I am speed adverse. I cross-country ski rather than downhill, and close my eyes on roller coasters.
My sole sibling, Heather, loves speed and action. Take this loosely drawn-from-memory photo of a family white river rafting expedition in North Carolina. Whereas my sister as well as everyone else on the raft looks like their having the time of her life, I look tense, maybe a little terrified.
After my first cooking session from The Breath of a Wok, the current DCCC pick, I realized I had to figure out a stratagem for dealing with the inherent speed of stir-frying, if I were to enjoy the ride. The quick-cooking of stir-frying is off the charts. It’s really, really, fast. If someone says they don’t have time to make a homemade dinner, they probably haven’t tried stir-frying.
A simple stir-fry may take fifteen or twenty minutes of prep time at most, and then perhaps a total of 2 to 3 minutes of cooking time. Ten seconds for the ginger, a minute or two for vegetables, maybe 30 seconds for the seasonings (soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, etc.), and boom, you’re done. Even the wok, made thin by design to conserve fuel, heats up incredibly fast.
Even though I had my mis-en-place in place for that first stir-fry session, an absolute necessity for this type of cooking, I still felt insecure about my ability to remember the order and timing of ingredients as they hit the wok.
Once the stir-fry gets going, there’s no time to refer back to the instructions in the book. By the time you return to the wok, your aromatics would be burnt.
The solution? A shorthand reference of the ingredients listed in the order in which they’re added to the wok, timing for each, and cooking temps. (Shown at the top of this post.) My handy cheat sheets take the pressure off, making speedy stir-frying exhilarating.
If you don’t thrive on speed, try making a cheat sheet of some sort, suited to how your brain works when cooking. This dead simple tactic may be enough to make stir-frying fun rather than frantic.