Thursday, March 12, 2009

Celery Stir-Fry

Celery stir-fry

This is my MIL's na shou (expert) dish. Although simple, I can't get it as good as she does. The secret lies a lot in control of the heat used in cooking this dish. I usually stir up a slightly charred veg (heat too high) or watery dish (heat too low) that tastes very different from Ma's. This CNY, I stood watching her, memorizing how she quickly fries every item, washing the wok after frying each item, tasting as she fried (which I never do) and combining it all perfectly without overcooking or undercooking, at just the right temperature so the veggies don't dry up nor sweat.

In Chinese meals, instead of salad, a simple plate of greens fried with garlic is always on the table. Well, in my home at least. I think that simple fried veg is the best way to eat your greens because the quick frying doesn't destroy much vitamins yet reduce the veg to half the volume so that you eat much more than you would compared to uncooked veg, as in salads. Serve this as an alternative to that daily plate of greens and even the kids will eat it. All my three kids love celery. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who hate celery, you can substitute it with stem kai lan (the type without leaves), Japanese squash and even cucumber or any veg that does not go too soft upon frying. The cashew nuts are optional.

Celery Stir-Fry
3 stalks celery
1 small carrot
1/2 pkt (about 200 g) fresh waterchestnuts
1 can button mushrooms (fresh ones are not used bc they can darken the sauce)
200g chicken breast
1 pkt (about 200g) fresh baby corn
salt and pepper
homemade chicken stock or 1/2 can Swanson's chicken stock
veg oil

garnish: toasted or fried cashew nuts (optional)

1. String the celery to remove the hard veins. Cut each celery stalk into 2-3 long strips lengthwise and then cut into diagonal pieces about the size of your thumb.

Peel and cut the waterchestnuts into small cubes about the same size as the celery. Do same with the carrot, button mushrooms and baby corn. Cut the chicken breast into similar-sized cubes and marinade with salt & pepper and a heaped teaspoon of cornstarch and a teaspoon of oil.

2. Heat the wok up, add about 1 T oil and fry the celery. Add a pinch of salt and fry, then add about 2 T of chicken stock and fry until it is about half-cooked. Remove onto plate. Rinse the wok and re-heat, and fry the corn (again add salt and a little bit of stock) until half-cooked. Remove corn to plate, wash the wok and fry the carrot the same way. Since the carrot will take a little longer, cover it while it cooks. When carrot is 1/2 done, add the waterchestnuts and mushrooms to the carrots, fry and season again. At all times, there shouldn't be much liquid/stock so make sure you add the stock in small amount just to keep the veg from searing and also the heat should be adjusted up or down. eg if you are frying each veg, the heat should be medium but increase it to high when you add the veg together because more heat is needed. The heat is best when it's high enough to keep the veg from 'sweating' out any liquid yet not too high to burn the veg.

3. Now add 2 T oil to the clean wok and fry the chicken (this is the healthy way. If you don't mind the oil, you can use 1/2 cup of oil to fry. This is done in the restaurants to get quick, even cooking and tender & better tasting meat but it is oilier even after you pour away most of the oil after frying) until it is about 3/4 done. Now add all the other fried veg and keep tossing and frying. Taste and add more salt if necessary. This dish should be refreshing to the palate so don't add too much salt.

You can thicken with cornstarch solution but because the chicken had been marinaded with cornstarch, the liquid from the veg will thicken the liquid slightly. I find that this dish tastes better without any cornstarch thickening.


foodbin said...

cashew nuts looks a bit burnt-celery is a good green-can lower cholesterol too

NEE said...

ooooo seriously healthy looking.

Precious Pea said...

I love to stir fry celery with roasted pork. Yummy!

ganache-ganache said...

hey, u've got more ads on your blog, getting slower to get in now .....
btw, CJ could eat celery raw, hav no idea how did she do it, because mummy can't stand it & has never cook it in her life (bad mummy !!)

terri@adailyobsession said...

foodbin: i am guilty of scattering burnt cashew nuts on my mil's dish of celery..nice sabotage effort huh..she didn't want the nuts on but i threw them on anyway..

nee:healthy food can be tasty, but in my experience, not very filling.

pp: i haven't tried tt yet. recipe??

ganache: ok, will do smthing about it. my 2 boys r like cj, eat raw celery sticks too.yes, bad mommy, better make some celery fry soon.

Lianne said...

Anyone can do a stir fry, but its not the same when its done well eh. I like the part where one taste as the cook along .. how true that I use to watch my grandma do it but its lost with the current generation now.

K said...

Hey T have a look at this

Precious Pea said...

Errr....just put some garlic and stiry fry the roast pork together with celery. Maybe some soy sauce/fishsauce/oyster sauce for seasoning. Similar to how you stir fry roast pork with leek. Very 'hiong'

TeaLady said...

Terry - that looks tasty. Don't you just hate it when you try so hard to perfect a dish and the one teaching you makes it look sooo, sooooo easy without even trying. I try to stir fry and instead of crispy I get soft. YUCK!!! Maybe I should try this one. But if YOU cannot get it right, maybe I am way out on left field.

zurin said...

Looks good Terri! love cashews in any dish...yes it is very dificult to get a good stri fry result....I never quite get it right.

terri@adailyobsession said...

lianne: yes, each generatn looses some cooking skill n have to start all over again. cooking is all about interest n experience isn't it.

u r having fun in germany, lucky u!

K: i don't think i'll eat there. hey, u coming back this yr? how's d economy in ohio??

pp: there r lots of celery in melb. u must cook for me:)

tealady: yes yes,sometimes the simplest cooking is the hardest, isn't it? kinda like dressing tastefully is harder than piling it all on?

zurin: yes, a good stir fry is hard to do. tt's why most food outside is deep-fried--it's quick n there's not much skills needed.

Jess said...

Thank you so much! My stir fry and fried rice always came out mushy. Now I know what to do. Thank you Terri :)

Check out my very first successful fried rice dish.

terri@adailyobsession said...

jess: tt's great! ask me anythime u need some tips on asian cooking. hey, i am enjoying ur wedding blog, the preparatns, rings, dress, the build up to the wedding makes me happy just to read it. i still look at wedding mags (when no one is arnd) n i love all the choices of dresses n flowers n settings u have there. my own wedding dressES, now tt's a story. i had one made in singapore, it didn't fit (it had buttons all the way down n weighed 2 tons) so i had somebody i didn't know who was coming over frm london to buy me one. my only specificatn was tt it was to a tulle dress bc i wanted a dreamy look.l loved it, but 24 yrs later,it looks kinda what a flamenco would wear to her wedding..

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a healthy food! This recipe really suit my diet. I think my friend would also like this because he also love eating healthy food like this. I will share this blog to him. Please keep on sharing!

Easy Stir Fry

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