When we think of fast food we often think of unhealthy food but in fact there is one type of “fast food” that is actually good for us…….. stir-fries. In fact as far as fast food goes, you could call stir-fries the original fast food but this fast food actually goes back centuries.
Originating in ancient China, stir-frying was born from necessity not choice. In those times fuel was extremely difficult to come by, brick stovetops were incredibly small and oil was very expensive. It didn’t take people long to work out that if they cut their meat and vegetables into smaller pieces they would only need a small amount of oil and could cook everything they needed for one meal in a round-bottomed wok. This method hasn’t changed a bit and is as effective today as it was centuries ago.
Today, however, we choose to stir-fry for other reasons than economy. The speed that the meal can be cooked at is still the number one reason we favor this method but following a close second is the health benefits of cooking this way.
When you cook your vegetables for only five minutes or so at a high temperature the nutrients are sealed in making them far more nutritious and beneficial to our overall diet. It is also a great way to introduce a large and varied amount of vegetables into one meal. The protein can be equally varied, in fact every type of protein pretty much works in a stir-fry.
One of the keys to a successful stir-fry is chopping your proteins and vegetables into similar-size small pieces and ensure you prep prior to heating your wok. A great way to add flavor and tenderizing meat is to marinate prior to cooking and always prepare your sauce prior to cooking . With all the ingredients ready to go, the cook time reduces significantly and also ensures you don’t overcook your produce.
The right pan is an essential tool. Woks made from cast iron or carbon steel are the best but a large stainless steel frying pan that will tolerate high heat works just as well.
The best oil to use is a coconut or avocado oil as they tolerate high heat due to their high smoke point and they are also less processed than many conventional oils such as canola, soy, sunflower or safflower.
Adding a small amount of oil and heating it over a high temperature is the best way to start the meal. You can test the heat of the oil by sprinkling a few droplets of water into it, if they dance as you sprinkle, your pan is ready to go. Add your firmer vegetables first and any denser cuts of meat, next will come your softer vegetables and finally fish or tofu if using. Tossing the mixture constantly and quickly is key whilst you add your sauce.
And there you have it the perfect fast-food, this is one you can eat often!