Saturday, March 3, 2012

Speedy Steak Stir-Fry

“When in doubt, stir-fry” has become my culinary motto since moving to Thailand. Whenever I find myself stumped for inspiration about what to cook, or am confronted with a set of ingredients with no plan, I chop, throw in a wok over a high flame and hope for the best... and it usually works a treat. And I’m not the only one doing it – all over Bangkok, on every street corner are vendors throwing squid, pork, eggs, greens, noodles, rice and all sorts of tasty ingredients into giant woks and turning out delicious plates of spicy goodness.

A Bangkok stir-fry celebrity: King of the Sukhumvit soi 38 street food scene, he turns out delicious pad thais every evening with lots of dramatic flames and flamboyant flipping of the work. Definitely one for the list if you're coming to visit!

From watching these masters at work it seems that the secret lies in high flames and high energy stirring – stir-frying doesn’t take up much time but you have to give it your undivided attention to make sure everything is cooked evenly. And you also have to hold back on the liquids you season with – there should be just enough to coat but never so much that you’re boiling or steaming the food.

In Thailand meat tends to be consumed in tiny bite-sized pieces and in modest quantities. But I live with a man with very British meat preferences – it’s all about big hunks and lots of them. So this is a far meatier stir-fry than you’d be likely to find in traditional Thai cooking. It’s a delicious way to cook steak. With the veg cut thinly, the steak more thickly, and the garlic, chilli and ginger cooked a little first it really doesn’t need long in the pan. Avoid the temptation to over-cook – make sure the steak stays nice and tender and the vegetables crunchy.

Time: 30 mins
Rating: It doesn’t get much easier than this
Serves: 4


2 medium-sized steaks (I used sirloin), fat trimmed
½ small onion/4 shallots
2 cloves garlic 1 large carrot
2 large red chilli
1 inch knob ginger
80g mushrooms
1 medium red pepper
100g asparagus (trimmed)
1 small bunch spring onions, white part only
2tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1tsp sugar

Garnish with fresh coriander and a handful of peanuts


  1. Heat the oven to a high temperature (about 200°C). Spread the peanuts on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 3-4 mins until browned, shaking the tray half way through. Remove the nuts and allow to cool. Once cooled, coarsely chop and set aside to use as garnish.
  2. Then prepare your veg. Finely chop the ginger, garlic and chilli (deseeded). Finely slice the onion, carrot, pepper and mushrooms.  Cut the asparagus spears into quarters, and the spring onions into diagonal slices about 1cm in length. Slicing the veg quite thinly is important. This will make them cook quickly and prevents you over-cooking the meat.
  3. Then cut your steak into chunky slices , about an inch and a half in length.
  4. Heat a little olive oil in a wok over a high flame and add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Stir-fry for about 2 mins. Add the steak and stir-fry for no more than a minute, just until it is lightly browned.
  5. Add all the other veg and combine before adding the fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Keep stirring frequently over a high heat for about 5-7 mins until the carrots and asparagus have softened and the meat is cooked but still tender.
  6. Remove from heat and serve with either steamed rice or egg noodles.
  7. Garnish with roasted peanuts and roughly chopped fresh coriander.

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