Fry Mastery

According to chef Yuji Wakya it is nearly impossible to make superlative Chinese food at home because most home gas burners are simply too weak. But it is not just sufficient heat   but also careful control of oil temperature that is required.

“It is important to pay attention to sound when stir-frying. 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 shed water, and the results will be soggy limp, and completely unappealing.”

Wakya explains that stir-frying becomes much easier if you blanch meat and vegetables in pure oil, just as you would blanch them in water, before stir-frying. Oil blanching eliminates raw tastes in vegetables and chicken, concentrates and locks in flavor, and yields tight crisp textures. Eggplant and green beans are particularly good oil-blanched.

“Oil-blanching can be daunting at home, but you can also blanch in oiled water. When blanching green vegetables, add a small amount of oil to the boiling water first. “This raises the boiling point of the liquid which helps keep 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.”

Pierre Laszlo, in his book Citrus, offers the practiced fry master the following unusual recipe for 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.