Here are some of the common misunderstandings of stir fry dishes:
- Stir fry is always oily. This is not true. You can add as little oil as possible. It doesn’t have to be oily. Although vegetables love oil and absorb oil, we can cook very tasty vegetable dishes without adding more than half a teaspoon of oil.
- Stir fry has to be cooked in a wok without the lid on. This is not true. Stir fry can be cooked in a cookware with a flat bottom. I always keep the lid on since I don’t like the fume, food debris, or food steam to come out to “damage” a clean kitchen. There’s a forever debate going on in the Asian community here: how to cook stir fry. It is true that if one cooks stir fry with an open wok in a very clean kitchen, very soon the fume from the oil and the food will stick to the wall and everything else. To prevent this, some people have gone the length of building a stir fry partition for the kitchen, with glass walls from top to bottom and a powerful kitchen hood installed above to suck the fume and steam away. I, on the other hand, change the way of doing the stir fry so that there will not be a concern for fume or debris.
- Cooking oil has to be heated to burning hot in order to stir fry. This is not true. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Here is my revised stir fry vegan dish. Although it is called stir fry, strictly speaking it is not. It doesn’t involve a wok or fuming cooking oil. No stirring, no frying. The cookware has the lid on all the time so that the fume or food debris will not fly around to stain the immaculate kitchen.
So it is a fake stir fry indeed but it keeps most of the flavors of a stir fry vegetable dish. And the reason it retains most of the flavor is because I have taken care of the following steps:
My vegetable stir fry secret #1: the temperature. A vegetable stir fry dish requires that you cook it quickly. Like what I said before, I refuse to heat up the oil. So the only thing I can do is to heat up the frying pan until it is relatively hot. You put your hand a little above the pan and your hand feels the heat. And even with such a hot pan, if you put cold vegetable in, the pan would cool down first before heating up again. In order to prevent this, I will spread the vegetable on a plate and put it into the microwave for 30 second to 1 minute, depending on the power of the microwave. You don’t want to microwave too long since that will cook the vegetable. You only want the vegetable to be heated up a little.
My vegetable stir fry secret #2: pre-processing. In order to make the vegetable tasty, the pre-processing is essential. Some people will put the vegetable into boiling water to blanch it for 5 seconds, but I am too lazy to do that. What I do is I will use salt to marinate the vegetable for five to ten minutes. This is a very important step. You can add a little bit of salt to do that, but I usually add a little bit more salt than necessary. After five minutes salt marination, I would throw away the water coming out of the vegetable and I will also rinse the vegetable to get rid of the excessive salt attached to the surface.
My vegetable stir fry secret #3: Cut vegetable into little strips or thin slices. No cubes or chunks. This is to ensure that the vegetable can be cooked more evenly. With broccoli, it can be difficult to cut into strips or slices. So that is an exception. For everything else, it should be in strips or slices. And vegetables should be cooked for two to four minutes. And no more. You can taste it while cooking to see what kind of tenderness you prefer. The thing is your vegetable will continue to cook for one minute at least after you stop cooking it. This is why when you taste the food, it should be a little tougher than your preferred tenderness.
My vegetable stir fry secret #4: Prepare your sauce. Since the veggie has already been marinated, the sauce should not be salty. Since the cooking time is short, it can be very hectic to grab the pepper, the soy sauce, the garlic, the ginger etc. So I usually prepare the sauce beforehand. It can be any sauce you like. If you like it to be a little sweet, you can add sugar or sweetener to your sauce. I have my own white sauce and black sauce. The white sauce is based on Mizkan’s sushi seasoning which already has vinegar, sugar, salt, and MSG mixed in. I only add ginger and garlic to it. The black sauce is based on soy sauce, for which I add ginger, garlic, white pepper, green onion. I usually put the sauce into microwave on high for 10 to 20 second to let it mix well.
And the following are my favorite stir fry with bean sprouts. I can also been made with shredded potato (has to be immersed into water with a bit of vinegar after shredding), egg plant, cauliflower. For example, let’s say we do a bean sprout stir fry. I will use the white sauce for this. I would spread salt on bean sprout (spreading on a plate) to marinate it for 20 to 30 minutes. After that, I rinse the salt away and put it in microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up while my flat frying pan is heating up on the stove (without any oil). Then I transfer the bean sprout into the frying pan, add a little bit of oil (less than half teaspoon) and add my white sauce. Put the lid on. One minute later, I open the lid, stir it, and taste it. If it is to my liking, I will stop cooking after one minute. If it is still not tender enough, I would add one minute. The bean sprouts taste the best when it is not fully cooked. I think vegetables also have rare, medium, and well done, just like steaks. So usually I prefer medium.