By Matt B. Walen
Healthy eating can be difficult today with peoples' fast-paced lifestyles but one easy way to an improved diet is to eat more stir fry, according to Jennifer Wells, Hill County extension agent.
"Stir frying is fast and can be extremely healthy," Wells recently told nine students in her community education class.
Stir fry cooking was first developed in China as a practical solution to the scarcity of cooking fuel, Wells said. A wok, the funnel-shaped cooking pan, focuses the heat which helps cook the food faster, she said.
Cooking with a wok also helps sears in the flavors of the meats and vegetables, Well said.
Stir fry is a healthy way to cook food because it requires a limited amount cooking oil and lean meats and vegetables are used in the tasty treat, Wells said.
People interested in cooking stir fry don't need to by a wok for the special dinners, Wells said. A regular pan and even an electric frying pan were used by the students during the evening.
The basic cooking gear may include a wok or frying pan, sharp knife for slicing the vegetable, meat, chicken or shrimp, and a cooking spatula to stir the ingredients as the heat cooks the food, Wells said.
Because woks cook at extremely high heats, it is vitally important to have all of the ingredients chopped and ready for cooking, Wells said. The students spent the majority of the time in class slicing and dicing the vegetables and meats before the cooking began.
Vegetables included in stir fry can be left up to one's personal favorites, Wells said. Some of the classic vegetables in stir fry includes broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, baby corn, green and red bell peppers, snow peas and celery.
The order of stir-fry cooking is important because some of the vegetables take longer to cook, Wells said. Slow cooking vegetables include broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, fennel, onions, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash.
Making sure all of the ingredients are done at the same time is half the battle in stir-fry cooking, Wells said.
The students broke up into four groups and prepared several different stir fry dishes including beef, chicken, shrimp and vegetable.
The students sliced and diced the vegetables, marinated the meats, and cooked the ingredients in separate workstations at the Havre Middle School home economics classroom.
The students shared their four creations and combined the stir fry with white rice Wells cooked during the evening class.
Presentation is also an important key in stir fry, Wells said. The many different colored vegetables help make the dishes appealing to the eye as well as the taste buds, she said.