Over the years I’ve made many attempts to make Chinese stir fry that tasted as good as the local Chinese restaurant makes. I think this recipe comes as close as possible without having the ancient Chinese secret ingredient (MSG). The nice thing about this recipe is that you can interchange just about any boneless meat and just about any vegetable you want (except maybe turnip. I’m thinkin’ it’s a “NO” on the old parsnip.) The photo below shows broccoli, red onion, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and asparagus. But it could just as easily have been eggplant, red peppers, celery, and snow peas.
I used chicken in the version shown below, but lean pork and beef are great too! You can use more inexpensive cuts of beef that are generally a bit tougher to chew because we will cut them so thinly which makes them more tender to eat. A very good seafood to use as your meat is shrimp. I encourage you to experiment. Let your palate be your guide.
Preparing the vegetables is really simple. After washing and peeling (as appropriate) you can slice them lengthwise or across. I generally prefer cutting carrots, celery, and zucchini in thin strips. But there’s no law against cutting them across either. The key is to make them close to bite size and easily cooked in the frying pan.
Meat almost always gets cut in very thin strips to pick up the marinade and to cook quickly. About 30 minutes before you want to cook you will place the meat in a bowl with the marinade and coat it well. Keep it aside until after the vegetables are cooked. More details below on that.
I like to give this a crunch by adding a handful of unsalted peanuts, cashews, or water chestnuts.
An important ingredient is Chinese Oyster Sauce that you can find in the International aisle at your local grocery store. If you like your food Szechuan style (spicy), then be sure to pick up a little roasted red chili paste which comes in a small jar and can be found near the Oyster Sauce. These items really do give the food a distinctive Chinese restaurant flavor. Speaking of spicy hot, there are a number of really delicious, spicy peppers you can try. Careful, because some of these can be dangerously hot and even the oils on your hands and eyes can burn.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup of dry Sherry or dry white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tsp roasted red chili paste (optional)
- 1 tsp grated ginger (optional)
- 3-4 Sliced vegetables of your choice (e.g. carrots, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, scallions, broccoli, red peppers, green peppers, etc.) Total volume should be about 2 quarts after being cut.
- 1 lb of trimmed, lean meat sliced thinly (e.g. chicken cutlets or pork chops, or London broil)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable or Avocado oil
- In a bowl you are going to prepare the marinade by mixing together the soy sauce, white wine or sherry, water, oyster sauce, garlic, and (optionally) grated ginger and roasted red chili paste. Add corn starch to the well mixed ingredients and whip until all lumps disappear from the corn starch.
- Evenly coat the bottom of a frying pan or wok with 2 Tbsp of oil and heat on high until it’s very hot (be careful you don’t get burned!).
- Add the vegetables starting with your firmest vegetables first and then as they tenderize with the heat, begin to add the softer vegetables. So broccoli first with carrots, then onions, then mushrooms last. You’ll figure this out with practice. Keep stirring the vegetables as they fry…hence the name “Stir-fry”. When the vegetables are still firm but more tender and change color, remove from the pan into a bowl for later. You know the vegetables are done when you take a sample from the pan, bite into it and say “Yup. This is how I like ’em.”
- Add a bit more oil to the pan and heat the pan up again. Take the meat from the bowl with a slotted spoon or tongs and drain as much marinade as you can back in the bowl to be used later. Place the drained meat into the hot pan and begin to cook until slightly brown. Some meats like beef are nice slightly toasted, but you don’t want to overcook. It takes practice to know exactly. No biggie.
- Once the meat is cooked, add the vegetables back into the pan and stir and…you guessed it….fry it all together. Notice that the marinade on the meat is getting a little thick. That’s the corn starch which is used as a thickener for the sauce. With the meat and vegetables thoroughly mixed together take the bowl and pour the left over marinade over the pan and continue heating and mixing until the vegetables and meat are coated with a thickened sauce. Don’t let the sauce get too thick though. You want to have enough to pour over your rice.
- Remove from heat and serve over a bed of white rice.