RECIPE: Stir-fry Chicken with Vegetables
Let me just start by saying that I love me some stir-fry. I like just about everything about it. There is the chaos of the raw ingredients,
I think my first exposure to stir-fry type cooking was teppanyaki meals in Japan. I lived with a Japanese family for a Summer after my Sophomore year in Tokyo. My Father, also an Electrical Engineer, did a lot of consulting in Japan and he decided it would be a good experience for each of his kids to spend some time in another culture. Being a self-involved American teenager at the time, I fiercely resented the forced relocation, but the exposure to other ways of thinking and living has shaped the way I live today.
Successful stir-fry relies on the combination of four things; fresh ingredients, a good wok or skillet, high heat, and a good finishing sauce. For your ingredients, you can choose just about any vegetable that can be cut up into bite-sized pieces, and any form of protein (whether animal or vegetable) that you fancy will work well. Choose ingredients that contrast in textures and color. When prepping, “bite-sized” doesn’t mean one piece == a single mouthful, it means small enough that a “bite” of the finished dish will include multiple ingredients. Prep all the ingredients ahead of time, and line everything up in order of cooking (longest to shortest cooking time).
My wok probably causes angst to true stir-fry chefs. It doesn’t look “seasoned”, but I can assure you it is. It’s stainless steel and the subtle golden tones in the bowl of the wok are the leftover ghosts of stir-fry sessions past. This wok gets quickly rinsed and lightly scrubbed with a plastic pot scrubber, but never subjected to the evils of soap of any kind. After drying over low heat, I rub a light coating of oil on the bowl and hang it up. Every 6 months or so, I give it a salt-seasoning. Do that, and you’ll be good to go forever.
During the actual cooking process (over medium to high heat), add ingredients in small batches to ensure that your wok remains at stir-fry (as opposed to par-boil) temperatures. You should always be sizzling and searing rather than boiling the ingredients. This is a hard thing for most electric stoves to do, and one reason I will be sure to go with gas in my next kitchen.
The sauce is the penultimate finishing touch here (the cornstarch mixture is the finishing touch). You can try the store-bought stir-fry sauces to see how they work for you (most are too sweet for my taste). If you do, you can omit the cornstarch thickener in my recipe, as they almost always contain thickening agents. The purpose of the thickener here is to allow the sauce to stick to the ingredients. The soy-sesame stir-fry sauce is my go-to sauce because it’s savory and spicy and goes with almost everything.
You can serve this stir-fry over noodles or rice. If you serve it over rice, or if you eat rice with any regularity at all, do yourself a giant favor and invest in a rice cooker.
Rating: if this is ever less than a 4, it’s because you tried an experiment that didn’t work (yet). But I encourage experimenting because stir-fry almost always rewards it. This particular version gets a 4 in my book simply because I’ve made it so many times that we’ve become accustomed to its awesomeness. Honestly, your audience will be tempted to give it a 6.