After I bought my first wok and discovered the stir-fry technique, my life has changed completely. Not only was I enjoying a super-delicious and nutritious meal more often than before, but I was also spending less time in the kitchen. Now, I make a wok dinner every time I run out of ideas. And I’m pretty excited because I have more time to read!
Stir-frying is a Chinese cooking technique that spread to other parts of the world in past centuries. Ingredients are fried in a small amount of very hot oil while they’re stirred in a wok. This quick and hot cooking technique seals in the flavors and preserves the texture and color of the foods.
If you cook at home, stir-frying helps you save time in the kitchen. You can practically have your dinner ready in 15 minutes! But of course, the cooking time depends on your recipe and ingredients.
I first got the taste for Chinese food in college, when I discovered noodles. Noodles with beef, chicken, eggs, wood ear mushrooms, or vegetables. At first, I had them fast food style and they were tasty. But then, I found out that I can make my own noodle recipes, using all kind of ingredients that fast food restaurants didn’t use. I started with ramen noodles, soy sauce, and a regular skillet. Then, I bought a wok and I learned how to cook rice noodles. Nobody knows all the tricks in the kitchen even after years of cooking, but it’s important to improve your technique. And how can you do that? By experimenting! Now, I can make a wok dinner every evening and be ready in 15-30 minutes!
5 wok dinner ideas
1. Something with chicken
If you want to make a quick wok dinner using meat, consider that cooking time varies among meat types. Chicken takes 2 minutes to sear, while beef is browned in about 3-4 minutes, and pork needs 5-6 minutes to be almost cooked. But that’s only the time for stir-frying the meat! If you want meat or seafood in your stir-fry, cook it first then set it aside onto a separate plate before working on the vegetables. You’ll add the meat back in at the end.
Keep in mind that the most important thing when making a good stir-fry is cutting each ingredient to a uniform size.
Here’s how you can make a chicken wok dinner: chop coriander, slice garlic, peel and matchstick some ginger, slice spring onion and chili, slice carrots at an angle, cut one lime into wedges, break 1/2 head of broccoli into small florets, and cut 1 chicken breast into 0.4-inch/1 cm strips.
Cook the noodles you choose according to package instructions, then drain and refresh them under cold water. Drain again, drop in some vegetable oil and set them aside.
Toast the cashew nuts in the wok, then set them aside to cool. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the same wok. Season the chicken with a pinch of pepper, then stir-fry it for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden. Add the coriander, garlic, and ginger and cook for one more minute. Then, add the spring onions, carrots and broccoli and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the cooked noodles. Keep stir-frying until the noodles are warm and the chicken is cooked through. Add soy and fish sauces, then remove everything from the heat.
Before serving, sprinkle toasted cashew and sliced chili over the dish. Squeeze lime wedges to taste and enjoy! The quantities (and playing with the ingredients) are up to you!
2. Something vegetarian
When you want to make a wok dinner with noodles, you don’t need another pan! Put water in the wok, bring it to a boil and cook the noodles. Pay attention! The instructions on the box may tell you to boil the noodles for 5 minutes, but we recommend you don’t cook them more than 3-4 minutes to keep them firm and chewy. Remember that you’ll add them to the wok again, at the end of the recipe.
For a vegetarian wok dish, you can use any type of noodles. Let’s say you choose egg noodles: when they’re similar to “al dente” pasta, immediately drain and set them aside.
Dissolve a pinch of brown sugar and some salt in 1 tablespoon of hot water, and add the regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper, then stir everything until combined.
Dry the wok and heat it again, then add 2 tablespoons of oil in it. Add shiitake mushrooms and some sliced chives, then stir-fry them for 30 seconds. Because they may soak up the oil, you may need to add another tablespoon of oil. Add the cooked noodles and stir-fry everything for another 20-30 seconds. Spread the prepared sauce mixture over the noodles, and stir-fry everything together for about 1 minute. Add some more chives and stir gently for 1-3 minutes, so you don’t break the noodles.
