Cambrian: Opinion

Culinary Corner: In honor of the Year of the Dragon, stir-fry

As the Chinese New Year of the Dragon 4710 began with festivities during the New Moon/No Moon Jan. 23, I felt justified in enjoying my pre-lit living room feature, formerly known as the Christmas tree. By moving all the Asian decorations to the forefront, and removing the snow men, the tree did double duty again this year. I was reluctant to move it from its place of prominence until I had company over to enjoy it with me.

We also enjoyed a lightened up version of a stir fried meal, atop or aside brown rice cooked in chicken broth, with chopped green onion tips and low sodium soy sauce stirred into it just before serving. Almond flavored custard topped with mandarin oranges finished off the meal.

The age old tradition of having all the ingredients chopped and ready at hand made the meal an easy last minute opportunity for us to interact together in the kitchen. It also afforded us an opportunity to step outside afterwards and view the parade of Venus, the waxing moon, followed by Jupiter, and assorted other “friends” up in the clear night sky.

My Favorite Chinese-Style Stir Fry

  • 2 thick center cut boneless pork chops
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tblsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tblsp. peanut oil
  • 1-1/2 cup thinly sliced wedges of white onion
  • 1-1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 8-oz. pkg Crimini mushrooms, cut in halves
  • 1 cup water chestnuts or jicama, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 bunch green onions, white parts only, shredded lengthwise
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup oyster flavored sauce
  • 1/4 cup broth, optional

Slice the chops into thin strips, flatten with a meat pounder, and marinate in a bowl of the soy sauce for 20-30 minutes, stirring a couple of times. (You may substitute an equal amount of chicken breast or lean beef.) When rice is ready to serve, start heating the pan — I have an electric wok, and a free-standing one which works well on a gas flame.

Have the vegetables ready, so you can add them to the pan in the order given, to optimize cooking the flavors. Remove the meat strips from the soy sauce, shake them off and drop into a paper bag with the corn starch — shake until meat is coated. Turn the heat on high, then add the oil (do not use olive oil) until nice and hot. Carefully place the meat in the pan and toss until slightly brown. Add the onions, stir; then add the celery, stir; continue with the other vegetables in the same manner.

Toss in the oyster sauce and/or broth, stir, and the steam from the vegetables will combine with the cornstarch to make a glossy sauce. Makes four servings; scoop onto warmed plates with the hot rice, fluffed rather than stir fried in oil in the traditional manner.

Other combinations include bell peppers and broccoli florets; or for a sweet version, try pineapple tidbits with sliced carrots and chunks of fresh tomato. Dennis Rightmer and Linda suggested substituting shrimp for the meat, which I would have at room temperature and add toward the last so they won’t overcook. For a vegetarian version, brown cubes of your favorite tofu separately and add them in last.

The two weeks of festivities ended with the full moon on Feb. 7, Lantern Day, but you can enjoy your own favorite delicious nutritious stir fried combinations year round. Gung Hay Fat Choy, Gung Shi Fa Sai, Chuc Mung Nam Moi, and Sun Nien Fai Lok!

We are in the Culinary Corner on the second, fourth, and any fifth Thursdays. Please send your recipes and ideas to Consuelo, at The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or e-mail to