Updated: Apr 16
There's something about the stir-fry that seems to daunt a lot of people. It's something that's ingrained in my body and presented in my culture for generations, so perhaps I'm being a little oblivious to those who haven't had the same upbringing! To me though, stir fry is all about the large wok-fire and the wok itself. It brings me back to memories of Malaysian street food, where old men and women would be by a mobile stall every night in the same location and locals would know to go there every time for that special stir fry dish.
A couple weeks ago, I taught a one-on-one cooking class to a friend who was keen to learn the intricacies of a stir-fry. Before we got started, I presented the DO's and DON'Ts to stir frying and making sure that we get the absolute basics right. Tips from when to add your ingredients in and why sometimes you end up with a pool of liquid at the bottom of your wok which ends up boiling your vegetables is in the list below.
Give your wok or pan a chance to get nice and hot before you start adding your ingredients. You want the wok to have a 'heatwave' and your garlic/onions to start sizzling as soon as you throw them in.
Start by adding oil and swirling it around the pan to get it sizzling hot, then add the garlic/onions and then add your protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, shellfish or tofu).
Once the protein has had a chance to cook almost all the way through, start adding your sliced veg. Note: If you are cooking more than 1 protein such as this recipe, I would cook all proteins in different batches and set aside after cooked. Once all the protein is cooked, I will then cook my vegetables and combine all protein back in the pot once the veges are cooked.
Crunchy things like sliced onions, crunchy ends of bok chop (light green ends, not the leaves), shredded carrot and chopped peppers should be added first as they take the longest to cook; softer ingredients, like spinach and mushrooms, can be added a few minutes later. If you’re adding rice or noodles, these should go in at the same time as the crunchy veg.
Add any liquid ingredients, such as soy sauce, sesame oil or black bean sauce right at the end of cooking to avoid having a pool of sauce that ends up boiling your vegetables.
Don’t try to use a wok over an electric hob. Because of its round-bottomed shape you’ll struggle to get it hot enough. Make sure you use the strongest gas hob with the largest flame (instead of using the biggest sized gas hob but can only have a medium flame)
Don’t cook more than two portions of food at a time: the most common mistake people make when stir-frying is adding too much food to the wok at once. When this happens, not all of the ingredients are able to make contact with the base of the pan, and as a result, some of the ingredients end up releasing water, which drips down to surface of the pan and boils, making everything soggy. Not nice!
This stir fry is incredible easy and simple, yet packs a whole lot of flavour. Whether you are cooking for your family or when entertaining, make sure you practice this before hand and give yourself enough time to be comfortable with the ingredients. Especially the cleaning of the protein (Fish, Calamari and Prawns). Check out this video of How to clean a squid and How to clean a prawn.
Seafood (Fish, Calamari, Prawns) and Vegetable Malaysian Stir Fry Cuisine: South East Asian, Malaysian Author: Tish Tambakau Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 15 mins Total time: 35 mins Serves: 4
1 calamari tube, scored and slice
1 white fish fillet (e.g - Baramundi), sliced around 2 inch pieces with skin
8 pieces prawn, headed, deshelled, devained
1 bunch choy sum, ends trimmed, washed, cut into 3cm lengths
1 bunch bok choy, ends trimmed, washed, quartered lengthways
1/2 can of babycorn, sliced lengthways
1 white onion, halved, each half cut into thin slices
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 knob of ginger, sliced in 2cm pieces
½ tbsp oyster sauce
½ tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup of peanut oil
1/2 cup of crispy Shallots (Available in any asian grocers)
To prepare the calamari (Watch the video link above), hold onto the hood (body) and use your other hand to reach under the hood, and grip the head and tentacles. Gently pull tentacles away from the hood. Use a small sharp knife to cut the head from the tentacles and discard the head. Reserve the tentacles and chop into quarters. Remove and discard the clear, hard quill from inside the hood. Peel away the flaps and remove the grey skin. Rinse under cold running water. Place on a clean work surface, score and cut in half lengthways. Use a sharp knife to score the inside of the calamari diagonally in a diamond pattern, being careful not to cut all the way through. Cut into 4cm pieces. Rinse under cold running water to remove any black ink and pat dry with paper towel. Place the calamari and tentacles in a bowl and set aside.
To prepare the prawns, twist off or pull the head off, then grab the legs between thumb and index finger, squeeze and pull away shell from around the body stripping the prawn bare. Repeat until tail section is left. Then, squeeze the tail and the prawn will pop out.
Heat a large wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil and heat until just smoking. Add the calamari and stir-fry, for 1-2 minutes or until the calamari just turns white. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.
Heat another 2tbs of oil over high heat. Add the prawns and cook for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.
Heat approx 1/2 cup of oil over high heat. Add the fish and cook until crispy, around 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.
Add the remaining oil to the wok and heat over high heat. Add the onion and garlic, ginger and fry until soft and fragrant, approx 2 minutes. Then add the corn, and stir-fry for 1 minutes or until the corn is tender crisp. Add the choy sum and bok choy, and cook, tossing, for 1-2 minutes or until the greens wilt.
Then, add in the soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar to taste. Always taste your stir fry before it is done and adjust the sauce according to your preference.
Return the fish, prawns and calamari to the wok and toss to combine. Serve.