The Wonderful Wok: Stir Frying Basics

Want to enjoy the tantalizing taste of Asian food at home? Invest in a wok! Stir-frying is one of the easiest ways to create a delicious, healthy dinner in minutes. Learn to prepare meals the Asian way: light on meat, heavy on the vegetables, and quick-cooked on high heat to retain vitamins and flavors. A few basics is all you need to get cooking!

Purchase your wok. You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on state-of-the-art cookware. A standard, stainless-steel wok, purchased for less than $50, will serve its purpose well. The heavier the wok, the better it will retain heat. This is important because you must cook at a high temperature to avoid stewing or steaming your ingredients.

Season your wok. Before you use your wok for the first time, you must season it. Seasoning the wok is a way to "break it in" to ensure even heat-distribution during stir-frying, and helps lock in the flavors of the food as it's cooking. When you remove your wok from its packaging, you may notice a greasy film on the surface. Wipe this film away, and wash your wok in warm, soapy water. To season your wok, put it on the stove over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add a drop or two of oil, and swirl it around to coat the surface evenly. Remove from the stovetop to let cool for a bit, and then use a paper towel to wipe out the oily residue. You may want to season your wok once more before you begin cooking with it.

Gather your utensils. Professional chefs use a mesh ladel to toss meat and vegetables around in the wok, but if you don't have one of these, a wooden spoon will do just fine. Place several large, clean bowls and plates on the counter next to your wok so you can set your cooked items aside as you prepare them in batches. Other items you'll need: a chef's knife, cutting board, and several bowls of different sizes to store liquid mixtures and chopped herbs and vegetables.

Cut and dry food prep. The most time-consuming part of stir-frying is preparing the ingredients. You'll want everything portioned out and cleaned, chopped, sliced and diced in advance. The actual stir-frying is fast and furious (you've probably heard those pans rattling like mad while waiting for your Chinese takeout!) so meat, vegetables, noodles, spices and oils should be ready and within reaching distance so you can grab and get on with it. Chop everything into bite-sized chunks to ensure quick and thorough cooking. Make sure there's no extra water or other liquid in your wok while stir-frying meat and vegetables. As mentioned earlier, liquid in the wok will cause your meal to stew instead of lightly fry.

Stir-fry in batches. Properly stir-fried food retains its crisp, firm exterior and tender, juicy inside by cooking small portions at a time. Heat the wok, drizzle in enough oil to coat the surface, and add enough small cuts of beef, pork or chicken to just cover the bottom. Fry on medium-high heat, tossing the entire time. When your first batch of meat is thoroughly cooked, remove from the wok and drain on paper towels. Fry the second batch in a little more oil, and then set aside. Oil the pan once more, toss in a few cloves of crushed garlic and/or ginger, and stir-fry the vegetables, adding the thicker ingredients like potatoes and carrots first, and then tossing in quicker-cooking ingredients like scallions and mushrooms at the end. When the vegetables are done, return the meat to the pot with the vegetables, and finish with your liquid sauces and seasonings. Give everything a quick toss, simmer for a few minutes and then remove from heat.

Learn the flavors. Thai cooking is immensely popular right now; similar to Chinese, but with its own exotic spices and flavorings, some of which take their cue from Indian cuisine. Malaysian, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean fare all boast their signature recipes as well. With practice, you'll learn which spices and sauces go with what and how to identify their flavors. You can buy most of what you need at an Asian specialty store.

Always have some Asian cooking staples on hand: soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce. Fresh ginger, garlic, chillies, galangal, Asian shallots, scallions, kaffir lime leaves, cilantro and lemongrass. Green or red curry paste, shrimp paste. Noodles and rice. And of course... plenty of fresh meat, fish, tofu and vegetables. Pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, prawns, scallops. Onions, carrots, broccoli, snow peas, bok choi (Chinese cabbage), mushrooms (regular, oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms).

There really is no limit to what you can do with a wok, an assortment of meats, vegetables, spices and sauces. If you're the creative chef, feel free to experiment. If you're a "by the book" cook, go out and purchase a stir-fry cookbook which will explain each technique in detail as well as familiarize you with the exotic ingredients. Above all: know that stir-frying is a healthy way to prepare and enjoy the foods you love in the comfort of home.

Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto.

Dina Giolitto is a copywriting consultant and ghostwriter with 10 years of experience writing corporate print materials and web content. Trust her with your next e-book, article series or web project, and make a lasting impression on your audience of information-hungry prospects. Visit http://www.wordfeeder.com for more information.

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Preparing Lobster Tails

Lobster, once the food of poor farmers, is now considered... Read More

10 Wide Open Tips For Food Safety In The Great Outdoors

Hiking, camping, and boating are good activities for active people... Read More

Two for One Dinners: Beef

If you find leftovers boring, uninviting or downright "yuck," then... Read More

10 Convenient Ways To Eliminate Food Poisoning With Your Microwave

Microwave ovens can play an important role at mealtime, but... Read More

About Baking: Eight Tips for Perfect Pancakes

Pancakes are easy and almost foolproof. But there are some... Read More

Two for One Dinners: Turkey

If you find leftovers boring, uninviting or downright "yuck," then... Read More

Two for One Dinners: Eggplant

If you find leftovers boring, uninviting or downright "yuck," then... Read More

Better Baking Technique: Is it Done Yet?

Are my breads, cookies, or cakes baked and ready to... Read More

Foods That Freeze Well

"Can I freeze it?" is a question often asked in... Read More

Keeping and Wasps and Flies Away from your Barbecue

It is one of life's oddities that we take a... Read More

Chinese Cooking Technique: Thicken

"Thicken", or "Thickening" is a very common technique used in... Read More

Whats a Pan Dowdy?

Cobblers and dowdies, crisps and crumbles, buckles and betties-what are... Read More

Emergency Bread: Can you Bake Bread Without an Oven?

What would you eat if you were stranded without power?... Read More

10 Critical Ways To A Perfectly Food-Safe Kitchen

Food poisoning is related to unsafe food, a dirty kitchen,... Read More

Reductions: Proving Less is More

Any liquid can be reduced just by heating it -... Read More

Unique Cake Decorating With Flowers

Flowers as a Cake Decoration, unique and easy to place... Read More

Peppercorns & Ways To Use Them

New and exciting varieties of peppercorns are becoming available to... Read More

Perfect Picnics - Frugal Food Safety Tips

Summer is finally here and for a lot of us... Read More

The Art of the Marinade

It's a sad fact that these days it has become... Read More

Why do We Need to Knead?

Bread dough needs to be elastic in order to capture... Read More

How to Bake: Bread on the Grill

One of the slickest tricks we know is baking bread... Read More

Ten Steps to Perfect Pasta

I'm amazed at how often I get e-mail from a... Read More

Caring For Your Wooden Cutting Board

Researchers have found that bacteria have a tougher time surviving... Read More

Grilling Vs. Barbecue

Grilling and Barbecuing, two of the most popular cooking methods... Read More

How to Prepare the Best Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Would you like to prepare the best Garlic Mashed Potatoes... Read More

Wok this Way! (Part 1 of 5)

IntroductionWoks have been synonymous with Chinese cooking since the emergence... Read More

Save Time in the Kitchen - Cook Pasta the Way Restaurant Chefs Do

Have you ever wondered how a restaurant can get a... Read More

Eat your Veggies! Simple Cooking Methods

Vegetables add colour, taste, texture and bulk to our daily... Read More

Digital Thermometers

Types of digital thermometers & their culinary uses.Thermocouple:Of all food... Read More

How To Eat Fresh Vegetables ? Ideas for Working More Veggies Into Your Diet

Fresh, uncooked veggies are so healthy and it's important to... Read More

Fine Tuning Bread Machine Mixes

Sometimes bread machines can be tricky. We were trying to... Read More

Christmas Cookie Decorating 101

Many bakers ask for tips and instructions on decorating cookies.... Read More

Wok this Way! (Part 3 of 5) Seasoning Your New Wok

Seasoning is the most important thing you can do to... Read More