Stir-frying meat and vegetable dishes, as well as sweet and sour dishes, can be easier than it seems. Learn the basics of stir-frying and apply them to multiple recipes.
After you have mastered Vegetable Stir-Fries, the next step is adding meat to make your stir-fry heartier and more satisfying.
Preparing the Meat
All meats should be sliced thin, against the grain, into pieces of more or less uniform size. Chicken can be sliced or diced a little thicker, and for added moistness, dark meat (such as boneless, skinless chicken thighs) is usually preferred.
Meat should be marinated for at least 10 minutes before stir-frying. For beef, do not add salt in the marinade, as this will cause the beef to become tough and dry. Usually a marinade consists of a drizzle of oil, some soy sauce, some oyster sauce (optional), a sprinkle of sugar, and about ½ teaspoon of cornstarch. Mix it all together with chopsticks or your fingers, making sure the meat is evenly coated.
Stir-Frying the Meat
The heat in the wok should be high when cooking the meat so that the meat cooks quickly. Cook meat separately from vegetables. Over high heat, drizzle oil into the wok, swirling to coat. Add some chopped up ginger and garlic, and stir-fry until aromatic. Add the meat, distributing it evenly over the bottom of the wok so that most pieces are in contact with the hot oil. Allow to cook for 30 seconds before stirring and tossing briefly till cooked. Remove meat from wok and set aside.
Stir-fry the desired vegetables and, when they are about 90% cooked, add the meat to the wok. Stir-fry everything together, and then, if desired, you can add a simple sauce. Stir together a glug of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and a teaspoon of cornstarch. Add to wok, stir until thickened, then serve. For dishes containing beef or mushrooms, oyster sauce is a common condiment to add to the sauce as well, and lends a dark velvety flavor to the dish. Chopped green onions also add a nice flavor and color.
Sweet and Sour Stir-Fries
Making a simple sweet and sour sauce is simple, whether using just vegetables or a mixture of meat and vegetables. One popular addition to sweet and sour dishes is diced pineapple.
After stir-frying the meat and vegetables, add a sauce of:
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp cornstarch
Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables and toss briefly until thickened. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.
Because Chinese stir-fries need to be cooked quickly over high heat, it is advisable to have all the ingredients chopped, prepared, and ready close at hand, and the sauces pre-mixed and set aside.
Mastering Chinese stir-fries takes experimentation and perseverance. Once beginner cooks have mastered the basic techniques, no stir-fry will be beyond their ability.