To make a truly simple oyster beef stir-fry for four, you will need:
- 800g beef fillet
- 6 spring onions
- 1 red sweet pepper
- Peanut or canola oil
- 25mm fresh root ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 20ml oyster sauce
- 20ml soy sauce
- 20ml Old Brown sherry
- Rice or noodles
But first, let’s talk heat. The source is not electricity or any gas-fired camping equipment. Stir-frying has been described as high drama at high heat: the high heat comes from a low-pressure gas cylinder connected to a catering gas ring with two or even three concentric rings, all individually controllable.
These are not expensive and last forever. What you get from this rig is a continuous blast of high heat like a Bessemer furnace (well, almost, a bit of food-writer hyperbole).
On this ring of fire sits the wok. A wok is not a skottel or even the lesser-known ploughshare. It can be mild or stainless steel, quite thin, with a handle, ideally. Buy one from an Asian supermarket at the nearest big town. Season the wok before cooking for the first time by heating up a half-cup of peanut oil until it smokes. Swirl this fully around the interior, then dump it. Wipe with a paper towel when cool, and your wok is ready for the big time.
Next, the cooking oil. Peanut oil, with its high flashpoint, is the way to go. Don’t even consider olive oil. Canola and sunflower are adequate second choices.
Prep time. Cut the fillet into strips, each a uniform 5mm in width. Uniformity really matters to ensure even cooking. Finely chop the peeled garlic and ginger. Cut the spring onions – bulb and leaves – on the diagonal into 10mm sections. Cut the sweet pepper into uniform thin strips. Carefully measure the three liquids into a bowl. Remember that all three are accents to the general flavour and must not dominate.
Pour 40ml of peanut oil into the wok, light the burner and heat up the oil until it just begins to smoke. Carefully add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 40 seconds using an egg lifter as the stirrer. Pour in half the meat and stir-fry for 90 seconds. Remove it from the wok and add the second half of the meat for 90 seconds.
Return the first half of the meat, lower the heat by half and add the liquids. Stir like mad for 20 seconds. If the handle gets too hot, wear a welding glove on one hand. Kill the heat, sprinkle on the spring onions, stir them into the hot mass and immediately serve on heated plates with rice or noodles.
Phew! Fast, hot work! After the meal, when the wok is cool, wipe it with several paper towels, and store it in a large plastic bag for next time.
David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.