Shortly after I was married I bought a wok: Ken Hom had been on television and stir frying seemed so easy. My mother in law regularly fed us stir fried dishes when we visited and I figured that if she could do it then so could I! Since that time I have acquired several books of chinese recipes and treated myself to a pretty blue and white fishy chinese dinner set (pictured) of bowls, plates, spoons and chopstick rests, to which I have added some matching larger bowls that I was fortunate to find in the same design. I have cooked some multi-dish Chinese style meals for guests, but mostly I cook stir fries as family dinners. Once the preparation of ingredients has been done, this meal can be cooked and served very quickly.
One of our favourites is chicken and cashew nuts, traditionally one of the most popular choices at the Chinese takeaway. I also stir fry with prawns and also with lean pieces of belly pork (or pork fillet) flavoured with lots of garlic and ginger, sometimes including chinese plum sauce. This recipe has no original source, or at least none that I can really acknowledge. It is just what I find works for us. The ingredient information is scant as I tend to use what is available, but always start with onion, garlic and ginger, add light soy and five spice and finish with sesame oil. I follow the advice I heard somewhere not to cook with sesame oil as it burns easily. I stir fry with sunflower (not olive) oil and stir in the sesame oil at the end for added flavour. I have been known to add toasted sesame seeds at the table as well. I still have the same, now well used, wok that I bought when I was first married: it is a Ken Hom one with a slightly flattened base as I cook on an electric ceramic hob.
A word about soy sauce: much has been written about avoiding the additive MSG (Monosodium glutamate) because of possible health implications. It used to be difficult to find soy sauce without this ingredient, but it is now becoming increasingly easy to find dark and light soy sauce and its Japanese cousin, Shoyu, that are MSG free. They are worth hunting down.
Chinese Style Stir Fries
Chicken & Cashew Nut Stir Fry
2tbsp sunflower oil
2-3ozs cashew nuts
1 large white onion, medium sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1inch (2.5cm) piece of ginger, finely chopped
8ozs/225g lean chicken breast, cut into thin slices
1tbsp light soy sauce
40zs/125g button mushrooms, quartered
1tsp chinese 5-spice seasoning
1tbsp sesame oil
1tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
A selection of vegetables in a variety of colours – choose 2 or 3 from:
Sliced red/yellow/orange/green pepper
Pak choi/Bok choi, chopped or Broccoli, in small florets
Carrot, cut into fine rings or julienne strips – good with chicken & cashew nut
Courgette, cut into fine rings or ribbons
French beans, 1inch/2.5cm pieces or handful frozen peas, cooked & drained
Chinese vegetables: beansprouts, beanshoots, water chestnuts
The term ‘stir fry’, when used below, means to continuously turn the ingredients in the hot oil in the wok. (I have a special flattened wok spatula.) This helps them to cook evenly, stopping them from adhering to the pan and burning.
1. Collect together and prepare all the ingredients. It is important that they are available for immediate use. Ingredients should be unmixed so they can be added separately.
2. If using Broccoli it should be blanched: divide into small florets and pour boiling water over, leave for one minute and then immerse in cold water to stop cooking. Set aside until needed.
3. Place the wok on the stove top, using maximum heat, to allow it to pre-heat. After 2 minutes or so, add the sunflower oil and allow this to heat through. (IMPORTANT: Do not leave the pan unattended.)
4. Omit this stage if not using cashews: Drop a cashew nut in the oil. If it sizzles immediately add the remaining nut pieces, if not then wait a short while before trying another piece of nut. The cashew nuts will brown very quickly, almost immediately. Be careful to remove them before they blacken and spoil. Spoon onto a piece of kitchen paper to soak up excess leaving the remaining oil in the wok.
5. Add a small piece of onion to the oil and if it sizzles then it is hot enough to add the remainder of the onion. Add the onion, garlic and ginger into the hot sunflower oil and stir fry as it cooks through. It should be transparent and not brown. Add the mushroom pieces, and stir fry for a minute or two. Add the pieces of chicken and stir fry for 2-3 minutes to allow it to start to cook evenly.
6. Add chosen remaining vegetables, apart from greens/broccoli. Stir fry as they are included. When cooked they should still be slightly crisp rather than soft, so it is important to add those that cook more slowly earlier than those that will cook quickly. (I always add carrot first if I am using it. Save pak choi/bok choi or pre-blanched broccoli to put in towards the end after adding the soy sauce.
7. Add the chinese 5-spice powder and light soy sauce and stir through.
8. Add pak choi/bok choi or broccoli, stir in well, turn down the heat a little and if possible cover the wok. Allow to cook until the vegetables are still crisp and before they soften: 2-3minutes at most.
9. Finally, return the cooked cashew nuts to the wok along with the sesame oil. Briefly stir through the mixture and serve immediately.
10. Serve, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds (optional) and on a bed of plain boiled rice or boiled noodles (or *egg fried rice, if you wish). A small portion of prawn crackers can be served on the side, they are easy to fry if you can find uncooked ones, but can also be bought ready cooked in large supermarkets. Soy sauce lovers may like to drizzle over a little additional dark or light soy sauce.
*For egg fried rice, stir fry pre-cooked rice in a little sunflower oil in a wok. Beat an egg and quickly stir through the rice mixture, turning (stir frying) constantly so that the egg cooks through and does not stick to the wok and burn. Season and serve quickly.
More stir fried dishes:
Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy
Special Fried Rice
Read Full Post »