Stir-fry Fortnight V – Dry Wok Stir-fry

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Stir-Fry Techniques

Stir-fry Chicken with Chinese Celery

I was living in Boston in the 1970’s when there was a sudden craze for dry wok stir-fry. I didn’t quite understand how the Boston public became such sudden converts of dry wok stir-fry. Possibly it was the result of a very aggressive marketing campaign by a certain Chinese restaurant in Brookline Village then known as Hunan Wok. Dry wok stir-fry was touted as a “healthy choice” just when people were becoming aware of the importance of eating right. Personally I think it is not just the technique but also the selection of fresh ingredients, and vigilant use of healthful oil and sauces that make stir-fry a wholesome cooking choice. In this conclusion of the stir-fry series let me show you why dry wok stir-fry should be part of your regular cooking repertoire.

Technically dry wok stir-fry (煸炒 or bian chao) can be further classified into raw protein stir-fry (生炒), cooked protein stir-fry (熟炒), and extreme-heat stir-fry (乾炒, 乾煸). But I think I am being too anal about technicality; the cooking process really follows closely with what I wrote in my stir-fry introductory post. The differences are in the ingredients used and heat level.

However, I am particularly intrigued by extreme-heat stir-fry because it is a very curious technique. The main ingredient is cooked to the point of dehydration, and then seasonings or sauces are added so that the flavor is completely absorbed. I love this technique because it intensifies the flavors of the ingredients. An example of this technique is Sichuan Style Stir-fried String Beans (乾煸四季豆). The string beans are fried with garlic, ginger, red chili and minced pork until they are shriveled and wrinkled. Then a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar is added. The outcome is a crunchy vegetable with such concentration of flavor as if pickled in the sauce.

Chinese Celery

The recipe I chose for today is not as exotic however. I am going to share a home-style stir-fry commonly found on a family table. It is Stir-fried Chicken with Chinese Celery (芹菜炒雞絲); a sort of Chinese comfort food one grows up with in a Chinese home. Try this recipe and I bet you will become a dry wok stir-fry fan as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series on stir-fry as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Stir-frying is so fundamental to Chinese cooking I feel remiss if I didn’t go in depth with it. Now that you’ve got the full knowledge of stir-fry be sure to take your wok out and fry away!

Chicken and Celery Ingredients

  • Stir-fried Chicken with Chinese Celery (芹菜炒雞絲)

    • Preparation time: 15 minutes
    • Rapid cooking time: 10 minutes
    • 12 ozs. chicken breast meat cut into thin strips
    • 2 cup of Chinese celery cut into baton of 1.5 inch long
    • Seasonings
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • A few strips of sliced red chili for color (optional)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
    • 2 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine (紹興料酒)
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • Chicken Marinade
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • This recipe calls for Chinese celery but regular celery can be used instead. Chinese celery has a much thinner stem and all you have to do is to cut it into 1.5 inch long pieces. If you use the regular celery you should first pull off the stringy fiber from stalks. Then cut them lengthwise into strips and then into 1.5 inch pieces.
    • Cut the chicken breast meat into thin strips about 1/8 inch thick. Put in the marinade ingredients of 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornstarch and vegetable oil let it sit for about 20 minutes.
    • Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Put the chicken in when the oil is just beginning to smoke. Quickly stir-fry the chicken until it is just cooked, about 3 minutes. Drain the chicken, put it in a bowl and set aside. Leave about 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok. Stir-fry the garlic in the wok for just about 30 seconds, then put the celery in and continue to stir-fry for about 2 minutes. When the celery is just turning bright green put the chicken back in the wok, add 1/4 teaspoon salt, white pepper and cooking wine. Plate and serve.
This entry was posted in Chicken, Dry Wok Stir-fry (煸炒), Recipes, Techniques and tagged . Series: . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment

  1. lulupony
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Hi Red Cook! I’m so excited to have found your website. I have been starved of authentic Chinese cooking here in America, especially in cities where there are less authentic restaurants around, and now I’m inspired to learn Chinese cooking for myself.

    I’m just curious, and since you mentioned it in this post, how do you make 干煸四季豆. I have tried this dish on numerous occasions, and the beans either come out crunchy and barely cooked or burned to the point of being black. I’m have a lot of trouble balancing the heat and the timing right to get the perfect 干煸四季豆, and I was wondering if you can post a recipe or even a short reply on how to perfect this technique.

    Thank you!!!

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