For every home cook happily tossing together a stir fry at home, there are a dozen would-be stir fryers wanting to make chicken-broccoli-sugar-snap-pea stir fry — and then sheepishly reaching for the takeout menu.
Stir-fry technique has many people intimidated. But if you can slice and stir, you can stir fry. International Cookware
Read the recipe all the way through. The ingredients, the steps, everything. Getting a sense of the order of events so you know what’s coming will make you more confident as you cook.
Here are a handful of condiments called for in many Asian recipes. Once you get to know them, you can play with them like mad.
Soy sauce: Indispensable in Asian cooking (and interesting in non-Asian recipes as well). It packs a rich, salty taste, and is brewed from soybeans and wheat. You can choose regular or less-sodium soy sauce, and if there are gluten intolerances in your family, go for tamari, which is similar but without wheat.
Sesame oil: Made from toasted sesame seeds, this oil has a nutlike and aromatic flavor. It’s often added at the end of cooking to preserve its wonderful flavor. It’s strong, so use in small amounts. Chili sesame oil is a nice way to add that sesame flavor and some heat at the same time. Keep it in the fridge to keep it from getting rancid.
Hoisin sauce: A thick, somewhat intense sauce made from ground soybeans and some kind of starch, seasoned with red chiles and garlic. Vinegar, Chinese five-spice and sugar are also commonly added.
Chili garlic sauce: Versatile, spicy and garlicky, as the name suggests. It’s got a slightly rough texture, and a dose of tanginess from vinegar.
Oyster sauce: Made from oyster extracts combined with sugar, soy sauce, salt and thickeners. This thick, dark brown sauce is a staple in Chinese family-style cooking. Another way to add saltiness and umami (savoriness) to stir fries.
Fish sauce, or nam pla in Thai: A basic ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisines, particularly Thai and Vietnamese. It has a pungent odor, but when used in cooking, the flavor is much milder. The aroma comes from the liquid given off by anchovies that have been salted or fermented. This is the kind of thing you might want to keep to yourself until your kids have eaten and enjoyed fish sauce in a recipe.
Two items to keep in the fridge:
Ginger: Fresh ginger is one of the greatest ingredients in stir fries. Spicy, bracing, uplifting. It’s an easy way to add bang-for-your-buck flavor.
Garlic: Usually finely minced, sometimes thinly sliced.
The base of garlic and ginger heated together in oil is a sign of a terrific stir fry in the making.
Workman is a freelance writer, blogger and the author of “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” This article was provided by The Associated Press.
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