Quickest stir-fry that comes out perfect every time? Here it is!
I think one of the hardest thing about making stir-fry is making sure that everything is cooked evenly. Unlike when you are cooking something in broth or deep frying something in oil, the ingredients need to get cooked thoroughly in a pan under only direct heat in relatively short time. So, if things don’t go right, you can end up with a plate of vegetables that are either half-cooked or burnt (or both!).
This is particularly true if you are stir-frying vegetables that are “hard” like root vegetables (carrots, lotus root, etc.) or broccoli. What is the best way to go about it?
Actually, in Chinese cuisine, there is a prep stage to stir-fry in which ingredients are “cooked” in oil. This prep stage ensures that the ingredients are cooked thoroughly without losing the crunchy texture. I’m not a big fan of using lots of oil in my cooking, so what I like to do is to use the microwave oven.
I microwave the hard vegetables with a bit of oil and salt until vegetables are almost cooked but not completely. This prep not only ensures that the vegetables become perfectly cooked at the end of stir-frying but also that the vegetables have soaked in salt just enough to bring out their natural flavors. (AND it cuts the cooking time by about half!)
For the stir-fry today, I’m using okara konjac, but you can also use diced regular tofu or better yet, deep-fried tofu (atsu-age).
Okara konjac is bit elastic and also fibrous.
This texture resembles very much like squid to me, so I’m cutting it up as you would to make stir-fry with squid.
Start with some oil and ginger. Then add okara konjac and brown sides. This browning of sides or making the sides crusty is something that microwave can’t do!
Add microwaved vegetables.
Add some shio-koji (or salt) and pepper. Stir well.
The very last part is the sauce, which consists of adding liquid then adding starch to thicken the liquid.
Golden ratio for this is 1 cup liquid + (1 tbsp starch + 1 tbsp water). So if you don’t want to make the stir-fry too saucy, you can also reduce the quantity to 1/2 cup liquid + (1/2 tbsp starch + 1/2 tbsp water)…
First, add the liquid (dashi stock or vegetable broth).
After the liquid comes to boil, STOP THE HEAT. Then add a mixture of starch and water, and stir very quickly. Liquid thickens very quickly so you need to stop the heating process and stir well to make the sauce thicken evenly throughout.
That’s it! If you are using “moist” vegetables like leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce etc.) or sprouts, you would separate them from the microwave group and add them at the very end so they don’t get soggy.