Simple, tasty stir-fry


in Daily updates, Ottawa

I made an unusually tasty stir-fry for dinner tonight, inspired by the culinary prowess of my cousins. Contained therein, in order of addition:

  • Olive oil (a good dollop)
  • Garlic (four cloves, diced)
  • Ginger (volume similar to a whole head of garlic, diced)
  • Tofu (firm, cubed)
  • Yellow onion (one large, chopped)
  • Red onion (one large, chopped)
  • Mushrooms (about 20)
  • Yams (2 small, pre-microwaved)
  • Green pepper (two, chopped)
  • Carrots (three large, chopped)
  • Soy sauce (about 70mL)
  • Olive oil (a few tablespoons)
  • Sesame oil (about a tablespoon)
  • Kidney beans (500mL canned)
  • Hot sauce (to taste)

The instructions are absurdly simple: add ingredients to wok in sequence. Cook at high heat until cooked. I chopped the garlic, ginger, onions, and mushrooms before starting. Three minutes of microwave pre-cooking means you won’t be waiting forever for the yams; the carrots should still be pleasantly crunchy at the end. The ingredients described above fill four medium-sized Tupperware containers and one hungry stomach.

The only ingredient I hadn’t used before was the sesame oil. It makes a big difference, both in terms of taste and smell.

PS. I was given twelve cans of chick peas as an early birthday gift. Any recipe ideas?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan November 13, 2007 at 8:13 pm

The above can be compared to prior culinary posts:

Chemistry and cooking: solvents
Sunday, October 15th, 2006

How to eat like a grad student: II
Sunday, May 28th, 2006

More revision and “How to Eat like a Grad Student”
Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

. November 13, 2007 at 8:17 pm

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.

. November 13, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Most home kitchens in the West are poorly equipped to stir fry properly. The average kitchen is not designed to handle the large amount of oil vapour produced as a byproduct of proper stir frying. Those stir frying at home cannot achieve the same flavor as in restaurants because the wok is neither hot enough nor big enough to allow fast tossing. By contrast, most Chinese home kitchens are designed with stir frying in mind. The kitchen itself is either in a separate building or in a room with access to the outside. The stove is usually separated from the rest of the kitchen and near a large window to allow proper ventilation. The kitchen itself usually is lined with tile or brick for easy cleaning. In the western world, remedies can be purchased such as specially designed vents to better direct the oil vapour out of the house.

Western-marketed woks with non-stick coating are not considered appropriate for proper stir-frying because the Teflon coating usually disintegrates after exposure to high heat. By contrast, according to Cantonese cooking standards, low heat non-stick stir-frying is not stir-frying at all. Teflon woks also require the use of Teflon-safe utensils made of plastic or wood, which some traditional Chinese stir fryers deem are not as effective as metal utensils. Western woks are also usually flat-bottomed to accommodate for western stove tops that are flat, where a round-bottomed wok would roll around.

Many Western cooks on TV demonstrate stir frying on low heat with a small wok and a stirring motion comparable to tossing a salad. This is a western adaptation of stir frying, and is different from the traditional Chinese method.

. November 13, 2007 at 10:51 pm
Jessica November 14, 2007 at 1:28 am

If you’re up for something a little more advanced, i have a recipe for Chickpea Cutlets that is outrageously good. They’re made with vital wheat gluten and are chewy and “meaty” in a good way.

Chickpeas are my favorite legume. Other favorite uses:
Sandwich spread – lightly mash 1 can of chickpeas and combine with a couple tablespoons of mayo, salt, pepper, a tiny bit of garlic granules and fresh or dried dill.

Chickpea Noodle Soup

Spicy Baked Chickpeas

Milan November 14, 2007 at 8:38 am


Cutlets require oven usage, right?

So far, mine has only been used to toast bagels and make yam fries.

Ashley November 14, 2007 at 10:21 am

Oh. My. God.
The horror. The Horror. Your vast knowledge of science and yet no gourmande instinct whatsoever. I am coming over with the Joy of Cooking and showing you a thing or two. Are you really at the level of basic stirfry mastery? How do you ever expect to find a wife in the new economy?
search: chickpeas

Thank me later,

Anon November 14, 2007 at 1:24 pm
Jessica November 15, 2007 at 1:39 am

The cutlets can be baked or pan-fried. Baking is slightly healthier but results in a chewier product that may or may not be desirable.

I’ve said it before, but one of the best ways to convince most women that you’re the best thing since sliced bread is learning to bake. A guy I know posts pictures of his baking creations on his flickr account and he practically has women mailing their panties to him.

R.K. November 15, 2007 at 10:42 am

Provide us with this panty-removal-inducing cutlet recipe!

Jessica November 16, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Well, if you really want to get the ladies out of their drawers you have to go with cupcakes. Although, if you serve these cutlets with mustard sauce and roasted garlic mashed potatoes your chance of scoring will increase at least tenfold.

Chickpea Cutlets
from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. (Everyone should buy this book, it is awesomeness incarnate.)

1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated with a microplane grater
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Olive oil for panfrying

In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas together with the oil until no whole chickpeas are left. Add the remaining ingredients and knead for about 3 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed.
Preheat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile divide the cutlet dough into four equal pieces. To form the cutlets, knead each piece in your hand for a few moments and then flatten and stretch each one into a roughly 6 x 4 inch rectangular cutlet shape. The easiest way to do this is to first form a rectangular shape in your hands and then place the cutlets on a clean surface to flatten and stretch them.
Add a moderately thin layer of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Place the cutlets in the pan and cook on each side for 6-7 minutes. Add more oil, if needed, when you flip the cutlets. They’re ready when lightly browned and firm to the touch.
If you want to bake them preheat your oven to 375º F, and lightly oil a baking sheet. Brush both sides of each patty with olive oil, place on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip patties and bake another 8-10 minutes till firm and golden brown.

Milan November 17, 2007 at 12:22 pm


Who made those cupcakes – and who could bring themselves to gnash one apart with hungry teeth?

The cutlet recipe includes a good number of ingredients and procedures outside my culinary experience. That said, I will give it a try next time I have a visitor coming who I want to try to impress (testing out the recipe once first, naturally).

Thanks a lot for typing all that out.

Jessica November 17, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Those cupcakes were made by Brian (a.k.a. hovering dog) who makes awesome food and then takes gorgeous pictures of it. My version of the same cupcake wasn’t nearly as artistic.

The best way to learn is to try something new.

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