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03.28.2005

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stir-fry crazy how to stir-fry
by Yee-Fan Sun
| 1 2 3 4
continued from page 2

get sauced
You could flavor your stir-fry with little more than salt and pepper and end up with perfectly tasty results, but the addition of a sauce can give the finished dish a more interesting twist -- provided you sauce well, that is. Bad saucing is far, far worse than no sauce at all; I'd much rather have a plain stir-fry seasoned solely with salt and pepper, than one that's covered in so much sauce I can't even make out the base ingredients. The telltale sign of a bad Chinese restaurant, in my book, is when the dishes all come smothered in a goopy brown sauce. Avoid the goo: your sauce, should you choose to use one, should highlight the flavors of the individual ingredients, not drown them out completely.

The key to proper saucing is threefold:

1 Keep the sauce ingredients simple -- do not add every condiment from your arsenal of Asian flavoring agents.

2 Go easy on the cornstarch. A little cornstarch paste (equal parts cornstarch mixed with water) is a good thing, as it gives the sauce some body and helps it coat the ingredients. But your sauce should not be so cornstarched as to approach a solid state.

3 Refrain from over-saucing. Add only enough to lightly -- and I do mean LIGHTLY, coat your ingredients.

As with the marinade, my two simplest sauces come in a dark and a light version. The dark sauce consists of soy sauce and a bit of wine, along with some cornstarch and water for thickener. The light sauce, on the other hand, is essentially just a little bit of chicken or veggie stock thickened with just a smidge of cornstarch, and well seasoned with salt and pepper. The sauces are very nice as is -- and sometimes, you'll find that simplest really is best -- but you can also pep 'em up with all sorts of additions. Spice things up with chili paste or crushed red pepper; add oyster sauce, chili bean sauce, hoisin sauce, or Malaysian satay sauce. Asian markets are a good source for all manner of excellent sauces and condiments for jazzing up your stir-fries; make an excursion to your nearest one and stock up, then experiment away.

Though the sauce will be the last thing to go into the wok, you'll want to prep it in advance as you did with the other ingredients. Mix everything up in a small bowl, tasting to ensure that you're happy with the flavorings, then set the sauce aside.

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