To stir fry is to cook rapidly over a high heat while stirring briskly. This method of cooking can be used for all kinds of meat and vegetables.

The trick to making great stir fry dishes is to ensure the food is cut to very small bite size pieces. Stir frying originates from China and is called 炒 (chǎo). It is so easy to stir fry, the same method of cooking has been spreading to all of Asia for centuries. A good stir fry must not last more than 2-3 minutes, and involves only 6 steps. Of course, you can achieve a great stir fry much more easily with a good wok– the perfect apparatus for stir frying.

The 6 steps to stir frying

      1. Heat pan.

        Always add oil to the wok after the wok is smoking hot. In the Mei wok, you’d want to turn the heat up to the second highest on the stove. When you put your hand over the pan and the back of the hand gets warm immediately, the wok is ready.

      2. Add oil.

        Lower the heat to medium and add oil just 2 – 3 tablespoon is plenty. Suitable oil for stir frying includes corn, peanut, sunflower or canola oil. No matter which western celebrity chef tells you to, never use butter, olive oil or coconut oil. Olive oil has a very low smoke point with a strong flavor, making it completely unsuitable for stir-frying.

      3. Add aromatics.

        When the oil is hot again, add in aromatics. What aromatics to use depends on what cuisine you are cooking!  Ginger, garlic and onions are commonly used in China, but in Thailand, chilies, garlic and onions are favored. India prefers onions, garlic, ginger and spices. In Southeast Asia, we like garlic, some chilies and our spices. Your aromatics must be chopped really small or ground.

      4. Add main ingredients.

        Once the aroma fills up the kitchen, add in this order: carbo like rice or noodles (if using)  then the harder to cook vegetables like roots, then the meat, then the green leaves. Everything must be cut bite sized.

      5. Add a sauce.

        Then a sauce like fish sauce or soya sauce. You can be adventurous here. Chinese like to add Chinese wine. Japanese, Thai and Korean add in some sugar. If you are making a soup, add a stock. In curries, we can add a thickener like coconut milk, milk, cream or tomato puree.

      6. Garnish.

        When everything is cooked, dish up and add toppings according to what you love: scallions, fried shallots, fried garlic, chilies, soya or black sauce, lime/lemon, or in the Indochina, condiments of sugar, chilies and white vinegar.

Remember to keep stirring! This makes your food cook evenly while cooling down the ingredients and stops burning.

It is the easiest and fastest form of cooking, but packs a big punch in flavor. What’s there not to love?

Check out our stir fried recipes here!

Tip: Prepare everything that will go into the stir fry before you start cooking! Because stir frying is such a rapid process, it’s best to have sauces, meats, veggies, and noodles all prepped beforehand.


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