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Selecting and Preparing Stir Fry Vegetables

Selecting
When purchasing vegetables for any recipe three main questions that come to mind. Where can I purchase this vegetable? What should I look for when choosing this vegetable? And how much do I need for the amount of people that will be enjoying this meal? Most vegetables used in stir frying can be purchased in the produce department of your local grocery store. Many grocery stores also have an ethnic section in which canned vegetables such as straw mushrooms and bamboo can be found. There are also dozens of pre packaged frozen stir fry vegetables that are almost as delicious as fresh vegetables and are quick and easy to use. When you choose fresh vegetables always look for those that are bright, crisp, and without any blemishes. Finally, to figure out how much to purchase, I use the following rule of thumb. A stir fry consists of three parts vegetable to one part meat, and there should be approximately a half of a pound of meat per person. This should be used as a basic guideline for picking your vegetables.

Preparing
Once your vegetables are selected they must be prepared before the cooking process starts. The main goal is to remove all of the dirt, make sure that they are thoroughly dry, and then cut them into bite sized pieces. Remember to prepare all of the vegetables and set them in dishes close to the wok before starting the cooking process.

Cooking
Denser vegetables such as bell peppers, celery and asparagus take longer to cook than leafy, softer vegetables. Therefore the denser vegetables are added to the wok first and stir fried for a few minutes before the leafy softer vegetables are added. Some very dense vegetables such as thick cut carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower need to be boiled for about 3 minutes before stir frying them. This process is called par boiling. A quick alternative to parboiling is to submerge the vegetables in very hot water and then microwave them for about 2 minutes and quickly drain them. The recipe will usually state if a vegetable requires parboiling or not. Always keep in mind that the main goal in stir frying vegetables is to keep them bright and slightly crisp in the final dish.

Here is a list of most of the vegetables used in stir fries. Pick some and experiment to create your own delicious meals.

Asparagus
Baby corn
Bamboo shoots
Bean sprouts
Bell Peppers
Bitter Melon
Bok choy
Broccoli
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Cloud ears
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Leeks
Lotus root
Napa cabbage
Onions
Peas
Scallions
Shitakes
Snow peas
Spinach
Straw mushrooms
String beans
Sugar Snap Peas
Tiger lily buds
Tomatoes
Water chestnuts
White mushrooms
Winter melon
Wood ears
Zucchini

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