Of all the things you can cook in a wok, I have tried very hard to ignore suggestions that I cook potatoes – usually because those are folks using their wok for deep frying, something I hope to never get very good at. Not because I hate the idea of fried food, or indeed fried potatoes. Rather, precisely because I love the taste of fried potatoes just too much and should not be tempted to make them at home. I also hate deep frying because I hate the idea of all the hot oil and then, how to dispose of it.
But if I could stir fry in a minimal amount of oil, and still get the potato experience… well, this recipe had to be tried. I love the idea of only 2 tablespoons of oil (though to be perfectly honest you may drizzle in a slight amount more if you are not strict in your measuring and discipline, but it can be done). This week’s Wok Wednesday recipe, from Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge, by Grace Young had just the opportunity − to cook a very western food in my wok, and give it a new spin with the ginger and garlic. Move over truffled fries served in a swanky cafe − this is something I can make at home, tempered with healthy habits.I had to be practical this week – partly because I hadn’t really planned on making this, and don’t always keep many potatoes on hand. I also had a sweet potato (actually an enormous one, but now there is less of it, and the other half can be baked or, maybe stir-fried now that I know how well this works). I used 3 small red potatoes and a bit less than half of a sweet potato for this recipe in place of the new potatoes called for. I decided that if I was cooking something as seemingly decadent as a stir-fry batch of shoestring potatoes, I would follow Grace’s tip and hand cut them rather than use a mandolin or julienne slicer – part zen of working at the cutting board, part penance for feeling guilt about eating potatoes when I am trying to make rational food choices.
I did a quick soak of the potatoes in cold water and rinsed the cut up sticks of ivory and orange, on a cool day. Worried about getting them dry, I gave them a spin in my salad spinner and was astonished at how well they dried. Far more time in the prep than the actual stir fry, which takes 5-6 minutes once you are all organized (the secret to sane stir-frying and most cooking in general). I also broke out my new Negi (scallion cutter), with the razor-sharp blades to shred the scallions. I try to read thru any new recipe a few times, and then write the order on a piece of paper that is not in the way and I can keep my cookbook open but safe from splatter. Nonetheless, I did make a small mistake and accidentally double the white pepper. No harm – it was just perfect for our taste.
With this stir-fry, I also discovered a completely new way to appreciate potatoes, cooked in this method, they come out almost silky yet with firm texture. Taste one as you get to adding in the last seasoning and scallions, and you will find the firm but thoroughly cooked potato is NOT a substitute for a french fry. It is something a bit more interesting. but different. While I could tell you about the virtues of using sweet potato, more fiber, vitamins, lower glycemic index, etc., the best reason to use it is if you like the taste. In my case – using half potatoes and half sweet potatoes was the right balance since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and find most fried sweet potatoes not so fabulous unless doused with spiciness or lots of malt vinegar. This recipe achieves tang with the pepper, ginger and garlic, and only the smallest amount of rice vinegar.
But I will not hold it against you to make this with all white new potatoes. Just be sure to be generous with the ginger and garlic, and yes, it may be the fastest potato dish you have ever made.
The other half of my sweet potato may just end up in the wok instead of the oven!This recipe is on page 210 of Grace Young’s Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge. The book is available electronically as well as in print (I prefer the book because I love that experience, but there are times I would rather put a splash guard on my iPad rather than another ‘character stain’ on my book). If you are on Facebook, please come by the Wok Wednesdays page and check it out! It’s a great community.