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Three-Spice Mix Adds Stir-Fry Excitement : Wok Oil Adds Punch to Shrimp With Cabbage and Peppers

May 21, 1987|KAREN GILLINGHAM | Gillingham is a Los Angeles-based food writer. and

When dinner needs to be exciting, I vote for Chinese food. The ingredients, colors, flavors and sizzling stir-frys are stimulating.

What excites me even more about Chinese stir-frying, but I don't find fun, is the hurly-burly feeling that creeps into the kitchen when I'm trying to get everything chopped and ready for the wok. The vegetables, the sauce, the meat and the aromatics like garlic and ginger need to be finely minced for flavoring the oil. Then these itsy-bits must be fished from the wok before the bigger and blander ingredients hit the hot oil.

Pretty Asian Bottles

What this means is that dinner hasn't been so exciting at my house as often as it has been exciting in China. Things may change. Looking for pretty bottles to give herbed olive oils in, I came across some with an Asian look I liked and decided to put the olive oil in the pantry and the garlic and rosemary on a chicken. Instead I filled these more exciting-looking bottles with something more spicy.

What developed was Three-Spice Wok Oil. Ginger, garlic and dried hot chilies simmer in peanut oil to release their invigorating flavors, then the oil is cooled, strained and bottled--in lovely Asian bottles. For more fun, you can drop a pretty red pepper into the bottle to remind you of the adventure contained within.

Now, stir-frying simply means lining up a few shrimp or chunks of chicken and a chopped vegetable then sizzling it in the already flavored oil which awaits in the refrigerator for an exciting dinner whim.

SHRIMP WITH CABBAGE AND PEPPERS

2 tablespoons Three-Spice Wok Oil

1/2 to 3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled

1 small head bok choy, cut in 1-inch pieces

1 sweet pepper, cut in 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons chicken stock

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat wok over high heat. Add oil. When oil is very hot, add shrimp and stir-fry just to coat with oil. Add bok choy and pepper pieces and stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and soy sauce. Cover and simmer 30 seconds. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Three-Spice Wok Oil

1 cup peanut oil

4 thin slices ginger root

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes

1 whole dried hot red chili, optional

In saucepan, combine oil, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook over low heat 15 minutes. Let cool. Strain into jar or bottle. Add whole chili. Keep refrigerated. Makes 1 cup.

Note: Oil will become cloudy when chilled.

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