Category Archives: Techniques

Stir-fry Fortnight V – Dry Wok Stir-fry

Stir-fry Chicken with Chinese Celery

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.

Also posted in Chicken, Dry Wok Stir-fry (煸炒), Recipes | Tagged | Series: | 1 Response

Stir-fry Fortnight IV – Moist Stir-fry

YuXiang Stir-fry Pork

YuXiang Stir-fry Pork

If plain stir-fry is the least known stir-fry variation in America, then moist stir-fry is the best known. The gooey, tasteless sauces in “Chop Suey” and Moo Goo Gai Pan found in so many Chinese-American restaurants all rely on this technique. Whoever created these recipes obviously had a special affinity for this common technique and used it ad nauseum.

Also posted in Moist Stir-fry (滑炒), Pork, Recipes | Tagged | Series: | 10 Responses

Stir-fry Fortnight III – Plain Veggie Stir-fry

Garlic Stir-fry Pea Shoots

Garlic Stir-fry Pea Shoots

We take for granted that stir-frying is just combining a bunch of ingredients, frying them in a wok, and seasoning them appropriately; that is partially accurate. What is rarely understood is that there are variations in stir-frying technique. Broadly classified the variations are 1) plain stir-fry (清炒 or QingChao), 2) moist stir-fry (滑炒 or HuaChao) and 3) dry wok stir-fry (煸炒 or BianChao). In this third part of Stir-fry Fortnight series post let me show you how simple it is to make plain vegetable stir-fry.

Also posted in Plain Stir-fry (清炒), Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Tagged | Series: | 5 Responses

Stir-fry Fortnight II – What Ingredients?

Stir-fry Shrimp and Bitter Melon


Photography by Ron Boszko

My neighbor, Kim, has been stir-frying, ever since I convinced her to move her wok from cold storage to stovetop. (She inherited a great wok, completely seasoned and beautifully charred black, from a friend years ago and once used it as a planter!) Now she regularly stops on her way to the market to consult with me about what ingredients to buy for that night’s stir-fry. With so many ingredients to choose from, it can seem daunting. I used to have the same problem matching ingredients until I started writing down and analyzing classic combinations. There is a logical method to the madness of ingredients selection.

Also posted in Dry Wok Stir-fry (煸炒), Recipes, Seafood | Tagged | Series: | 3 Responses

Stir-fry Fortnight I – The Meaning of Stir-fry

Stir-fry Pepper Steak

Stir-fry Pepper Steak

After ranting about the lack of accuracy and authenticity in Chinese cooking articles by Western food writers in my previous posts, I have to point out there are exceptions. Occasionally I come across some insightful articles and eagerly study them. One such example was “The Glory of Red Cooking” in the March 2007 issue of Saveur magazine by Grace Young. The article meticulously retells the tradition and background of red cooking, and includes some very practical recipes. This article inspired me to embark on recording many Chinese cooking techniques I researched and used in my kitchen. One of the results of this pursuit is what I will be offering you during the next two weeks: The meaning of stir-fry.

Also posted in Beef, Dry Wok Stir-fry (煸炒), Recipes | Tagged | Series: | 9 Responses

Bloomin’ Chinese Chives

Stir-fry Chinese Chive Blossoms and Tofu

Stir-fry Chinese Chive Blossoms and Tofu
Photography by Ron Boszko

When I was growing up I hated the smell and taste of chives, specifically Chinese chives. I remembered encountering Chinese chives in stir-fries with ground pork or shrimp, or sprinkled on top of steamed rice cake. I would always pick the chives off carefully before eating. I do not recall when it was that my palate changed and I began to enjoy Chinese chives. Now I don’t just enjoy them; I adore them.

Also posted in Dry Wok Stir-fry (煸炒), Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 6 Responses

Anatomy of a Chinese Banquet Menu

Chinese New Year Tangerine

Chinese New Year Tangerine

It was Chinese New Year’s Eve and I was in Chinatown buying last minute supplies for the family gathering. Although I had already braved throngs of holiday shoppers in Chinatown last weekend, I decided I would return to buy fresh seafood and produce on New Year’s Eve. I was pleasantly surprised that the shops were not overly crowded. I was expecting to claw my way through the fishmonger and fight for the last fresh DongGu mushroom in the produce markets. Instead I found aisles wide open at the dry goods stores and plenty of supplies at the fishmonger and produce markets. This rather leisurely pace of shopping gave me time to ponder what I had decided to do this year for Chinese New Year celebration: two TEN-COURSE dinners within the span of four days.

A chill ran up my spine. What have I done?

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How Long Does It Take Anyway?

Steamer in Kitchen

Chive and Tofu in Wok

My neighbor, Kim, had a revelation the other night while observing me make a stir-fry of blooming chives with tofu. She noticed while I spent a bit of time chopping and preparing the ingredients, it only took me about 10 minutes to finish the dish stir-frying it.

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Double Winter Delights

Double Winter Delights

Winter Bamboo Shoots

I was in Chinatown last weekend shopping for Chinese provisions to bring back to Harlem. To my delight I noticed that dong sun (冬筍), or winter bamboo shoots, are in season. Winter bamboo shoots are one of the prized vegetables, along with dong gu mushrooms (冬菇 or winter mushroom) eagerly awaited in markets by shoppers in China during winter. They used to be two of the few fresh vegetables available during the harsh winter months. Therefore they are revered and commonly paired in winter dishes.

Also posted in Moist Stir-fry (滑炒), Recipes, Vegetables | 2 Responses

Hong Shao Rou (Red Cooked Pork)

Red Cooked Pork

Red Cooked Pork
Photography by Ron Boszko

I don’t understand why Hong Shao Rou (紅燒肉) is never on a Chinese restaurant menu in America. Maybe it is simply just too exotic or “home style.” But ask any Chinese person and they can tell you stories of grandmother’s Hong Shao Rou. Family recipes are often guarded secrets, and only passed down within the family members through generations.

Also posted in Pork, Recipes, Red Cooking | Tagged | Series: | 48 Responses