Turnuptheheat for these super stir-fry sizzlers
Chef and writer Ching-He Huang knows a lot about making a great meal. By Ella Walker
How many of us have lumped for a supermarket stir-fry mix, complete with sickly packet sauce, dumped it all in a wok, burned the bottom, and wished we’d just ordered in chow mein? We’re betting this happens a lot.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In her new cookbook, Stir Crazy, TV chef, foodie entrepreneur and Chinese cookery aficionado Ching-He Huang has come up with 100 stirfry recipes that won’t involve dry, frazzled chicken and limp beansprouts.
“We are living in a fast-paced world and time is of the essence,” she says, explaining why our obsession with flash-fried noodles and crunchy veg isn’t likely to wane.
“They’re quick, accessible, speedy and non-threatening — you don’t need a lot of fancy kitchen equipment.”
However, despite how quick and easy they are, in the West, we’re still prone to messing up our stir-fries.
“People add everything in at once and hope for the best, but really, the simple message is that every ingredient needs its time,” says Taiwan-born Ching, (38).
“That’s the beauty of stir-frying, you heat the wok up to a really high heat, then you add the oil — when you swish the oil around it creates even heat distribution.
“Then you add garlic, ginger, chillies — the holy trinity — and I always love to add all three, because why not? They need a few seconds, then add your protein or crunchier vegetables, carrots first, then let everything settle and caramelise on one side, saute, then turn and toss to cook; season and serve.
“Every element of that process needs its own time,” she says, making rapid-stir frying sound more therapeutic than manic.
“Be mindful that having all the ingredients prepped beforehand helps,” she adds. “That’s where people go wrong, because they think, ‘I’ll chop and just chuck it in’, but if you do that, you burn whatever’s in the wok.” It’s not just ease and speed that attracts Ching to stir-fries. For the north London based cookery book writer, it’s a dish that offers myriad health benefits.
Half the recipes in Stir Crazy are vegetarian and vegan, and when meat does feature, it makes up no more than 20% of a dish.
“We need to cut down on our meat consumption — we all need to,” she says. For Ching, food is as much about eating well as it is about taking care of yourself. “Traditionally in Chinese culture, food is medicine — we’ve always believed you heal yourself through what you eat.”
“You need to cleanse, you need to detox, you need to nourish and you need to heal,” says Ching with feeling, noting that it’s all about balance. Stir Crazy: 100 Deliciously Healthy Stir-fry Recipes by Ching He-Huang, photography by Tamin Jones, is published by Kyle Books, priced £19.99. Available now