HOW many of us have lumped for a supermarket stir-fry mix, complete with sickly packet sauce, dumped it all in a wok, burned the bottom, and wished we'd just ordered in chow mein?

But it doesn't have to be that way. In her new cookbook, Stir Crazy, TV chef, foodie entrepreneur and Chinese cookery aficionado Ching-He Huang, has come up with 100 stir-fry recipes that won't involve dry, frazzled chicken and limp beansprouts.

You can't beat a stir-fry for speed

"We are living in a fast-paced world and time is of the essence," she says, explaining why our obsession with flash-fried noodles and crunchy veg isn't likely to wane. "They're quick, accessible, speedy and non-threatening - you don't need a lot of fancy kitchen equipment."

However, despite how quick and easy they are, in the west, we're still prone to messing up our stir-fries.

"People add everything in at once and hope for the best, but really, the simple message is that every ingredient needs its time," says Taiwan-born Ching, 38. "That's the beauty of stir-frying, you heat the wok up to a really high heat, then you add the oil - when you swish the oil around it creates even heat distribution.

"Then you add garlic, ginger, chillies - the holy trinity - and I always love to add all three, because why not? They need a few seconds, then add your protein or crunchier vegetables, carrots first, then let everything settle and caramelise on one side, saute, then turn and toss to cook; season and serve.

"Every element of that process needs its own time.

"Be mindful that having all the ingredients prepped beforehand helps," she adds. "That's where people go wrong, because they think, 'I'll chop and just chuck it in', but if you do that, you burn whatever's in the wok."

Now is the time to assess our meat consumption. Half the recipes in Stir Crazy are vegetarian and vegan, and when meat does feature, it makes up no more than 20 per cent of a dish.

"In Chinese restaurants, the majority of the dishes are meat-based, but traditionally in Chinese cooking and culture, it was 80 per cent vegetable based and meat was only a luxury," says Ching, explaining that she wanted to return to those roots. "It's really about the quality of ingredients, not quantity, and you get what you give from the planet. Unfortunately, we're taking a lot more than we're giving [at the moment].

"We need to cut down on our meat consumption, we all need to."

Food is medicine as well as fuel

For Ching, food is as much about eating well as it is about taking care of yourself. "Traditionally in Chinese culture, food is medicine - we've always believed you heal yourself through what you eat."

Raw foods are considered cleansing and able to help detoxify the body; cooked foods are nourishing and when lightly sauteed or steamed, nutrients are unlocked and food is more easily digested; then there are healing foods - like goji berries, shitake mushrooms and ginseng, "which are eaten occasionally when the body needs it to heal itself".

"You need to cleanse, you need to detox, you need to nourish and you need to heal," says Ching with feeling, noting that it's all about balance.

"What nature gives us is perfect," she says. "Our body is perfect too, if we treat it right - everything works in harmony, if we give it a chance."



(Serves 2)

1tbsp rapeseed oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

Knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

200g raw tiger prawns, shelled and deveined

1tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry

1 x 225g can of water chestnuts, drained

1tsp chilli bean paste

1tbsp runny honey

1tbsp low-sodium light soy sauce

2 spring onions, cut on an angle into 1cm slices, to garnish


1. Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add the rapeseed oil. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir-fry for a few seconds to release their aroma.

2. Add the tiger prawns and leave to sear and brown for a few seconds, then flip them over and cook for one minute. Season with the Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry.

3. Add the water chestnuts and toss well, then add the chilli bean paste, honey and light soy sauce and toss for a few seconds to mix the sauces well.

4. Garnish with the spring onions and serve immediately.



(Serves 2)

1tbsp rapeseed oil, plus 1tsp

300g purple aubergine, sliced into 1cm x 3cm strips

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry

For the sauce:

1tsp smooth peanut butter

1tbsp chilli bean paste

1tsp sesame paste, such as tahini

2tbsp low-sodium light soy sauce

1tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1tbsp cornflour

50ml cold water

For the garnish and to serve:

1 spring onion, finely sliced

1tsp toasted sesame seeds

Wheat flour noodles or steamed jasmine rice


1. Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a jug, then set aside.

2. Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add one tablespoon of rapeseed oil. Add the aubergine strips and stir-fry for four to five minutes while adding small drops of water to soften the aubergine - about 100ml in total. As the water evaporates, keep adding more.

3. Once softened, push the aubergines to one side of the wok and add the second teaspoon of rapeseed oil. Fry the sliced chilli for a few seconds, then season with the Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry.

4. Give the sauce a stir, then add to the wok and cook gently, stirring and tossing all the ingredients together until the sauce is heated through and has coated the aubergines - about two minutes.

5. Garnish with the spring onion and toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately with your choice of noodles or rice.



(Serves 2)

250g boneless chicken thighs, sliced into 1cm x 2.5cm cubes

Pinch of sea salt flakes

Pinch of ground white pepper

1tbsp cornflour

1tbsp rapeseed oil

Large knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into large slices

2 garlic cloves, crushed but left whole

1 red chilli, sliced into rings

1tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry

50ml low-sodium light soy sauce

50ml toasted sesame oil

1tsp caster sugar

5g Taiwanese nine-pagoda leaf basil or Thai sweet basil


1. Place the chicken in a bowl, add the salt and ground white pepper and then dust with the cornflour. Mix well to coat then set aside.

2. Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add the rapeseed oil. Add the ginger slices and fry until crispy and golden, then add the garlic and red chilli and toss for a few seconds to release their flavour.

3. Add the chicken pieces and leave for 10 seconds to sear and colour, then flip them over. Season with Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry and stir-fry for two to three minutes on a high heat until the chicken is almost cooked.

4. Add the light soy sauce, the toasted sesame oil and sugar and cook for five minutes until the liquid has almost evaporated. The chicken should have a dark brown, slightly sticky shine. Add the basil leaves and toss through to wilt, then take off the heat and serve immediately.

n Stir Crazy: 100 Deliciously Healthy Stir-fry Recipes by Ching He-Huang, photography by Tamin Jones, is published by Kyle Books, priced £19.99. Available now.