What techniques do you use? Special Equipment, Sauce ingredients, etc. Do you fry the protein first and remove then the veggies and add back in the protein? Do you use a wok, flat bottom or round?
I'm just wondering what other food52ers do. I have an old well seasoned round bottom cheap thin metal wok and because I have a glass top stove I drag out a little table top gas burner for my stir fries.
I used to do the meat/protein first and reserve and then the veggies and return protein and then sauce and simmer a bit. But now that I'm better at timing I skip that cheat step.
When I'm making a recipe for the first time, I do the protein first/ veggie/ return to pan/ finish. But if I've made it before, or something I'm substituting, I'll skip the separate steps too.
I have a glass top gas stove, and used to use a wok, but sometimes a skillet is just handier and just as easy to clean.
Don't crowd your wok or food will steam instead of fry. Spread your protein out all around the wok and don't move it for the first few minutes so it will brown. Professional kitchens have massive btu's under their woks which allow it to cook quickly and with all the food together. Since most home cooks do not have that advantage it makes sense to cook protein and veggies separately and then mix at end.
Chef of the future is right about the BTU's. In a real kitchen you will see flames licking the edges of the wok. The big problem with glass top electrics is that they cycle back and forth and you can't maintain a consistant "flame". I inherited one when I bought my home and it wasn't useful for anything other than boiling water so I had to rip it out for gas.
A crazy alternative is that if you have an outdoor grill like a Weber you can build a pretty hellaciously hot wood fire and wok fry over that. Be careful about spilling oil onto the coals. It's a good idea to wear silicon gloves for this.
First and foremost gas range will heat the wok to a proper temp. You will not reach that temp with an electric range. You can find a very inexpensive wok at a restaurant supply store. I bough mine for $8. At a major chain you're gonna pay upwards of $30 for the same thing. And when I cook my stir fry I start with protein add the vegetables than sauce. If you have the right temperature it will cook very fast
I do your protein/remove/veg/replace. method b/c it's more reliable for me. I also find that what I think is the "right" viscosity of the sauce is only really right if the viscosity of the rice I put it on is right (I.e., I started liking my stir fries a whole lot better once I went to an Asian market and bought some expensive Asian rice to put it over). I have also seen recipes for authentic Chinese stock, which I think must make wonderful, authentic-tasting stir-fry sauce, but I haven't tried making it yet. It's quite a different flavor profile than the typical stock I make. Also I have read that the Chinese have difference techniques for making stock than the essentially French-based techniques that Americans use. For those stir-fries calling for stock I would imagine these things would make a significant difference.
I have given up using the wok altogether. Instead, I use a 14" copper core saute pan with straight sloped sides. I place it on my burner with the greatest BTU's. My mother (who is Chinese and had a professional wok range installed) uses this method when cooking at my house. She would saute vegetables first, then protein, adding in vegetables and finally sauce at end. Also, she doesn't put in the thickener with the sauce. Rather, dissolves the starch in water and stock and adds it after she adds the liquid flavorings. Add the slurry gradually, allowing for it to thicken before adding additional slurry. Ultimately, this ensures that the sauce is not too thick and gummy,
One of the best at-home Chinese recipes, for anyone who is interested, is monkeymom's mother's Criss-Cross Eggplant http://food52.com/recipes... which, you'll see from the comments, I've made many times. It's easily one of my top favorite ever FOOD52 recipes. I make it using a large skillet, but that's because the flat surfaces of the eggplant cook better on all that real estate. When i was growing up, my mother would marinate the protein for her stir fries in soy sauce, sherry and a pinch of corn starch. It would thicken the sauce when the liquids came together after cooking the veggies, adding a bit more soy sauce and stock, etc. That would provide all the thickener that was necessary in most instances. If more was needed, she'd make a slurry and at the very end, drizzle a few teaspoons at a time down the side of the wok into the liquid, stirring constantly with the other hand, and only adding as much as was absolutely necessary. It must be added gradually to know how much is enough. This is the way I've always done it and it works -- though much of my Asian cooking these days involves noodles, and I find that the noodles themselves, or a half cup or so of the starchy cooking liquid, provide all the thickener one needs. ;o)