What is the Asian Stir-fry Cooking Method?

Asian Stir-fry Cooking

Many Asian countries will use the stir-fry method to cook their food. This kind of cooking method is also sometimes called the quick-cooking method as the ingredients are cooked very quickly on very high heat.

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The Asian stir-fry cooking method is a technique of cooking that started in China but has since spread to the rest of Asia. The food is cooked using the quick-cook method by constantly stirring the ingredients as it is cooking. It is a very easy and healthy cooking technique that anyone master.

Stir-fry food just tastes better. Like most Asian cooking if you follow a few basic rules you can cook up some very healthy and delicious meals in no time.

The Asian Stir-fry Cooking Method

The stir fry method of cooking food originated in China but then spread to other parts of Asia. Many Vietnamese dishes also use this method for cooking.

Stir-frying is actually a very old method of cooking. Some scholars believe that the stir-fry method was being used in China during the Ming Dynasty (1369- 1644). The stir-fry cooking method has been around for a long time. In China, this kind of cooking is simply called “chao.”

The Oxford dictionary defines stir-fry as:

“Fry (meat, fish, or vegetables) rapidly over a high heat while stirring briskly.”

Oxford Dictionary

Today most stir-fry is done in a wok. This is due to the shape of the wok and how it allows you to actually cook the food. You can give some of the meats an intense heat at the bottom of the wok, while you push some other items to the side.

When cooking with a wok, you can also use minimal oil in your cooking. Also, water tends to be used a lot in the Vietnamese stir-fry method. If you are going to be stir-frying a lot of Asian food, investing in a good wok is essential.

Stir-fry cooking is a healthy way of cooking food. This is because the natural flavors of the meat and food are brought out in this cooking method.

Vietnamese Stir-fry beef, green beans and tomatoes
Vietnamese Stir-fry beef, green beans and tomatoes dish and recipe.

A great example of an easy to make Vietnamese stir-fry is our beef, green beans, and tomato stir-fry. You can find how to make this recipe and also watch our video by clicking on Vietnamese Stir-fry Beef, Green Beans and Tomatoes Recipe (Đỗ Xào Thịt Bò) by clicking here.

Stir-fry Cooking Tips and Pointers

There can be a bit of skill required to properly stir-fry food and not overheat or burn the food. But if you follow these tips and pointers it will help to ensure that your food comes out tasty.

Here are some of our tips and pointers on how to correctly stir-fry:

  • Prepare everything before cooking – When you are stir-frying you must prepare everything before you start to cook. Everything you are going to use for the stir-fry should be cut up and ready to be put into the wok.
  • Heat the wok – When stir-frying you must always heat the pan first. Do not try to stir-fry when the pan is cold. Take the time to make sure the pan is very hot. Do not be afraid to use a very high temperature.
  • Pour the oil down the side of the wok – When the pan is hot then you can pour the oil into the pan but not before. Pour it down the sides. As the pan is very hot you should see the oil start to cook or bubble almost immediately.
  • Stir Constantly – Stir-fry is known as stir-fry as you should be constantly stirring the food while it is cooking.
  • Ginger, Garlic, Shallots, and Scallions Cook First – You should always cook the ginger, garlic, shallots or scallions first. If you are using a regular onion then also cook that at this time. When you cook these ingredients, cook them fully so that the flavor will get into the oil. As you are cooking, you must be constantly stirring and toss them so they will not burn.
  • Start with the longest cooking ingredients first – When stir-frying you start with the longest cooking ingredients first, which is usually, the meat. Be sure not to overcook the meat. Sometime we may cook the meat and then set it aside and put it in later.
  • Meats must be very thin slices or cut into very small pieces – This is an area many people make a mistake when stir-frying, they do not cut the meat thin enough or small enough. The meat should be cut very small so that it can cook very quickly. The reason is if you have to cook the meat too long it will change the flavor of the dish. The thin meat gives the dish a lot of flavors you will not get otherwise.
  • Vegetables should also be in small pieces – When cooking vegetables it should also be in very small pieces. Some vegetables like beans, carrots, potatoes, you will want to first give them a quick-boil which cooking them for a few minutes (they should not be fully cooked). This will allow you to cook them very quickly in the stir-fry.
  • Add water – If you feel the wok is getting dry and you do not want to add more oil, add water. Usually, about a 1/4 cup is fine. The Vietnamese use a lot of water in their stir-fry dishes.
  • A pinch of salt – A pinch of salt will help the green vegetables to retain their bright green color.
  • 2 to 1 rule for the vegetables to meat portions – The general rule and guide is that twice as many vegetables should be in a stir-fry dish than meat. Always cook the vegetables from those that take the longest to cook first and those that cook the shortest to last. You never want to overcook your vegetables in a stir-fry dish.

If you are looking for a healthy evening meal that you can prepared ahead of time, stir-frying is a great option. You can marinate the meat, quick-cook the vegetables and have everything cut up so that you can quickly stir-fry them for a very healthy evening meal.

What Meat Can I Combine What Vegetables in a Stir-fry?

Here is a chart to show you some basic combinations of what meat and other things go well with what vegetable and meats. There is no hard-fast rule for this, so you can use this as a guide.

Most Chinese cooking will add fresh garlic, salt, pepper, or fresh ginger to taste, along with some soya sauce. Fresh ginger is a great complement for seafood and chicken. And beef or port always tastes better if you marinate it in a bit of soya sauce.

The chart below is considered to be the best combination of the meat with the vegetables, but like with most Asian cooking there are no hard fast rules.

Basic Stir-fry Ingredients Combinations

Bamboo ShootsXXXX
Bean SproutsXXXX
Brussel SproutsXXXX
Egg PlantXX
Green BeansXXX
Snow PeasXXXX
Zucchini XX
\Meat and Vegetables Best Combinations for Stir-fry Cooking

Stir-frying is a healthy and quick way to cook meat and vegetables. With the correct mean and vegetable combinations you can cook some amazing Asian food.

What is the 5 Elements and Philosophy of Vietnamese food?

Vietnamese food uses the five elements philosophy, that is also known as wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These 5 elements touch the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. They also take into account the color and flavor combinations of Vietnamese food.

To find out more you can read our blog on The Philosophy of Vietnamese Cuisine by clicking here.

Why is Thai Food So Spicy?

Thai food is spicy as history has shown us that it is actually a combination of a few kinds of cuisines as Indian, Chinese, and Portuguese. The Indians brought curry to Thailand. The Chinese taught the Thais how to cook using a wok, and the Portuguese traded in a lot of fruits and vegetables including the red chili.

You can find out more by reading our blog Why is Thai Food So Spicy? A Bit of History by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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What is the Asian Stir-fry Cooking Method?