Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I love my wok. I love its sensual curvature, the way it smells, the way it sounds when the spatula clacks against the sides as I mix ingredients, and the fact that I've finally seasoned it to perfection. Not to mention the fact that it was cheap. Okay, not dollar-store cheap, but well under fifty dollars.

As part of our asparagus kick, SJG and I pulled out the wok the other evening to make stir fry. Technically speaking, you don't have to have a wok for stir fry--a high quality skillet, such as a well seasoned cast iron variety, works just as well. But I like cooking with the wok, and fun is a key ingredient in any recipe.

It makes things a lot easier if you have a handy sous chef like SJG to help with all the chopping, grating, marinating, and the other prep work that goes with any stir fry. The recipe below that we use is adapted from Betty Crocker's Chinese Cookbook (General Mills, 1981). Or you can browse one of my favorite sites for recipes,, to find other variations.

Asparagus Stir Fry

1 pound beef tenderloin, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon each, salt and sugar
1 pinch pepper
1 tablespoon tamari

1-2 cups small shitake mushrooms (whole)
1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into large bite-sized pieces
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon grated or chopped ginger
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup oyster sauce (you can cut this in half and substitute tamari)
2 tablespoons cornstarch

2-3 tablespoons canola oil for the wok

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken broth

2 green onions, chopped (greens too)
1 cup roasted, salted cashews

For the beef marinade:
1) In a large glass bowl, toss the sliced beef with the oil, cornstarch, salt, pepper, sugar, and tamari. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

For the stir fry:
1) Prepare the vegetables and set aside.
2) Prepare the ginger and garlic and set aside.
3) Mix the chicken broth, oyster sauce, and cornstarch in a measuring cup and set aside.

To wok the beef and the veggies:
1) Heat the wok on the stove over a high flame until a drop or two of water beads on the surface. Add 1-2 tablespoons canola oil and rotate the wok to cover the sides.
2) Working quickly, add the beef, ginger, and garlic and cook--tossing constantly with a spatula--until the beef is browned on both sides, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the beef from the wok (you can put it in a bowl or on a plate).
3) Add another tablespoon of canola oil to the wok and rotate to cover the sides. Add the shitake mushrooms, asparagus, red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 1 minute, stirring all the while.
4) Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and heat to boiling. (This happens fast.)
5) Add the beef and heat again to boiling. (This happens quickly as well.)
6) Add the chicken broth-oyster sauce-cornstarch mixture and cook another 30 seconds or so until thickened.
7) For visual effect, serve the stir fry in large bowls or big plates, sprinkled with the chopped green onions and cashews, to taste.

Serves 4.

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