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Sometimes it’s just been a really long day at work, and you don’t feel like slaving away in the kitchen. Or you realised that you haven’t seen a vegetable all week, and no, fries at lunch don’t count). That’s where a good stir fry comes in. A hot wok, some freshly sliced ingredients and a healthy dinner is on the table in under 20 minutes, plus you only have one wok to wash up.

So, without further ado as Mrs Smith would say, here’s all you need to know for a stir fry.

Serves two (possibly 3-4, if you’re not greedy)

2 tbsp              oil – canola, vegetable or peanut
250g               rump or porterhouse, sliced thinly across the grain
1                     brown onion
2 cloves           garlic, minced
Fresh vegetables of your choice, I used broccoli, cabbage, capsicum and carrots
1                     chili, thinly sliced (optional)
1 tbsp              shao xing (optional)
10 leaves         Thai basil

for the sauce
2 tbsp              good oyster sauce
1 tbsp              thick caramel sauce
1 tbsp              soy sauce
½ tsp                sugar
2 tbsp              water

1 tbsp              corn flour, mixed
2 tbsp              water

  1. Slice up all your ingredients to roughly the same size so they’re ready to go – you don’t want to be still cutting once you’ve put ingredients in the wok. Mix up the ingredients for your sauce.
  2. Heat your wok until it’s smoking, then pour in 1 tbsp oil.
  3. Flash fry the beef so that it’s half cooked, then remove. It shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds. Remove to a separate bowl.
  4. Pour in 1 tbsp oil and fry onions and garlic, taking care not to let the garlic colour too much.
  5. Add the vegetables starting with those that will take longer to cook, i.e. carrots. If the vegetables are starting to catch on the pan or burn, add 1/4 cup of water to stop them sticking.
  6. Add chili and stir.
  7. Deglaze with shao xing, if you are using, then add the sauce mix and toss through.
  8. Add the Thai basil to the wok and stir.
  9. Add cornstarch mixture to the wok and allow the sauce to thicken – about 30-60 seconds.
  10. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Tips for a great stir fry:

  • Use fresh ingredients if you can. Frozen beef is fine for curries, not so good in stir fries.
  • Make sure everything is sliced and prepped before you heat up your wok. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to cut cabbage and turned around to find burnt veggies.
  • Don’t use olive oil – it has a low smoke point and will burn. Vegetable, peanut or grapeseed oil are all fine.
  • A good oyster sauce will hold your stir fry together. My mum told me to always use Lee Kum Kee.
  • Slice your meat across the grain. A pre bought steak should already be sliced across the grain, so imagine a steak flat on a plate – you’ll need to cut horizontally across.
  • If your vegetables are burning, add some water to the pan so they steam. It’s kind of cheating, but still delicious.
  • If you have green vegetables in your stir fry, add a tiny ¼ tsp of sugar to boost their sweetness and balance saltiness from the oyster and soy sauce.
  • Get a good wok and season it properly. Carbon steel is my favourite because it’s light and heats up quickly. They’re cheap too – around the $20 mark. If you must cheat, you can use a non-stick pan – you won’t get quite the same result, but that’s why it’s called cheating, right? Don’t heat your non-stick pan up too much or it will ruin the coating.