A quick and easy recipe for stir-fried nai bai with garlic. This recipe allows for the natural mild sweetness of the vegetables to come through, with just a dash of seasonings to flavour.
Have your daily dose of healthy greens stir-fried in a flash! For most stir-fries, having a vegetable dish ready on the table takes all of 5 minutes or less. I don’t know how you feel, but for me, cooking stir-fries is often an exercise of ambidexterity with legs and limbs in constant motion. Everything always ready in hand – wok chan, garlic, veggies, seasonings, sauces and oils – to throw quickly into the mix – and hopefully nothing burns in the process.
My early stir-fry episodes were embarrassingly uncoordinated. I heat up wok … okay, wok is smoking hot .. throw in oil.. then garlic, ginger, chopped onions etc .. okay, time for my veggies .. oh no, garlic is getting a little burnt, now where are those veggies?? Darn it, I haven’t fully drained the veggies ..in goes the veggies..the hot wok hisses, sizzles and sputters in protest …then its a quick mad grab for salt and seasonings. Sounds familiar? Now, twenty years on since those early days, I can confidently say that I have turned PRO – proactive, productive and proficient.
I’m sure everyone’s had a stir-fry drama unfold in their kitchen at some point – I know I’ve had plenty! But thanks to watching my parents cook in the kitchen, and later in life, following countless ‘Wok with Yan’ episodes on TV, I’ve become a huge fan of stir fries. Simply because this cooking method is healthier. It allows the natural flavours and textures of the ingredients to come through so well, therefore requiring less flavourings and seasonings. And it’s quick! Super quick.
Executing a Good Stir-Fry
The key to any good stir-fry is to have all your ingredients and seasonings ready, and to be very clear in your mind when these are to be added. It’s not rocket science, and the process is almost always the same whether its a vegetable, seafood or meat stir-fry. So get all your ingredients minced, chopped, sliced or julienned – whatever it is that you need to do before you even heat up your wok or skillet. Also have all your dry and wet seasonings and sauces measured out – I would suggest that you arrange or group everything neatly and in the order or sequence that you’re going to have to add into the stir-fry – you’ll be happier for it!
The next step is to always heat up the wok or skillet till smoking hot. Yes, we preferably want to get to that very high temperature that will quickly sear the meat, seafood or vegetable, thus locking in the juices and natural flavours without overcooking. And oh yes, oil should always be added to a hot wok, and not heated up with the wok.
Next, the spice ingredients – usually garlic, ginger, chopped onions or shallots, or a spice paste are added and very quickly fried till aromatic. Then the main ingredient – meat, seafoood or vegetables – are added. Lastly, the dry and wet seasonings like salt, pepper, sugar, sauces, wine, other oils, are added to taste. Dish out, garnish as desired with toasted sesame seeds, chopped spring onions or coriander leaves, sweet goji berries or whatever you fancy, and you’re done!
This post features stir-fried nai bai with garlic. Nai bai is thought of as a variation of the bok choy, and is also referred to as milk cabbage. It is a mildly sweet and crunchy vegetable, with dark green crinkled leaves and short, milky white stems. The crunchy outer layer breaks down quickly, only fry till you see the white, opaque stems just start to turn translucent. Feel free to use your favourite Chinese greens in place of nai bai, just be mindful that some vegetables cook through much more quickly (eg. choy sum) than the tougher, more fibrous varieties (eg. kailan).