Stir frys are quick and easy dishes to make and there really is a wide range of ingredients that you can add to make your own version of this traditional Eastern dish. A stir fry does not have to taste particularly Chinese and does not have to be hot and spicy but can be as plain or as exciting as you want it to be.
You can make a stir fry really healthy if you do not use too much oil to cook in – you could use the spray on oil that just coats the pan to reduce the amount of cooking fat.
Although stir frys are usually made in a wok, you can just cook them in a normal frying pan without any problems.
To make your stir fry you first need to select your ingredients and then you need to cut all of the ingredients into similar sized pieces. If you make the pieces relatively small then they will cook quite quickly and keep in all their goodness and crunchiness.
So, here is a selection of ingredients that you can use in a stir fry. You have probably used or tried most of these before but hopefully I will give you a few ideas about other things you can add in:
You don’t actually have to have meat or fish in your stir fry but whatever you choose, cut it into small pieces so that it cooks quickly. As an alternative to meat you can use any kind of fish – often you can get slight scrappy pieces of fish for a cheap price which does not matter as you are going to cut it up anyway.
If you do use fish then don’t add the fish until almost the last few minutes as you don’t want to overcook it and end up with pieces of flaky fish. You can also use prawns but again, if they are precooked then you will literally just want to heat them through at the end.
You can really use most vegetables for stir frys – although you should stick to ones that can be eaten more raw (i.e. don’t use things like potatoes!). Favourites of mine are:
- carrots (cut into very small thin strips)
- baby corn
- green beans
However, you can also try some other ingredients such as celery, cucumber or even beetroot, In fact you can try pretty much anything you like!
In addition to the meat and veg there are a number of other things that you can add for extra flavour and also extra texture:
- cashew nuts
- sesame seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- sultanas or raisins
- water chestnuts
- bamboo shoots
If you want to you can also add another element to the stir fry in terms of noodles or bean shoots and other varieties. This can bulk up the stir fry and add extra texture.
So there are a few things that you can use to add flavour to your stir fry – my stock items are chopped ginger and garlic (you can also use powdered versions of either of those) and of course salt and pepper, but you can add anything of your choice and maybe some chillies if you like it hot.
Firstly, you need to cut up all of your ingredients as stated above, into small but similar sized pieces. If you are a novice in terms of cooking and want something simple to cook then this really is it – just make sure you cut it small and you can just cook it quickly.
As mentioned, you don’t need a wok to cook a stir fry although it does help, you can just use a frying pan. Firstly heat up the oil in the pan – you can also choose pretty much any oil you like – peanut oil is good as it gets very hot, sesame oil adds extra flavour but you can also use olive oil or any kind of vegetable oil. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the pan and make sure the oil is pretty hot before you start adding any of the ingredients.
Once the oil has heated up you can add the ingredients. My method is the all-in-one method that is quick and simple. Throw everything in including your flavouring ingredients (apart from fish or prawns if you are using those) and keep stirring for about 5-10 minutes until they are all coated in the oil and cooked. If you are using fish then add this in about a minute before the end and make sure it all gets cooked by continuing to stir.
Right at the end you can add some liquid to give the stir fry a bit of a sauce – personally I add a dash of soy sauce and sometimes a dash of sherry. You could also try other ingredients like fish sauce or anything you may have in the cupboard! Stir through for another minute before serving.