Fry Me A River

According to chef Yuji Wakiya in his fine cookbook Haute Chinese Cuisine from the Kitchen of Wakiya, it is nearly impossible to properly stir-fry Chinese food at home. The chef contends that most home gas-burners are simply too weak to elevate and control the temperature as needed.

“It is important to pay attention to sound when stir-frying,” warns Wakiya. “When you add ingredients to hot oil, the temperature drops. If the frying sound goes from BSSSSHHHH! to pssh…” the temperature has dropped too far, the ingredients will have shed water, and the results will be soggy, limp, and completely unappealing.”

He then goes on to explain that the quality of both stir-fried meats and vegetables can be significantly enhanced if they are first blanched in hot oil, just as you might blanch them in water, before stir-frying. “Oil-blanching eliminates the raw tastes in vegetables and chicken, concentrates and locks in flavor, and yields up tight crisp textures. Eggplant and green beans are both particularly good oil-blanched”.

Though oil-blanching can be a somewhat daunting task at home, Wakiya reminds us that we can also blanch our vegetables in oiled water before frying. “To blanch green vegetables in water, ” the chef writes, “first add a small amount of oil to the boiling water. This raises the boiling point of the liquid which in turn keeps the greens colorful and nutritious. Bean sprouts blanched in oiled water for five seconds, then stir-fried for ten seconds in a wok will become intensely crisp and juicy.”

Now for all those anxious to flaunt their new-found frying skills, Pierre Laszlo, in his book Citrus, offers us the following recipe:

Fried Oranges

4 large seedless oranges
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 raw egg
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil

Garnish: 4 tablespoons mustard
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Peel the oranges and separate the segments. Add the sugar, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar. Blend two tablespoons of oil, the egg, well beaten, and the milk. Thoroughly stir this liquid into the dry mixture to form a thick batter. If the batter is thin, add a little more flour. If it is too thick to evenly coat the orange segments, dilute with more milk. Chill the batter for 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the remaining oil in a heavy skillet until hot, but not smoking. Dip the orange segments into the batter to coat thoroughly. Drop into hot oil and fry until nicely browned. Serve warm with the mustard and brown sugar in separate spice dishes.