Food & Drink: Fresh and hot from the wok: Recipe

I FEEL better. I am not alone in having approached the wok with more enthusiasm than skill. Your recipes testify to a number of the bad habits that were gently pointed out by Yan-kit So as I watched her test-cooking for her new book, Classic Food of China.

She disabused me of the notion that stir-frying in a wok and a frying pan yield the same results: the former heats up quickly and is designed for a quick, light cooking, to achieve what the Cantonese call 'wok-fresh' food. The latter heats up more slowly and consequently cools more slowly, making the quick, light cooking difficult.

Stir-frying itself is straightforward. The wok should be heated to smoking point before oil is added. Heat should be immediately reduced once cooking begins. Chinese and Far Easterners will deliberately brown their chopped garlic and ginger, where Western cooks do not. It lends that singular toasty flavour.

Once the cooking begins, logic rules: cook the toughest, or densest ingredients first. This technique is set out below. For dishes with lots of ingredients it often pays to give the wok a quick clean between cooking stages.

This is less bother than it sounds. Once the first ingredient - tough vegetable or meat - has been cooked and put aside, the wok will need intense reheating. If it is still lined with the oil and particles of the last cooking, this can burn and taste objectionable. It also allows flavours to remain separate and distinct.

There are endless varieties of soy sauce. I have found the Chinese varieties tend to be thin and salty, Indonesian ones thick and sweet. Each has its uses. In moderation, fermented fish sauce will give depth to many stir-fries, and a quick squeeze of lemon or lime juice will pick it up. Rice wine vinegars are excellent to finish sauces or for deglazing.

A set number of condiments is useful. One Chinese friend always makes a scorching hot chilli paste to which she adds oil. A small dab on the end of chopsticks stirred well into a portion is sufficient.

And so to baak-choi. This king of oriental cabbages is more robust than spinach, more refreshing than our Western cabbage varieties. Tougher mature heads will almost always be in Chinese shops, and tender little baby varieties even have started appearing in leading supermarkets.

This can be extended for a dinner with slivered chicken, beef or pork, in which case the meat should be cooked after the baak- choi stalks. But I prefer baak- choi as a vegetable side dish, and have never enjoyed it more than when served to an amused Chinese friend during an impromptu Sunday brunch with spicy Bloody Marys, cheese omelettes, grilled smoked bacon and oven-fresh Irish soda bread.

Stir-fried Baak-Choi

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

1lb/450g baby baak-choi

2 cloves garlic, minced

same amount of ginger, minced

1/2 red chilli, de-seeded and minced

1tbs vegetable oil

1tsp sesame oil

2tsp Chinese soy sauce, less if thick and sweet

juice of 1/2 small lemon

freshly ground black pepper

Preparation: Wash and dry baak-choi. Chop off white stalks. Heat wok to smoking point on a hot stove-top. Add the vegetable oil and the sesame oil, swirl around hot wok and immediately reduce heat. Add garlic, ginger and chilli. Brown. Quickly add white baak-choi stalks. Toss with tongs until slightly wilted. Add soy sauce and greens. As they are wilting, toss together over light heat. Season and finish with fresh lemon juice just before serving.

Next week, more stir-fries. Those whose recipes we print will receive Yan-kit So's Classic Food of China (Macmillan, pounds 25). Send entries, stating the source, to Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, the Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

New entries are also sought for our next category: imaginative ways to use up the Christmas leftovers. The prize will be Anne Willan's Complete Guide to Cookery (Dorling & Kindersley, pounds 19.95).

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup