By Tim Hazell
Cooking in oil consists of stir-frying, shallow-frying, and deep-frying—basic techniques and procedures that bring about distinctly different results. Stir-frying is a flamboyant technique that is used to produce a great variety of intensely aromatic dishes. Small amounts of ingredients are cooked briskly in hot oil over a searing heat. Split-second timing and deft movements are essential.
“Quick exploding” ingredients such as garlic, scallions, and ginger require a very hot uncoated pan before oil is added. When oil is heated in a cold pan, it adheres to the metal and causes food to stick. If the pan is already hot, oil flows free of the metal, letting the ingredients tumble with verve and spirit over the glistening surface.
Inspired by Irene Kuo, here is a robust specialty from Northern China, a succulent stir-fry of paper-thin lamb and lots of crisp “exploded” scallions. Don’t skimp on the scallions, as they define its character! A good accompaniment would be stir-fried green beans or cauliflower and rice.
Scallion “Exploded” Lamb
Serves 2-3 as a main course
1 lb. boneless leg of lamb or loin, trimmed of fat (substitute pork, chicken or flank steak if lamb is unavailable)
1/2 lb. whole medium scallions
4 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. roasted and crushed Szechuan peppercorns
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1-1/2 tbsp. dry sherry
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dry sherry
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame oil
5 tbsp. oil for frying
Cut lamb across the grain into paper-thin slices about 2 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide. Place in a deep bowl. Mix marinade and pour over meat. Stir to coat well and let lamb marinate at least 30 minutes. Trim off root ends from scallions; rinse and dry. Flatten the bulbs slightly with a heavy knife, slit the white part in two lengthwise, then cut the entire scallion crosswise into 1-1/2 inch long sections. Smash and peel the garlic. Mix seasoning sauce in a bowl until sugar has dissolved. Assemble all ingredients on a working platter. All cutting preparations can be done in advance, but seasoning sauce should not be mixed until ready to cook, lest the vinegar lose its aroma. Any ingredients refrigerated should be brought to room temperature before stir-frying.
Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot, add oil, swirl, and heat until thoroughly coated and hot. Lower heat, quickly stir, and press the garlic cloves in the oil for about 5 seconds. Turn up heat again, scatter in marinated meat and stir, tossing briskly for 10 seconds. Shower in the scallions, stirring rapidly in tossing motions until color deepens and each piece is gleaming with oil. Quickly splash in seasoning sauce, stirring vigorously about one minute in sweeping and flipping motions until meat and vegetables have absorbed most of the seasonings. Pour the meat and scallions into a hot serving dish and serve immediately.