My stir-fries stink

I would like to incorporate Asian cooking into my diet — I love the kind of stir-fries you get in Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cooking. The problem is, I can never get my stir-fries to turn out like they do in restaurants. Most of the time, the sauce is runny and tastes too much like soy sauce. Also, is there any way to keep the sodium content down?

You need a hot wok. The secret to Asian restaurant food is the blast furnace burner under the stir-fry pan. Forget trying to duplicate that intense heat. If you could reach that many BTUs on your home range, you either couldn’t stand the heat or you’d burn down the house! Either way, you’d be out of the kitchen.

So, keep your cool and heat the empty wok over medium-high heat for a few minutes before you put any food in the wok. Add a tablespoon of peanut or canola oil and quickly toss in a small amount of meat, chicken or shrimp. Stir-fry the sizzling meat 4 to 5 minutes or until it is just fully cooked. Remove the meat from the wok and reserve.

Heat the empty wok again. Now, toss in your vegetables and stir-fry like crazy for 2 to 3 minutes, over high heat. Sprinkle the veggies with 1/2 teaspoon of dark sesame oil, for that authentic Asian flavor. This is a great time to add some chopped garlic or fresh gingerroot. Return the meat to the pan and resume the frantic stirring. If you like a syrupy sauce, like hoisin, oyster or black bean, spoon a small amount in to coat the vegetables and meat.

Low-sodium soy sauce should be easily found in the Asian section of your local supermarket. Look for a label that says “67% Less Sodium” or “50% Less Salt”. These low-sodium versions of brand name soy sauces have all the flavor of regular soy sauce, just less sodium. Add this healthful soy sauce during the last minute of your next stir-frying sequence. This will perk the Asian flavor just before the food hits your plate. Now that’s authentic Chinese!

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