Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Stir-Fry is a technique of Chinese cookery done in a wok, a curved, bowl-like iron or steel pan, over a naked flame. Its western analogue is to sauter (see sauté). For the English phrase we are indebted to Buwei Yang Chao’s How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (1945) who translated one Chinese wok technique, chao. The wok came late to the Chinese kitchen, its material better able to resist high heats than the bronze vessels Chinese cooks were used to. The first stir-fry recipe dates from the 6th century ad. Fuchsia Dunlop lists some of the many variations on the theme: ‘hua chao (‘slippery stir-fry’), bao chao (‘explode stir-fry’), xiao chao (‘small, simple stir-fry’), sheng chao (‘raw stir-fry’), shu chao (‘cooked stir-fry’), chao xiang (‘stir-fry till fragrant’) … ’.