Saturday, February 21, 2015

Five Spice Ham, Baby Bok Choy and King Trumpet Mushroom

     A Nice Tasting Noodle House Style Stir Fry! 
     Stir fry cooking was very popular during the 1970's in America.  Stir fry went number one because it was healthy!  
     It seemed like everybody was buying a wok back in those days and learning how to stir fry.  A few years later, electric woks were the top choice for home cooks.  Stir fry cooking can be done with ordinary sauté pans too.  It really does not matter what kind of pan is use because the secret to good stir fry is all in the cooking technique.  

     The stir fry technique involves quickly cooking meats an vegetables in a small amount of fat at a high temperature for as short of an amount of time as possible.  The vegetables are tossed in the hot pan, till they are cooked al dente.  A sauce is usually quickly made in the same pan, just before the meats and vegetables are cooked to perfection.  
     The timing of making the sauce has to coincide with when the vegetables will be cooked al dente.  When the vegetables first start to become tender, then it is time to add the sauce ingredients, so the vegetables do not overcook by the time the sauce is finished.  The sauce and entrée should be ready at the same time.

     Stir fry sauces do not have to just be thick pre-manufactured bottled sauces.  Bottled heavy teriyaki sauce seemed to be the only choice of stir fry sauce at American restaurants in the 1970's and early 1980's.  The popularity of stir fry decreased in American restaurants, because people got tired of the same old teriyaki sauce.  
     People also got tired of low skill level cooks in chain restaurants overcooking stir fry vegetables.  It seems like any hot new trendy food item that chain restaurants get ahold of is destined to be thoroughly burnt out long before its time!  Low quality chain restaurants sold such lousy stir fry food, that because of the bad reputation, it was impossible to sell stir fry even at a great restaurant.  
     Stir fry at Asian restaurants is a different story.  The best place to get good stir fry always has been and always will be at an Asian restaurant.  The ancient technique of stir fry cooking is something that Asian cooks know by heart.  Asian cooks also do not use pre-manufactured bottled teriyaki sauce when they make stir fry.  They make unique stir fry sauces to order from scratch!
     Today's recipe has a lightly seasoned sauce that features the flavor of Chinese Five Spice Powder.  Five spice powder is made with star anise, Szechuan pepper, cinnamon, clove and fennel seed.  As this list of strong flavored spices suggests, it only takes a small pinch of five spice powder to flavor an entire entrée.  A little bit of Chinese Five spice goes a long way.  

     Five Spice Ham, Baby Bok Choy and King Trumpet Mushroom:
     This recipe yields 1 large entrée!
     Be sure to have all the ingredients ready ahead of time, before starting a stir fry!  Stir fry cooking moves quickly.
     For some stir fry recipes, it is best to mix the sauce ingredients together ahead of time.  This is especially true when the sauce is also used as a meat marinade.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce in a cup.
     Add 1/3 cup of rice wine.
     Add 1/3 cup of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1 pinch of five spice powder.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Stir the ingredients again before adding them later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Heat a mini wok or wide sauté pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 5 ounces of ham that is cut into long thick strips.
     Stir fry till the ham just starts to get some golden brown highlights.
     Step 3:  Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic.
     Add 1/2 of a sliced shallot.
     Stir fry for a few seconds, till the garlic becomes aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 6 to 8 trimmed baby bok choy that are cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 1 medium size king trumpet mushroom that is cut in half lengthwise.
     Toss and stir fry, till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 5:  Add the reserved five spice stir fry sauce mixture.
     Bring the liquid to a quick boil.  (The sauce will thicken as it heats.  If the sauce is too thick then add a splash of water.  The sauce should just be thick enough to glaze the ingredients with flavor.)
     Toss the vegetables with the sauce.
     Remove the pan from the heat, while the vegetables are still al dente.
     Step 6:  Mound the stir fry on a plate and arrange it so it looks nice.  (Placing the mushroom halves on top looks good.)
     Serve with some steamed white rice on the side.

     Voila!  This is the way that I learned stir fry from a good Chinese chef.  It is a 1-2-3 and dinner is ready style meal!

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