You can throw in cooked noodle, pasta or rice noodle at the end of stir fry and cook for some minutes until it hot then check and adjust flavor before you finish.
A pinch of sugar at the end is always round up the flavor as my grandmother used to say.
Firm or Fried firm Tofu can substitute meat or seafood – one of my favorite ingredients.

Here we go Maxie’s Basic Stir Fry:

Asian flair:
-          Ingredients: Garlic, ground pepper with soy sauce or fish sauce or salt
Instruction: add meat or seafood with garlic in hot oil stir fry for couple to few minute according to your fresh ingredients. Add vegetables then follow by the sauce or salt and ground pepper and check and adjust the taste.
Chinese Influence:
-          Ingredients: Garlic, Ginger, dried whole chili (optional), ground pepper, chopped scallion, sugar, with soy sauce and/or salt. Sauce thickening with mixture of corn starch and with liquid stock.
Instruction: quickly fry garlic and dried chili for couple minutes before you add the vegetables, meat or seafood. Add the rest of spices and herbs to corn starch mixture. Shortly before finish the dish add the mixed sauce to your stir fry and check and adjust the taste. Add sherry and vinegar to the sauce when you cook with beef or chicken to add tangy flavor.
-          Ingredients: Oyster sauce, salt and ground pepper.
Instruction: add quick steamed vegetables in hot oiled pan and quick stir fry for couple minutes. Add lot of oyster sauce, salt & pepper to taste stir fry for another couple minutes.
Tip: you can just top your favorite steam vegetables with oyster sauce and serve.
Sweet & Spicy: This is very nice for chicken, seafood and pork with vegetables
-          Ingredients: Garlic, ginger (optional), scallion with Thai Chicken sauce with chili, salt and/or soy sauce.
Instruction: quick fry garlic and scallion add meat or seafood then steamed vegetables vegetable and stir fry for a few minutes. Finish with Thai Chicken sauce with chili, salt and/or soy sauce and check and adjust the taste
      Vietnamese influences:
-          Ingredients: Garlic, finely chopped or sliced lemon grass, dried whole, chili, sliced onion, scallion with fish sauce, sugar, salt and ground pepper.
Instruction: add garlic, dried chili to hot oil fry for 2-3 minutes. Add meat or seafood and lemon grass stir fry for couple minutes add onion and vegetable cook for about 3 minutes add the rest of ingredients and check and adjust the taste.
Indian influence: for seafood and chicken
-          Ingredients: Garlic, ginger, chopped onion, curry powder, chicken stock with salt, soy sauce, salt and pepper
Instruction: add onion and garlic in hot oil fry them for a few minute. Add curry powder fry for 2-3 minutes then ginger and seafood or chicken stir fry for few minutes add the rest of ingredients and check and adjust the taste.
Western Flair:
-          Ingredients: Olive oil, garlic, onion, herb de Provence, salt and ground pepper
Instruction: add onion and garlic in hot olive oil cook for few minute. Add herb de Provence and meat cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add vegetables and salt and pepper cook for a few minutes check and adjust the taste.
Southern Europe influences:
Bunch of Thymes: great for chicken, turkey, fishes and potato with vegetables
-          Ingredients: Olive oil, butter, thyme, lemon thyme, chopped flat leave, lemon zest, salt, ground pepper and lemon wedges
Instruction: melt butter in olive oil add meat or chunky cooked potatoes fry it until the meat almost cook. Add herbs and lemon zest stir fry it for 3 minutes then add steamed vegetables and the rest of ingredients, cook for few minutes and check and adjust the taste. Serve with lemon wedges.
Variation: omit lemon zest and lemon juice. Fry rosemary sprig in hot olive oil for 2-3 minutes and take it out. Keep crispy rosemary for sprinkle at the end. Precede the same steps.  This is great for beef and pork as well.

I can go on for days about this subject … I will leave it to up to you to discover and create your signature stir fry. Don’t be afraid to experiment. That is a fun part about cooking!

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