Stir-Frying with Grace Young

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager


On a cold Monday night in January, members of the Culinary Guild gathered at Golden Temple restaurant in Brookline to learn more about celebrating the Chinese New Year from renowned author and chef Grace Young. While the attendees enjoyed appetizers prepared by the restaurant, Grace shared stories of the stir-fry as it has evolved in Chinese communities around the world, explained the use and meaning of a traditional wok, and then demonstrated two recipes from her book.

The stories Grace shared ranged from the traditional interpretations of the stir-fry as an economical way to feed one’s family in China, to the blended interpretations that satisfied a family without access to the traditional ingredients or equipment. Grace even shared the story of her discovery of a Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice while exploring Chinese cuisine in Jamaica.


Grace’s loyalty to the traditional, carbon-steel wok goes without question, not only for performance reasons, but because she feels that the wok is an “iron thread that has linked Chinese food and tradition for over 2,000 years”. This loyalty runs so deep, Grace has travels everywhere with her wok — in her carry-on — as she searched out stories and recipes for her latest book, much to the confusion of TSA agents all over the world.

Grace continued to share techniques of the wok and some background of the ingredients she had chosen for the evening’s demonstration while she prepared two recipes from her latest book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge — Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp and Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms.

After treating everyone to samples of her demonstration dishes, Grace kindly signed and personalized copies of her book for all of the attendees while chatting with anyone who cared to linger for the pleasure of speaking with her for just an extra moment or two.

Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp (from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge)
Serves 2 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multicourse meal.

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili, with seeds

  1. In a large bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the salt with 1 quart cold water. Add the shrimp and swish the shrimp in the water with your hand for about 30 seconds. Drain. Add 1 more tablespoon salt to the bowl with 1 quart of cold water and repeat. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and set on several sheets of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and ground Sichuan peppercorns.
  2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the garlic, ginger, and chili, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the garlic mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp, and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp just begin to turn orange. Sprinkle on the salt mixture and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the shrimp are just cooked.

Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms (from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge)
Serves 4 as a vegetable side dish.

8 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch Chinese long beans (about 12 ounces)
2 Ounces Sichuan preserved vegetable (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 cup ground pork (about 2 ounces)
1 Chinese sausage, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup cilantro sprigs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

  1. In a medium shallow bowl soak the mushrooms in 3/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Cut off the stems and mince the mushrooms.
  2. Trim 1/4 inch from the ends of the long beans. Cut the long beans into 1/4-inch-long pieces to make about 3 cups.
  3. Rinse the preserved vegetable in cold water until the red chili paste coating is removed and pat dry. Finely chop to make about 1/4 cup. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.
  4. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the pork and sausage. Using a metal spatula, break up the pork, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the pork is no longer pink. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil, add the beans, and stir-fry 1 minute. Swirl in the 2 tablespoons reserved mushroom liquid. Cover and cook 30 seconds. Uncover and add the preserved vegetable, scallions, and cilantro. Swirl the soy sauce mixture into the wok. Sprinkle on the salt, sugar, and pepper, and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the pork and sausage are cooked and the vegetables are crisp-tender.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Guild or attending one of our events, please visit the Culinary Guild of New England’s website.

About the Chef: Grace Young is the author of the James Beard Foundation’’s Award for Best International Cookbook: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge. Grace’’s career has been devoted to demystifying the art of stir-frying and celebrating wok cookery.

2 thoughts on “Stir-Frying with Grace Young

  1. It was an honor to give a presentation to the NECG. Thank you for the great write up. One tiny correction: I learned the jerk chicken fried rice recipe in a Chinese Jamaican restaurant called Henricas, in Queens (not in Jamaica).

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