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Stir-fry

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I'm a big failure when it comes to stir fry. I want the the vegetables to be tender yet firm, and have a luscious brown sauce. But sometimes it comes out either undercooked, too wet and sloppy, and most of the time it's mush.

My latest attempt included onions, green and red peppers, shitakis and oyster mushrooms, brocoli and cauliflower, carrots, ginger, tamari sauce, chicken stock, some corn starch, and shrimp. Let's just say that by the end the broccoli and cauliflower had desolved into green goop, the peppers were uncooked, and the shrimp steamed inside the goo. I started with grapeseed oil and finished it off with sesame oil.

How can I make a good stir fry using my heavy set non-stick wok? Too many ingredients?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #2 of 14
........Too many ingredients?

nope.
cook everything "one component at a time" to perfection
put aside
recombine to "reheat" and make sauce.

strictly speaking, some stuff can be combined for cooking - but for example carrots and onions, no - their "done now" timing is too different.

each 'thing' will have its own flavorings - meats vs. veggies for example - I use soy on the meats, sesame in the veggies.
when putting it all back together it's "taste the sauce" time - adjust to preferences.

setting thing aside is also an excellent opportunity to drain off excess oil - save the drippings - you may want it for the sauce later....
post #3 of 14
Blanch carrots first. blanch cauliflour, blanch broc. blanch peppers and onions /Cut everything same size/you can use same water carrot out first shock it /then cauliflour, shock it /then broc shock it/ Use wok if you have one, I use half salad oil and half sesame, I worked with chinese cooks and they use peanut oil, I dont have any .Get real hot /add garlic, ginger shrimp then mushrooms/ then carrot/cauli/ then broc, peppers and onion. a drop of terriaki and pepper .(add some stock ,oyster sauce ,and starch if you want I dont.) Do not overcook serve right away.
The chinese cooks I worked for blanched everything in morning and put on sheet pans we also used napa cabbage and bok choy. Good Luck
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post #4 of 14
Good advice above.

Yes on the cook things separately, being very careful not to overload the pan. By overload, I mean that the pan temperature MUST NOT drop too much or you change from stir fry to steam/boil.

Some items benefit from other cooking methods prior to the stirfry. Brocolli and cauliflower are tricky to tenderize without some moisture. You can blanch as Ed sagely mentioned or you can stir fry it a bit, add a bit of water and cover in your wok for a few minutes. Let the pan come back up to temp before cooking the next item.

I'd also get rid of the non-stick wok. It contributes to some of your problems. More on that later.

For your listed ingredients, here is what I would do.

Prep all vegies, meats and sauces. Marinate the shrimp in corn starch, shaoxing wine and soy sauce, about a tablespoon of each liquid and 1/2 tablespoon corn starch, assuming 4-6 oz of shrimp.

Heat the pan. Add a bit of oil.

Cook the shrimp first. Spread them evenly in the pan and let them sit about 1 minute. Then stir fry 1 minute more. Remove and set aside.

Bring pan back to temp and add a bit of oil. Add broccoli, toss a few times and add a bit of ginger and garlic. Toss a few more times to distribute seasoning. Add no more than 1/4 cup water or maybe rice wine. Cover and let steam 2-3 minutes. Rmove brocollli, set aside; dump any liquid.

Repeat for cauliflower or cook at the same time if it's not too much (1 1/2 cups is about the limit for these types of vegies.

Reheat pan, add oil. Add onions. Distribute evenly and let them sit for a minute or so. YThis should give them the edge sear and color you see in a good stir fry. ou can add some more garlic and or ginger at this point. Chile garlic sauce would also be good. Toss together a few times and remove, set aside.

Repeat onion step with peppers and mushrooms separately. Onnions, peppers, mushrooms will release a lot of liquid if given the opportunity. HIGH temp and cooking them alone helps prevent that liquid from building up and becoming a boil. Mushrooms will take probably 2 minutes before stirring to pick up the right sear.

