A splash of soy sauce, a drizzle of sesame oil, a little rice wine, a smashed clove of garlic, chopped scallions, and a knob of ginger. You have the aromatic elements of a simple Chinese stir-fry. Exotic bottled sauces or even a stop at an Asian grocer aren’t essential to make an authentic dish.
Stir-frying has become as much a part of our culinary repertoire as steaming or broiling. Today, many woks share kitchen space with frying pans in cookware departments and on bridal registries. To stir-fry, use any wide implement that you can scoop under food in a hot pan and just keep it moving.
You can make a fine stir-fry with a minimal amount of oil. The most important part of the dish is good preparation. The actual cooking is done in a flash over high heat. Finely chopped garlic, scallion, and ginger go into a small bowl; seasonings such as soy sauce, sugar, and wine go into another.
This is not a chop-as-you-go operation. Cut up all the vegetables and arrange them on a platter next to the seasonings at the stove. Begin with the finely chopped seasonings. Then add the vegetables, in this case cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, celery, red pepper, carrots, and broccoli. Even broccoli stems can go into the dish. Peel them and slice them into 1-inch diagonal chunks for great crunch. If the vegetables are all the same size, they’ll cook evenly. Fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms add heft and a musty flavor. In fact, dried mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, are more flavorful than the fresh and the soaking liquid can be added, too.
When all the vegetables are in the pan, add a small amount of water or stock, cover the mixture, and steam the dish briefly. A dash of sesame oil releases a nutty aroma. Serve with a bowl of white or brown rice.
Stir-fried vegetables: Serves 4
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
6 button mushrooms, quartered
1 cup bean sprouts
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1. Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the oil and swirl it around pan. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Stir-fry for 30 seconds.
2. Add the cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, celery, red pepper, carrot, and broccoli florets and stems. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
3. Add the water or stock, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and rice wine. Cover with a lid and cook the vegetables on medium-high heat for 2 minutes more.
4. Uncover the pan. Add the button mushrooms and bean sprouts. Stir-fry the vegetables for 1 minute more. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle with sesame oil. Stir again and serve with rice.