Experiments in Chinese Food, Freestylin’ Stir Fry

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Those who know me probably guess that I’m not a particularly good cook. Those who’ve dated me are certain of this fact.

But lately I’ve been taking steps to make myself into a more well rounded human being. I may never be perfectly suited to a 9 to 5 life and white picket fences, but that doesn’t mean I can spend the rest of my life existing on a diet of junk food and beer. However fun that existence may be…

In addition to making a glorious return to running of late. I ran my farthest distance since August 2010 on Friday night.

I’ve also started to take better care of my apartment* and to take a good, long look at what it is I put into my body.

*Taking better care of my apartment equates to hiring an elderly Chinese lady to clean it once a week

That doesn’t stop the occasional boozy McDonalds’ home delivery or late night on the turps, but it does mean considerably less microwave meals and care package binges. And with the urging of friends and readers back home, it’s about time I stopped living on take-out and started actually experimenting with Chinese food in my own home.

Over the next nine months or so, I’ll be introducing common Chinese dishes and trying to replicate them within my own home. But tonight, feeling just a little less ambitious, I’m going to do some experimentation and see if I can’t create a fairly standard Chinese style stir fry.

To that end, I’ve just come back from a 100RMB shop and now have the following motley collection of ingredients to work with.

Ingredients for Chinese food
Ingredients + effort = delicious?


What have I got to work with? Let’s see…

  • Peanuts
  • Tofu Noodles
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • Beans
  • Carrot
  • Peppers/Capsicum
  • An onion
  • 500g of beef
  • Sesame Oil
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Black Vinegar
  • Chili Salt
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Ginger
  • Some nameless black sauce with black beans in it. Slightly spicy.


I’m flying blind here, but past experiences in cooking/observing cooking have shown me that it pays to be prepared first. I’m going to cut up all of my vegetables and put aside some of the onion and some of the peppers to use in tomorrow’s scrambled eggs.

I’ve gone with pre-cut beef as the meat, mostly because I’m terrified of under-cooking my chicken and poisoning myself.

Unable to find minced garlic or ginger, I’ve gone ahead and Googled how to mince garlic. Yes, it is a wonder I’ve survived this long on my own. Thank you for noticing!

Minced garlic
The only kind of ‘mincing’ you’ll ever see me doing

My camera battery decided to die at this point, leaving me in the capable hands of my iPhone for the remainder of this particularly episode.

My apartment came with a single cleaver. This leads me to believe my predecessor was either a jerk who sold everything before he left, or a serial killer who was so proficient with the cleaver that he felt no need to clutter his kitchen with other implements of slicing and/or dicing.

Cutting carrots
Cutting carrots… LIKE A BOSS
Bean #1: Are you sure it’s safe here, babe? Bean #2: Oh, you’re worried about the infamous cleaver killer? He’s just an urban legend silly.

I mash garlic like a pro, peel onions without crying, and generally maim & massacre the remaining vegetables in my collection.

Vegetables in a bowl
Bowl full of vegetables. Vegan porn.


Step #1 – Realise that you have not used the wok in your apartment since arriving in China. Realise with frustration and terror that the previous occupant did not wash it after its last use. Spend 10-15 minutes scrubbing until it stops resembling a toilet bowl.

With wok clean and TNA Slammiversary playing in the background to keep me entertained, it’s time to actually cook this bad boy. Except, asshole that I am, I don’t have any oil.

Google isn’t much help either, suggesting an oil substitute. Time to get experimental and use some of that chicken broth in the fridge…

  1. Add minced garlic to chicken broth.
Add chicken broth
Chicken broth: Not nearly as good as cooking oil

It’s at this point that I realise the chicken broth is evaporating far too quickly for the garlic to cook. Unless ‘cook’ means ‘burn’. But you know what? Sesame oil is a surprisingly good substitute for oil. Go figure.
1. Add minced garlic to chicken broth, 1 tbsp sesame oil, dash of soy sauce, and a dash of black vinegar.
Burning garlic
How not to cook garlic
2. Add 500g beef to wok. Allow to cook.
3. Get over-confident, add more sesame oil.
4. Once beef is cooked, add in vegetables and stir fry until onion is brown.
cooking vegetables
Insert witty caption here
5. Sprinkle Szechwan Chili Salt to taste. This stuff is gold.
Szechwan Salt
Szechwan Salt = My cocaine
6. Add 1 tbsp of nameless black bean thing and ginger. Stir thoroughly.
black beans
Not possum shit
7. Add in peanuts.
Peanuts make everything better. Except for people with peanut allergies. They get worse.
8. Add tofu noodles.
Tofu noodles
Not satisfied with inventing the regular noodle (spaghetti), the Chinese then decided to invent tofu noodles as well
9. Finally, add oyster sauce (about 1 tbsp) and stir through thoroughly. 
10. Allow time for noodles to soak up some of the juice.
Voila! Ten easy steps to creating a stir fry that may or may not taste awesome. On the shopping list for next time would be cooking oil/spray and a larger spoon to stir with. I also wouldn’t mind having some chili peppers, water chestnuts, and spring onions to add to the mix.

Final Product

Finished stir fry
The final product

Looks edible.

Smells edible.

Let’s give it the CWB three step test.

  1. Sets mouth on fire – CHECK
  2. Tastes like food – CHECK
  3. Does not cause explosive diarrhoea, stomach cramps, or leprosy – TBA…

Your Stir Fry Tips

So, this was my first experiment with making a stir-fry from scratch. In the past I’d just buy a stir fry mix and stir it all together.

What are your tips for making an absolutely killer stir-fry. What should I have included or taken out?

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