Add everything back in stir/toss to combine and add the premixed sauce ingredients. Stir the sauce before adding to ensure that the corn starch is in suspension. Heat and stir until the sauce thickens. Depending on the quantity of your ingredients, you made need more or less of the sauce I describe below.

Basic Chinese Brown Sauce

3/4 cup beef stock, low sodium
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon corn starch
some ground white pepper
a pinch or two of sugar (optional)

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 14
About your wok.

It's aluminum probably. This distributes the heat too evenly and too much for stir fry which can make it hard to keep the cooking surface as hot as it needs to be.

Second, non-stick coatings are poor for stir fry for a coupe of reasons.

Non-stick coatings are not safe at proper stir fry temps. It's quite likeyl however, you're not reaching those temps with this wok on a home stove.

Non-stick coatings are not durable enough for the vigorous high heat stirring action and quickly break down.

Non-stick coatings don't produce the sear (and fond) of good high heat cooking and stir fry.

Non-stick coatings work by repelling water. This contributes to the build up of water and pooling in the bottom.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #6 of 14
As you work through the technique I describe, you'll learn how your equipment works and how much of what ingredients you can add at one time and not have a problem. You'll find you'll be able to combine some items with others and some that can't.

Good luck and let us know how it works for you.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #7 of 14
i would never add broccoli or cauliflower to a stir-fry - somehow it just doesn't 'go' imo.

i make lots of stir-fries but generally stick to things like onion, peppers, chillis, and so on. i love adding unsalted cashew nuts with the veg.

i prep all the veggies first (cutting them into more or less the same size). heat the wok to very hot, add a dash of sesame oil and toss in the veg. stir for a few minutes and then put into a bowl. then put the chicken strips, prawns, beef or whatever into the wok when it is hot again. after a few mins add the veg previously cooked then add your soy, honey, and so on.

with the noodles, cook quickly in boiling water, drain and place in a bowl. add a dash or white wine vinegar, pinch of white sugar, dash of sesame oil and add some very, very finely cubed green pepper. mix all together and serve with the stir fry.

edit to add: other than shitake mushrooms i would leave out the mushrooms - they get wet and soggy and make the whole thing soggy.
post #8 of 14
One of my wife's favorites is beef and broccoli. I tend to find it a bit bland, but there are benefits to keeping a spouse happy.

My favorites usually include more garlic, chilis, onion, fire oil ....

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #9 of 14
""i would never add broccoli or cauliflower to a stir-fry - somehow it just doesn't 'go' imo."" Irish Foodie

I have never had Chinese food in Ireland, but I can tell you that about 90% of chinese places I eat in use Broc. all the time, and Cauli. when the price goes down. Also try useing seasoned rice vinegar. Bok- Choy ,Nappa cabbage and snow peas.
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post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for everyone's advice. I am going to stir fry each component seperately and then put them back together to make the sauce. I'll let you know the next time I make it.

PS - it doesn't matter what you put in a vegetable stir fry. Some people like broccoli and some don't. The point is that the thread is about the technique of stir fry, not a general concensus of which vegetables to add or omit. I don't personally like chilies in my stir fry but who cares?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #11 of 14
Just don't skip the blanching process. It is amazing how vibrant and delicious-looking the veggies become, and they keep that fresh look to the finish.
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #12 of 14
Just don't skip the blanching process. It is amazing how vibrant and delicious-looking the veggies become, and they keep that fresh look to the finish.

MAPIVA.
Like amazingrace and I both said in our replies to you "Blanche First"
for a better outcome to the dish.
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post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Yes I will blanch first. The other day I tried to blanch but was overwhelmed with prep and ended up boiling them! That's what accounted for the green broccoli goo sauce haha.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #14 of 14
It's easy for that to happen. Because blanching is a rapid process, I try to have all the prep done before beginning the blanching. I do get the water to boiling at some point during the prep work. I also have the ice bath ready, so the veggies can get shocked without delay. Did anyone mention salting the blanching water? Do so.
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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