Tom’s Quasi Chinese Stir Fry Recipe

Tom’s Quasi Chinese Stir Fry Recipe

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  1. I am both a huge lover of Chinese food (among many ethnic varieties) and a dedicated sloth. This means that I either have to eat out a lot, or learn to cook the foods I love at home. My single favorite Chinese dish has always been kung pao chicken. I use this recipe to gauge every Chinese eatery in which I dine. If their kung pao isn’t good, I won’t be back.


     The best kung pao chicken I’ve ever had was served at Wang’s Restaurant in Gardena. Unfortunately, they went out of business a few years ago, which is when I decided that it was high time that I learned to make the stuff myself.

    The only problem was that there were always ingredients in the kung pao served to me that went uneaten. I am a picky eater in many regards, and while most Chinese restaurants do their kung pao a little differently, they all seem to feel the need to load it up with onions and bell peppers. I love cooking with these two ingredients, but I hate eating either. Some places put celery in the dish as well, and I don’t know many people who actually eat it. Raw celery at least has a little flavor; cooking it reduces the flavor to zilch. And while peanuts are the main ingredient to all kung pao, I never ate them because I’m no fan of this particular legume.

    The only logical approach to my own recipe was to fill it with only the things that I like. Hence, the following is not a kung pao recipe, nor a Chinese recipe of any description that I know of, but my own creation. But it sure tastes Chinese to me.


      As this is my attempt at truly Chinese-like food, please do everyone a favor and buy a decent wok if you don’t already have one. Cooking it in a frying pan just isn’t the same. And when I say “wok,” I don’t mean a bowl-shaped pan coated with Teflon. A properly seasoned wok doesn’t need Teflon.


    For my recipe, you can use any meat or seafood—or go vegetarian and skip the meat altogether… a thing I would never consciously do. But if you’re a true vegetarian, omitting the meat won’t be enough: you can also substitute water for the chicken broth if you like or must, but the results won’t be as good. What I do is this so I’m always ready to cook: I buy a small beef roast and cut it into small squares just right for stir fry (about 1/2 inch on a side); when I buy pork spare ribs, I trim off the back flap of meat and anything else that doesn’t include a bone and dice it; I buy chicken thighs, bone them (which is a pain) and dice the meat—then I put a single serving’s worth of each of these meats into the smallest zipper bag available, making sure the packages are all very flat so they will defrost quickly, and store them in the freezer. I know that just about every kung pao chicken recipe calls for diced chicken breasts; trust me, it’s much better with thigh meat.

    I know that nutritionists say not to use peanut oil, but for stir frying in a wok with appropriately high heat, you need oil that won’t smoke, which means peanut or grape seed oil.


    You can use whatever veggies you like for this recipe, but be sure to start with those that take the longest to cook and add the ones needing the least cooking—like onions—at the end. The ones I list here are those that my wife and I prefer. You can use as many or as few veggies as you like. The more veggies you use, the more preparation time, but it’s worth it. If you use broccoli as I do, you can save time by doing this: place the pieces of cut broccoli into a bowl and cover with cold water. Just before beginning to stir fry, drain the water from the bowl and microwave the broccoli until it’s just becoming tender (about a minute in low-medium powered microwaves; no more than 30 seconds in powerful units). Otherwise, broccoli takes quite a while to cook via stir fry.


    Ersatz Chinese Stir Fry (serves 2)

    For this you will need:

    • Meat (I use very little; how much is up to you)
    • 1 large crown of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 6-8 whole cooked baby corn cut in quarters lengthwise
    • 1-2 canned bamboo shoots cut into 1/2 inch cubes
    • 5-10 large cloves garlic, sliced thick
    • 1 inch (or more) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin (but not too thin)
    • 5-20 dried Japanese chili peppers (chili Japanos in most markets)
    • Mushrooms, sliced (they make me sick, but my wife loves them)
    • 5 green onions; cut the white and light green parts into 1 inch lengths
    • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. sugar
    • 2 tsp. Shao Xing Chinese cooking wine (the best I’ve tried)
    • 2 Tbs. peanut or grape seed oil, divided

    The Sauce:

    • 2 tsp. corn starch
    • 2-3 Tbs. chicken broth (I use my homemade consume which contains lemon)
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1 tsp. soy sauce
    • 1 tsp. Shao Xing Chinese cooking wine
    • ½ tsp. sesame oil
    • (Adjust the liquids to taste; if too sour add more wine, if too salty add more broth)


    The Procedure:

    1. Combine cornstarch, salt, sugar, cooking wine and meat in a small bowl; mix thoroughly and place in refrigerator to marinate. Stir the ingredients occasionally, as the corn starch will settle to the bottom.
    2. Heat the wok at highest setting; add 1 Tbs. peanut or grape seed oil and let it get hot. Get the broccoli steaming in the microwave while stir frying the Japanese chili peppers until they become fragrant (about 15 seconds); remove from the pan; keep the wok hot.
    3. Add the vegetables to the wok in the order of what takes longest to cook to what takes the least time. If using those I recommend, you can add them all at once except the mushrooms and green onions, which should go in just before the others are tender. Cook, stir frying constantly, until all veggies are tender (test the broccoli), then remove to a serving dish.
    4. Keep the wok hot. Add another Tbs. of oil, then add your meat. Spread it out (it will be nearly a paste) and let brown for about 30 seconds before flipping. Separate the pieces so they don’t stick together and continue stir frying until cooked (about 2 minutes more for pork and chicken, 1 minute for somewhat rare beef and until firm if using seafood, probably a matter of seconds). Place the meat pieces over the veggies in the dish, then add the roasted peppers.
    5. The sauce can be done afterward, before stir frying or during: mix all ingredients thoroughly in the bowl, then pour into a small frying pan (you can use the wok, but the lemon juice will ruin the pan’s oil-seasoning and you’ll have to redo it—and if you don’t know about seasoning a wok, read up on it before using your wok). Over medium high heat, stir the sauce constantly until it thickens to the desired consistency. Pour over the meat and veggies.
    6. Serve over white rice and you have a complete meal in one bowl.

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