Deep-frying is a common cooking technique in the cuisines of many different nationalities, but although there are special deep-fryers in which to do the job, the Chinese have always used their versatile woks. Just as with steaming, the wok must sit securely on its stand on top of the burner before oil is poured in, filling about halfway up the sides. If the level of oil comes too far up, common sense tells you that it may easily spill over when food is added, causing a fire hazard and possible skin burns.
When it comes to heating the oil, there are several ways to test its readiness. A good old Chinese way is to throw in a small round of green scallion; if it sizzles fiercely on the surface, the oil is hot enough. A Western counterpart is the stale bread cube; the hotter the oil, the shorter length of time it takes for the cube to brown. The most reliable method, especially for an inexperienced cook, is to use a special deep-frying thermometer. I use this last method whenever I deep-fry, and I have detailed the correct temperatures for all the recipes in this section.
To deep-fry Chinese food successfully in the wok, you must have a perforated spoon or, better still, a large strainer in place of the Western frying basket. If possible, use a long pair of bamboo chopsticks with which to move the food around while it is cooking, in order to prevent pieces sticking together, although you can always use a wooden spoon.
Always, when food is removed from the oil, put it on some of our wonderful paper towels to absorb any excess grease.
What is the desired effect of deep-fried food, you may well ask? It should be golden in color, the batter crisp to the bite while the ingredients inside are juicy and tender. To achieve this, a very quick second immersion in the hot oil will give an extra crispy result.
© 1997 Yan-Kit So estate. All rights reserved.