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Stir-Fry

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Jeff Grossman

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Stir-Fry

by Jeff Grossman » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:10 pm

One of the notable absences around me is Chinese and Japanese restaurants. I'm sure some closed out of fear initially; I was told later that the supply-chain for Chinese products was interrupted so they couldn't keep cooking.

In any case, Pumpkin and I have not had a decent plate of smoky noodles with crispy-tender ingredients in several months. I don't own a wok, nor the kind of stove that generates the big BTUs that I see in a Chinese kitchen. Is there any technique for making a good stir-fry at home with standard equipment?

Thanks for any guidance.
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Larry Greenly

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Re: Stir-Fry

by Larry Greenly » Sun Jun 28, 2020 3:24 pm

I've seen the argument on ATK that you don't need a wok. All you need is a large stainless steel (not teflon) skillet and crank the heat up. The heat configuration and btu's on most ranges don't work as well on woks as they do on restaurant ranges anyway.

I've tried it a few times, esp. with fried rice. Works okay.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Paul Winalski » Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:19 pm

A flat skillet or fry pan will do. As Larry said, avoid teflon and other non-stick surfaces, and crank up the heat. Is your stove gas or electric? Induction cooking elements don't work well when stir-frying, in my experience. If your stove is electric, temperature control can be an issue--there's a time lag on electric burners. You may have to take the pan off the heating element to keep proper control. I have an electric range and I do enough stir-frying that I bought one of those single-element butane burners that they sell in Asian markets. It is fitted specifically for a wok. It doesn't deliver as much heat as a professional Chinese restaurant range, but it's better than the electric heating elements. I also have an outdoor propane-fueled burner from Thailand that is as powerful as a restaurant range--it delivers 100,000 BTUs and is fitted for a wok. Those outdoor propane rings that they sell for deep-fried turkey or blackened redfish also work well, if you don't mind having to cook outdoors.

-Paul W.
Last edited by Paul Winalski on Mon Jun 29, 2020 1:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Jenise » Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:50 pm

All of the above, and: cook your vegetables in batches--don't crowd the pan or they'll steam--then combine for the final dish.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Jeff Grossman » Mon Jun 29, 2020 1:50 am

I have a gas range so I can control the heat output easily. Two of the burners are larger ...scramble for manual... 12,000 BTUs.

My larger pans are Calphalon, not teflon, so probably OK for this purpose. (I have All-Clad pots but not All-Clad pans!)

I'd appreciate pointers to good recipes, too. I've never intentionally made a Chinese stir-fry at home because it's so easy to walk across the street and buy one! (I have made some interesting recipes, notably the pork-stuffed lotus root "sandwiches" that we ate in Beijing and love them.)
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Larry Greenly » Mon Jun 29, 2020 6:25 am

I'd be wary of the Calphalon unless it's the stainless steel variety. You might ruin the dark Calphalon: "Calphalon Classic Nonstick Cookware is made from durable, hard-anodized aluminum with an interior dual-layer nonstick coating for easy food release, and quick cleanup." :?:

I usually wing it for the usual stir fries, but there's a zillion books and online recipes. If I think of one or two recipes later, I'll forward them (but it's 4 a.m. right now--I can't sleep or think straight).

Do you have an Asian grocery store in your area?
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Paul Winalski » Mon Jun 29, 2020 1:01 pm

I just posted a couple of simple but tasty stir-fry recipes.

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Re: Stir-Fry

by Jeff Grossman » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:16 am

Thank you, Paul. I am copying them down. I can get fresh mung bean sprouts at my local grocery so I would never even consider canned. Re soy sauce, I have Kikkoman but I have a couple local Asian grocers so I'm sure I can do better.

Do you have any noodle dishes, with lo mein (presumably, spaghetti) or chow fun (pappardelle? lasagnette?)?
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Larry Greenly » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:20 am

By coincidence I was emailed week 5 of a series of online cookbooks from the Washington Post today. A food editor waxed eloquent about Fuschia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice in which the author teaches simple, authentic Chinese food and explains equipment and stir frying.

Below are two recipes from the book, sent by the WAPO:

Black Bean Chicken (Dou Chi Ji Ding)

I'm amazed by what fermented black beans can do, and how easy they are to find. They carry this dish. (Honestly, I think the bird is negligible.) It comes from the Hunanese city Liuyang, which, Dunlop tells us, is known for its production of fireworks. If you ate it there, the chicken would be deep-fried. She has adapted it to a stir-fry to make it easier for home cooks. If you don't like fireworks going off in your mouth, skip the chiles. If it's a pyrotechnic spectacle you're after, increase the amount.

Ingredients
Servings: 2
Total time: 30 minutes

For the marinade:
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons potato flour (not same as potato starch)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce (not same as reduced-sodium soy sauce)
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

For the chicken:
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 thighs)
1 small green bell pepper, or 1/2 each red and green bell pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
An equivalent amount of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
1 to 2 teaspoons ground chiles, to taste
Fine sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons finely sliced scallions
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Steps
Stir together the marinade ingredients. Cut the chicken into 3/8- to 3/4-inch cubes and add it to marinade. Mix well.

