I’m now convinced that the best $25 I’ve ever spent was on this:
As a cook, I’ve always been a fan of stir fries because 1) they’re quick to make, 2) they don’t require slabs of expensive, artery-clogging meat, and 3) they’re quick to make.
But my stir fries sucked. And I mean inflicting-this-dish-on-pigs-would-be-animal-cruelty SUCKED.
So the second-best amount of money I ever spent was to buy this book:
In it, I learned some things that should have been obvious to me, but remember, this author has a feature called the OBV files on her blog for a reason. Anyway, things about stir frying that I learned the fateful day I cracked open that book include:
Skillets Suck: For making stir fries, that is. They have their uses, but a wok is the best pan for stir fries hands down.
Hot Wok, Cold Oil: Heat up the wok, then put in the oil. If you put in the oil first it will start to smoke and will change the flavor of a dish (not for the better).
Wet Veggies=Soggy Stir fry: Dry them off with a salad spinner before you cook if you have no patience to let them air dry.
Find an Asian Grocery: You can’t really make wicked awesome stir fries without a few Asian condiments. There really are no American substitutes for things like oyster sauce or Shao Hsing rice wine.
A Wok is Supposed to Look Dirty: The cleaning-product companies and the makers of non-stick cookware have convinced Americans that EVERYTHING in our kitchens must be shiny and polished or there’s a possibility for (Omigosh!) bacterial growth. But if you clean a wok to the point at which it shines, eventually all you’ll have is a rusty pan (ask me about first wok some time). Over months and years, a well-used wok forms an oil coating called a patina that not only makes the pan non-stick, it gives the food a unique flavor that the Cantonese call wok hay. And the quickest way to get this coating? Don’t use soap to clean your wok. Water only, and some salt, if necessary.
I’ve been using my wok at least once a day since I got it, so I think I’m well on track with my goal to eat less crap. Every recipe from this book (with one notable exception, but it was my fault, not the recipe’s) has turned out fantastic.
I’ve recently discovered that the wok is indispensable for breakfast too. The omelettes I’ve made in my wok are super-tasty and take all of to two minutes to make.
My stir fries aren’t perfect yet. I don’t usually have the patience to chop ingrediants as uniformly as Chinese cooks do. That may change when I finally get around to investing in a decent set of knives. But with this book, my Asian cooking has definitely come a long way from pig slop.