Friday, October 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Woks

Juggling two woks is second nature to some chefs.  I’m nearly there myself.  Ever since half of my family became vegetarian a decade ago, I’ve found myself performing feats of stir-fry derring-do at my stove top. 

Stir-Fried Shrimp and Vegetables


Last night it was a face-off between shrimp and tofu.  The shrimp won (no leftovers), but the fight was close.  The contenders:

1 pound (21-25 per pound) raw shrimp - cost $5.77 (on sale)
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into small squares - cost $1.49

Stir-Fried Tofu and Vegetables

Cooking two dishes at the same time is stressful. Here are some tricks I learned:

Stir-fry all the vegetables at once and then share them between the two dishes.  Do this early in the day so the veggies are ready when you need them.  Put the shrimp and tofu in separate bowls, add the flavorings directly to each bowl and let marinate in the refrigerator until needed.  

About 15 minutes before serving, get out the cooked veggies, marinating shrimp and tofu,  everything else you need (no searching desperately for the black bean sauce) and start cooking.

When the two stir-fries are ready, transfer them to large serving dishes, set out the rice, ring the dinner bell and collapse.

Why do I put myself through this wok dance when I could easily order out?  I like hearing everyone at the table asking. “May I have some more, please.”
2-Wok Dinner – each wok serves 4  
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil 
2 medium onions, thinly sliced 
2 red or orange bell peppers, thinly sliced 
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces 
1 pound raw peeled shrimp 
12-ounce package extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch squares 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
2 teaspoons chopped garlic 
2 teaspoons fresh chopped ginger 
2 teaspoons sugar 
2 tablespoons water + more if needed 
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
2 tablespoons sesame oil 
2 tablespoons black bean sauce (available in jars in the Asian food section) 
3-4 cups cooked rice 
Add peanut or canola oil to a large wok and begin heating over high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions, bell peppers and asparagus and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables have just begun to soften.  Turn off the heat, transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and set aside or refrigerate. 
Put the shrimp and tofu in separate bowls and add half the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, water and red pepper flakes.  Stir, cover and refrigerate. 
When ready to make the stir-fries, add 1 tablespoon sesame oil to each wok and begin heating over high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the contents of the shrimp bowl to one wok and the contents of the tofu bowl to the other.  Stir-fry the contents of each wok for about 3 minutes.  The shrimp will turn pink and the tofu will begin to brown in spots. 
Add 1 tablespoon black bean sauce to each wok and stir-fry briefly so that the flavors are mixed.  Then add 1/2 the partly-cooked vegetables to each wok.  Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the contents of both woks are hot.  If the mixtures seem dry, add 1-2 tablespoons more water. 
Transfer to serving bowls and serve with rice.
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