Cut the pepper(s) into small squares to match the chicken. Heat a wok over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the peppers, and stir-fry until hot and slightly cooked, but still crisp. Remove and set aside.

Reheat the wok over high heat. Add the remaining oil, swirl it around, then add the marinated chicken and stir-fry to separate the pieces. When they have separated and are starting to become pale, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until they smell delicious. Add the black beans and stir a few times until you can smell them. Then add the ground chilies and return the peppers to the wok. Continue to stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through and everything is sizzlingly delicious, seasoning with salt to taste. Then stir in the scallions and, off the heat, the sesame oil. Serve.


Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce (Suan Ni Pai Huan Gua)

Dunlop drives home the point that Chinese cuisine leads with vegetables, using meat, a less sustainable and more expensive resource, as a flavoring accent. This dead-simple recipe is so vegetable-forward it skips the part about meat entirely. It gets its strength of character from a Sichuan seasoning mixture known as suan ni wei (“garlic paste flavor”) that’s combined in a bowl and can be applied to any host of things, including boiled wontons or pork dumplings — or, my choice, cucumbers. I derive great satisfaction from banging the crap out of a cuke, and I bet I’m not alone.

For easy printing and scaling, view this recipe on our website at washingtonpost.com/recipes.

Ingredients
Servings: 2
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

1 cucumber (about 11 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoon light soy sauce (not same as reduced-sodium soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon Chinkiang vinegar
2 tablespoons chile oil
1 to 2 pinches ground roasted Sichuan pepper (optional)

Steps
Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it hard a few times with the flat blade of a Chinese cleaver or with a rolling pin. Then cut it, lengthways, into four pieces. Hold your knife at an angle to the chopping board and cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1/8- to 3/8-inch slices.

Place in a bowl with the salt, mix well and set aside for about 10 minutes.

Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl.

Drain the cucumber, pour the sauce over them, stir well and serve.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by David M. Bueker » Tue Jun 30, 2020 8:14 am

I need to buy some fermented black beans.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Paul Winalski » Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:13 pm

I don't cook lo mein or chow fun very often. At least in the restaurants around here, lo mein is usually made with flat noodles, so linguine would be appropriate. The fresh lo mein noodles available in supermarkets around here are like spaghettini rough-cut from a flat sheet of dough as opposed to extruded. Spaghetti or spaghettini certainly will work for lo mein. Chow fun is made with fresh rice noodles, which are sold in folded sheets at Asian markets. Or you can boil up dried wide rice noodles. Wheat-based pasta is not a good substitute. Thai noodle dishes (pad Thai, mahogany fire noodles) are almost exclusively made from rice noodles.

Fuschia Dunlop's cookbooks are excellent and feature completely authentic recipes. She concentrates mainly on Sichuan cuisine. Her latest book, The Food of Sichuan, is a rewrite of a couple of her earlier books. I highly recommend it.

The Mala Market http://blog.themalamarket.com/ is a blog run by Taylor Holliday specifically discussing how to cook authentic Sichuan dishes in the American home kitchen. It has a lot of good recipes. She's since set up an online store at her website that features ingredients such as Pixian doubanjiang, Sichuan dried red chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns. It's next to impossible to find Sichuan peppercorns in markets in the USA that aren't irretrievably stale. The Mala Market imports directly from Chengdu. It's amazing what a difference fresh Sichuan peppercorns and dried Sichuan chiles make to dishes such as kung pao chicken.

-Paul W.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Jeff Grossman » Wed Jul 01, 2020 1:32 am

Thank you, Paul. What a great blog!

Pumpkin is, alas, rather a Yankee so I doubt there's anything I can do to sell him on mala. But I can perhaps make a dish and alter the seasoning at the last moment for me.

Note to self: look at the rice noodles in my local shops.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Peter May » Thu Jul 02, 2020 7:13 am

Paul Winalski wrote: Induction cooking elements don't work well when stir-frying, in my experience. .


I have an induction hob and stir-fry from time to time. Last night I did pak choi in oyster sauce. I have a wok with a flattened base, it's heavy gauge carbon steel. I don't have any problem getting it hot all over - of course induction is immediate so you have remember not to turn your back. Advantage of a wok are the high sides that you can stir the contents away from the oil at base and back.

Induction is better than ceramic and plain electric hobs I have used in the past, but I agree not like the restaurant gas ranges that have large flames caressing the sides of the wok.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Jeff Grossman » Thu Jul 02, 2020 3:59 pm

Jeff Grossman wrote:Note to self: look at the rice noodles in my local shops.

Been to one shop. Lo mein, yes, chow fun, no. No heavy soy sauce, either. On to the next!
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Jeff Grossman » Thu Jul 02, 2020 4:00 pm

And the latest thing.. Sichuan Pepper oil: https://50hertzfoods.com
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Paul Winalski » Thu Jul 02, 2020 5:48 pm

There's a whole subgenre of Sichuan dishes that are cooked meat (usually ground pork or shredded chicken) over cold noodles, garnished with a complex, spicy sauce. Strange-flavor Chicken and Dan-Dan Noodles are examples. Sichuan pepper oil is frequently part of the sauce.

-Paul W.
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Re: Stir-Fry

by Jeff Grossman » Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:14 pm

That sounds like great stuff for a summer night.

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