Stir-frying is an Asian technique for cooking meat and vegetables quickly so that they retain texture and flavor. Stir-frying typically involves a quick sauté over high heat, occasionally followed by a brief steam in a flavored sauce.
Although the regional cuisines of China and other Asian countries vary in flavors and ingredients, the unifying link between them is the wok as the primary cooking vessel. The wok evolved centuries ago as a result of fuel shortages. Its rounded shape and long sloping sides provide an extended cooking surface, which may be heated to very high temperatures with little fuel.
Although the wok is most commonly associated with the technique of stir-frying, it can be used to deep-fry, braise, roast, steam, and simmer. It is one of the most versatile cooking tools in the world.
Asian Influence on California Chefs
California has a very diverse immigrant population that includes nearly every nation along the Pacific rim. Large cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have well-known Asian neighborhood like Chinatown, Koreatown, and Little Tokyo. As a result of the influences of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, and Japanese cultures on California cuisine, many California chefs are well versed in these very traditional Asian cooking styles.
Of all of the Asian cooking techniques, stir fry is a perfect fit for California cuisine. The fast cooking times and the sparing use of fats make stir fry a favorite of health conscious diners. The use of simple, fresh ingredients and complex, layered flavors make it a favorite of foodies everywhere.
One of the most famous stir fry dishes is pad thai, a national dish of Thailand. Pad Thai translates as "Thai-style stir-fried noodles." Like many of the other foods of Asian countries, its origins can be traced back to China. Pad Thai has a long list of ingredients that are layered into a hot wok to build the characteristic sweet and spicy flavor of most Thai food. Ingredients include rice noodles, eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chili pepper, and bean sprouts. Proteins like shrimp, chicken or tofu are precooked and added to the mixture toward the end of cooking.
A Sacramento Chef Career Making Stir Fry
When cooking stir fry it is important to prepare ingredients prior to cooking. The extremely short cooking times make it impossible to do any prep work once any of the ingredients hit the heat. Dice all proteins and slice all vegetables even before putting the heat to your wok. Any sauces should be pre-mixed as well. Once all preparations are made you are ready to begin cooking.
Stir fry is simple yet demanding cooking style that requires practice and preparation. It is one of the best ways to present organic, locally-sourced California produce. Learning the art of stir fry can help bring freshness to menu selections of almost any professional California chef.
This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Sacramento. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Sacramento offers Le Cordon Bleu culinary education classes and culinary training programs in Sacramento, California. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Sacramento for more information.
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