When making a vegetarian wok recipe, of course, you can also use garlic, onion, chili, broccoli, red bell pepper, and so on.
3. Something with fish
If you’re not a vegetarian or a big meat lover, try a wok dinner using fish as the main ingredient!
Make a honey sauce, by combining Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, and honey in a small bowl. Cook rice noodles following the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse and set them aside. You can use the same wok!
Dry the wok, then spray it with vegetable oil and place over high heat. Stir-fry fish fillets (cut into 0.8-inch/2 cm cubes) for 2-3 minutes until golden and just cooked through. If you cook for more than 2 people, you may need to cook the fish in batches, then set it aside.
After the fish is ready, spray some more oil in the wok. When the wok is hot, add some thin matchsticks of ginger and stir-fry them for 30 seconds. Add green beans and broccoli florets and stir-fry for 2 minutes until tender-crisp.
Return the fish to the wok, add the cooked noodles, and the honey sauce. Stir-fry for a few more minutes, until all the ingredients are warm. If you are on a gluten-free diet, be careful and use gluten-free soy sauce!
You can also replace the fish with shrimp if you want to vary your wok dinner dishes!
4. Something like a noodle soup
How about a noodle soup dish for dinner? Warm, hot, and comfortable? The dish made of noodles, broth, and a spicy mixture of pork, tofu, peanuts, spicy chili bean paste, and sugar is called Shanghai hot sauce noodles.
You need pork shoulder, cut into 0.25-inch/0.6-cm cubes, skinned peanuts, vegetable oil, spicy chili bean sauce or paste, diced onions, carrots (cut into small cubes), five-spice tofu (cut into small cubes), sugar, chicken stock (6 cups/48 fluid ounces for 8 ounces/230 grams of pork), and dried noodles.
First blanch the pork cubes in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, rinse, and set them aside. This is an important step because it keeps the final dish clear of any impurities or blood from the meat.
Use the same wok for frying the peanuts in vegetable oil until it starts to get golden brown. Add the chili bean sauce to the peanuts and oil, and stir for 30 seconds, then add the onions and stir-fry for 2 minutes until it begins to turn translucent. Add the carrots, five-spice tofu, and sugar, and stir-fry for another 3 minutes on medium heat. Next, add 1 cup of chicken stock and the blanched pork and continue to stir-fry until the liquid has evaporated (about 5 minutes). Add another cup of stock and repeat the stir-frying again until the liquid has evaporated. This continuous stir-fry melds all the flavors together.
Add the remaining 4 cups of stock, and bring everything to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for another 30 minutes. Check the mixture every 5 minutes while simmering and give it a stir so the sauce on the side of the wok does not burn. The final sauce should have a cup of liquid and lots of oil.
Boil the noodles according to package instructions until they’re al dente. For the meat and chicken stock quantities that we suggested, you shall need 12 ounces/340 grams of noodles.
When everything is cooked, transfer the four servings to bowls, season them with salt if needed, and then pour over some of the water that you used to cook the noodles. You can garnish the soups with chives or spring onion slices!
5. Something quick and easy
Wok dinners make sense anytime, but especially when you’re in a hurry. So, bring some water to a boil and cook the noodles, then set them aside. Heat the same wok over high heat, and add a tablespoon or two of oil. Add the ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, or turkey), and stir-fry it until it’s browned and slightly crispy.
When the meat is almost cooked through, start adding your favorite vegetables and spices. Try a simple recipe with onion, garlic, and baby spinach. Cook first the onion and garlic and, when they’re translucent and soft, add the baby spinach and stir-fry it until it’s wilted.
Add the cooked noodles to a bowl, along with salt, pepper, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and chili oil (if you want).
For a quick dinner, you can also make noodles with ready-made meatballs (from the meat section of the supermarket) and frozen vegetables. Buy some Chinese sauces and you’ll have your wok dinner in 15 minutes!
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