Sharing easy and healthy Chinese recipes centered around the concept of a stir-fry for a quick fix is Ching He Huang’s goal in writing “Stir Crazy: 100 Deliciously Healthy Stir-Fry Recipes” (2017). In this book, Huang shares her strategies for mastering the art of the stir-fry—including hacks for how to work the wok and make the most of fresh ingredients available.
Heat is one of the keys “wokking” well; the flame that comes from heating up the wok to a very high heat, according to Huang, is what oftentimes intimidates people at first when they’re stir-frying with a wok at home. Making sure you have your mise en place—vegetables, aromatics, meat prepared in advance—before you start up the heat is also imperative.
“Once you start cooking in the wok, you don’t have time to stop and chop,” Huang tells us. “Have everything prepared—and the preparation part is going to be the longest part of the cooking. If it’s a stir-fry dish, most of the time it’s over in, like, five to eight minutes depending on what you’re cooking. It’s really that initial part—heating, preparation—that will give you an amazing stir-fry. So, preparing the ingredients and then preparing the wok, heating it up on full whack—the highest you can possibly go. And then really, practice makes perfect.
“Whether you are a beginner or an intermediate or you’re a real pro, I think there’s something [in the book] for everyone,” Huang adds. “So, there’s no excuse not to wok.”
“Stir Crazy” features a recipe for zhajiang noodles, a dish hailing from Beijing that comprises wheat flour noodles topped with sauce made by frying finely-minced pork belly in fermented soybean paste (zhajiang mian, literally “mixed sauce noodle”). Bacon lardon also does nicely here, instilling smokiness into the dish. Huang also recommends putting a little bit of chile oil, sesame oil, and ground white pepper at the base of the dish, then putting the noodles on top. “I like to inject a little bit of flavor, of seasoning in the base before you add the noodles,” she says. Spiced bacon and layers of other fresh ingredients give the dish a good kougan—texture, mouthfeel.
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped root ginger
- 2 tablespoons diced baby leeks
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 200g smoked lardons, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon fragrant oil (see tip)
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 150ml hot chicken or pork stock
- 1 tablespoon tian mian jiang or hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon yellow bean paste or miso paste
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli sauce laced with chilli oil
- 200g plain wheat flour or egg noodles, cooked, drained and tossed with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
For the garnish
- 2 small red radishes, sliced into matchsticks
- 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and sliced into matchsticks
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
‘Zhajiang mein’ means ‘mixed sauce noodle’ and is a classic Beijing dish that is made with fresh hand-pulled noodles. There are many different variations, and some are saucier than others, but I prefer the traditional Zhajiang noodle, which is slightly drier. I also like to add minced garlic as well as the customary leeks, ginger, Shaohsing rice wine, Sichuan peppercorns and chilli oil. Here, I have also used smoked lardons instead of traditional belly pork (known as the ‘five layers of heaven’, a reference to the skin, fat, meat, fat, skin) because of their smoky salty cured flavour. The trick is to dry-fry them in the wok until the fat is slightly crispy.
kcal 697 carbs 39.3g protein 25.3g fat 49.7g
Start with the noodles. Divide the sesame oil and chilli sauce between two serving bowls. Place the cooked noodles in the bowls, toss in the oil and sauce and set aside.
Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add the rapeseed oil. Add the garlic, ginger, leeks and Sichuan peppercorns and toss for a few seconds, then add the lardons and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry, the fragrant oil and dark soy sauce and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the stock, tian mian jiang or hoisin sauce and the yellow bean paste or miso and toss together well. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring until the pork is cooked.
Divide the pork mixture between the two bowls of noodles and garnish with the radish and cucumber matchsticks. Sprinkle with the spring onion and serve immediately. To eat, toss and mix all the ingredients together well.
Heat 5 tablespoons of groundnut oil. Add a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon grated ginger and 1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion, cook for 1 minute then strain the oil into a glass jar. Keep for 5 days in a cool place.
Reprinted with permission from Stir Crazy: 100 Deliciously Healthy Stir-fry Recipes by Ching He Huang, Copyright © 2017. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing.