Stir-frying has been described as cooking with drama and high heat, and because of the splashes and vaporised oil – and rounded shape of the wok – I always did it strictly outdoors on the open fire. But then my new birthday wok arrived. It has a more or less flat bottom, allowing it to sit comfortably on the electric hob. So I can now stir-fry indoors without fuss at a much lower temperature. And thanks to the wooden handle, there’s no need to wear welding gloves while preparing a meal.
To start, skin and debone the chicken breasts and cut them into uniform strips about 7mm thick. This will ensure even cooking. Peel and grate the raw ginger. Crush, peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut the bulbs off the spring onions and coarsely chop the greens. Cut the baby mealies into quarters, lengthwise. Chop the chillies finely, discarding the pips if you don’t enjoy the heat.
Next, mix the Old Brown sherry, soya sauce and sesame oil. Beware: sesame oil has a powerful taste, best experienced as an accent only. Stick to the quantity given.
Szechuan peppers are a whole new experience – they give a slight tingling on the lips, creating a sensation called Ma in Mandarin. Crush them with a mortar but don’t grind them to dust. Pour 80ml to 100ml of oil into the wok and bring it to medium heat. Swiftly stir-fry the grated ginger, chillies, Szechuan peppers and chopped garlic for 60 seconds or so, then add the sliced chicken breasts. Stir-fry until nearly done, then remove them with a slotted spoon and reserve under cover.
Add the baby mealies and spring onion bulbs and stir-fry for 90 seconds, then return the cooked chicken to the wok. Add the sherry, soya sauce and sesame oil and stir well. Kill the heat, add the spring onion greens and stir for the last time.
Serve with white rice and ice-cold lager.