wok and ladlesWok and long-handle ladles

evenly chopped vegetablesEvenly chopping vegetables ensures even cooking times

velveting_chickenVelveting chicken: marinating in corn starch and egg

cornstarch slurryAdding the cornstarch slurry to the wok to thicken a sauce

stir-fry beerStir frying beef



















© 2012
Lauren McElroy

Cooking method

Also known as "chao", stir-frying was developed as a way to save scarce cooking fuel. Chinese stir-frying utilizes special equipment, meat marinating techniques, special ingredients as well as a particular method to cook it all up. This page will teach you the basics to Chinese stir-frying.


  • Wok
    - Pan with sloping sides and a rounded bottom (the rounded bottom eliminates corners where food might stick)
    - The curved shape enables an incredible amount of BTU (British Thermal Unit) to be used to cook and it helps to cook food uniformly
    - Can be made from copper, aluminum, stainless steel, or carbon steel
  • Chinese Cleaver
    - Thin and wide bladed straight knife exclusively used for all cutting and chopping
    - Some are very heavy and can be used to cut through beef bones
  • Mandarin Strainer
    - Large round food strainer used to remove food from a hot wok
  • Long-handle ladles and spatulas
    - the long handles prevent your from burning yourself when handling the food (see picture to left).

Marinating Meat:
Chinese cooking uses a technique to marinate the meat before stir-frying known as velveting. This technique tenderizes the protein by marinating in egg, cornstarch, salt and wine or sherry for up to 24 hours. See photo to the left.

  • White meat chicken and seafood - 1 pound of eat, 1/2 egg white, 1 tablespoon of cooking wine, salt & pepper to taste, 2 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of oil.
    Note: the oil keeps meat fresh and extends shelf-life
  • Dark meat (red meats and dark meat poultry) - 1 pound of meat, 1/2 egg, 1 tablespoon of cooking wine, salt & pepper to taste, 2 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • All meats for deep frying - 1 pound of meat, 1 whole egg, 1 tablespoon of cooking wine, salt & pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon of oil, corn starch until dry.

Chinese Stir-fry Ingredients & Sauces:

  • Chinese stir-fry trinity - Garlic, ginger and scallions
  • Five spice - star anise, Szechwan pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel
  • Oyster sauce - salty, dark Chinese sauce made with soy sauce and the flavor of oysters and other flavoring agents.
  • Soy sauce - soybeans are toasted and sometimes slightly fermented then brewed with water and a lot of salt for a long time. Sometimes sugar is added to get a sweeter more molasses like soy sauce
  • Dark Mushroom soy sauce - sauce made with soy beans and mushroom extract. A lot less salt is added to it because it is mainly used for coloring a stir-fry
  • Hoison sauce - slightly fermented soybeans processed with sugar. A very common sauce used in Peking Duck Pancakes, Moo-Shoo, & Chinese B.B.Q sauce especially with pork.
  • Sweet and sour sauce - Usually made with vinegar and pineapples juice and used for battered and fried meats.
  • Red BBQ sauce - Mostly used for marinating pork ribs and whole pork for 8-12 hours

Basic Chinese Stir-fry Procedure:

  1. Meat
    - Heat 2-3 ladles of oil in wok until hot (275 F - 300 F degrees)
    - Stir-fry 10-40 seconds
    - Remove from heat & drain off oil, set aside
  2. Vegetable
    - blanch for 10-30 seconds, drain well, set aside
  3. Sauce
    - Heat wok to hot (275 F degrees)
    - Stir-fry garlic & ginger in oil
    - Add sauce and thicken with cornstarch slurry (see picture, to the left, above).
    - Combine all (drained) ingredients in the sauce
    - Add black mushroom soysauce & sesame oil
    - Add scallions, remove from heat and serve


  1. Make sure all the ingredients are ready (mise en place) before you start stir-frying.
  2. Cut all the ingredients vaguely the same size for even-cooking times.
  3. Heat the wok before adding the oil.
  4. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil (vegetable, peanut, canola) before stir-frying meat or vegetables.
  5. By blanching the vegetables first, you dont have to worry about cooking the more dense vegetables first.
  6. Cut meat thinly, against the grain, rather than in chunks - helps cook evenly
  7. Have a cornstarch slurry on-hand to thicken sauces

I will be uploading recipes as I have time. The ones below in italics are in the process and will be
available soon!
White sauce
Brown sauce

Egg rolls
Egg drop soup
Mongolian beef
Peking duck
Spicy orange chicken
Steam buns

Vegetable fried rice

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