Wok-frying Vegetables & the Green Bean in Miso sauce recipe

Friday, September 20, 2013

I am learning to enjoy good veg these days. Cooked the right way, it is just delicious.

Nope, I should correct myself and say that good veg can be eaten au natural. If you want to be able to judge some veg not just by how it looks, have a little snack.

It is not possible to do this in a super mart (for reasons like your conscience, CCTV cameras, you may bump into a friend, God is watching...).  For this and some other reasons, I buy most of my veg from my favourite stalls in the wet market.

I have recently blogged a green bean ("haricot vert") recipe. That uses the blanching method.

I will post another one here which uses the wok.

While it is hard to emulate the degree of wok hei in Chinese restaurants i.e. high roaring fire and tossing the wok constantly, there are various things you can do improve the smokiness of your home-styled dishes. This is something I have learnt from my late Mum. If you cannot use a stove with a huge fire, do this:
  • Fry in smaller portions - to portion the transfer of heat and allow for good wok action (through the use of wok chan or a wok spatula)
  • Use a thin iron wok - quicker transfer of heat
  • Use a wok cover - introduces steaming to your food
  • Use splashes of water or watery sauces to prevent bottom burning
While it may not burn the upper lining of your mouth (an indication of inferno wok hei), it can certainly improve your dish. When the heat is high, you need to move the food constantly, and this is why the wok is suited for this method of cooking. It's shape also improves the concentration of heat in the center zone and allows for smooth spatula action. Try frying a batch of leafy veg in a flat pan and you will find it inadequate for the job.

I have held a wok chan (spatula) since I was six (read my story). And so, standing in front of a wok - the heat, the sound, the spatula movements, the visuals of the food cooking, when to use the cover- all comes to me intuitively. Using this simple recipe as a guide, I will try to share some tips on effective use of the wok.

This is a iron wok. It heats up fast.
Firstly, you need to mise en place your ingredients. Most cooks know this intuitively as wok cooking is over in a twinkle of the eye. And when the heat is up and the "smoke gets in your eyes," it is easy to lose your sense of calmness, proportionate perspective and make mistakes.

Talking about mise en place, you may need to do some diners en place too. This dish needs to be eaten immediately. If it gets cold, woking so hard is in vain. So, warn your family that dinner is being prepared.

I am using half a kilo of green beans. That fits the wok nicely in one go. By that I mean that I can get the food into the center zone.

If I want better wok hei, I use a thin iron one. On medium fire, add 2 Tbps of oil. Then add the garlic, and when it begins to turn brownish, add the miso sauce. Stir. Next increase the fire and add the green beans. Stir and add the mirin (sweet wine) and soy sauce. I am adding liquid to the beans at the same time. Now, close the wok for 1 minute. Open and  stir again to avoid the bottom beans getting over burnt (but some burning will be nice!). Close for another minute, open and stir till the veg is done. After about 4 minutes of bean-cooking, it should be done. There are variables like the strength of the heat, type of wok and so please adjust.

Garnish with fried shallots and serve immediately for your family dinner. This means you have to shout and scream, "Dinner is ready!!!" and get everyone off their smartphones before food gets cold.

Come to think of it, you should mise en place your family alert too. Mid-way through your frying, do a high pitch yodel: "Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo!" After all, like the puppet show in Sound of Music, our kids are on the strings of Apple and Samsung masters too. That makes you The Lonely Goathered.

You have to say grace too. Keep it to the point. If you want to pray for the world and take 15 minutes, then I suggest you don't do that on the dining table.

Stir constantly if the fire is hot.
Sometimes, I just close the wok only once i.e. frying kangkong. For leafy veg, as they fill up the volume of the wok with only some parts in direct contact with the wok, closing the wok helps as the veg on top is being cooked too through steaming. After the veg shrinks, it will continue to cook through direct wok heat and by now, there is no reason to cover the wok.

As for this recipe, you can replace miso with preserved soy bean (tau cheong) and mirin with the usual Chinese wine. Add a few slices of ginger if you prefer.

In the lead photo, I added fried 36-hour Sous Vide short rib beef. That complicates the recipe considerably and this is why I did not list this down. You can use sliced flank beef instead.

Note: If you get too irritated by your children's persistent use of their smartphones during dinner, Iphones and Samsung are also delicious when wok-fried. Thats a Korean-American fusion dish. They will go well with some miso too. Some chilli sauce if you please. Do remember to cover as sparks may fly.

The recipe in brief:

Stir-fried Geen Bean in Miso recipe
To serve 4 pax:

Half a kilo of green beans
2 Tbps of Miso (brown)
2 Tbps of Mirin
2 Tbps of Soy Sauce.
2 Tbps of oil
1 Tbps of chopped garlic

  1. Heat oil in the wok. Add garlic and miso. Stir.
  2. Crank up the fire and add the green beans. Stir for a minute. Add soy sauce and miring. Stir briefly and cover for 1 minute. 
  3. Remove cover, stir and cover again. After a minute, remove the wok and stir for another minute and it should be done. 
Garnish with fried shallots and serve immediately.

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