Anyone who mocks the term “tender-crisp” does not understand Chinese stir fried vegetables at all. I say that because I came across a food blog once that did exactly that and it was such a “facepalm” moment for me.
You can’t cook vegetables to death when making a stir fry. You can’t undercook them on the right side of raw either because a stir fried vegetable dish is not a raw vegetable salad.
So, one uses the term “tender-crisp” to describe the mouth feel of stir fried vegetables done right. But then one who hasn’t experienced correctly cooked stir fried vegetables still won’t get the point.
The vegetables in this vegan stir fry are perfect to illustrate what “tender crisp” means. If this dish is cooked correctly, the chayote and kalabasa (squash) strips should be able to retain their shape when picked up (even with chopsticks), offer no serious resistance to the bite nor should they have that cooked to the core mouth feel either. Instead, when you bite into a piece of stir fried vegetable, there should be the slightest sensation as it breaks.
How to achieve that?
1. Start with stir frying basics.
2. Then, move on to the secret to a good vegetable stir fry.
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil with a high smoke point
- 1 cup chayote strips
- 1 cup squash strips
- 2 finger chilies sliced into half-inch pieces
- salt and pepper
- generous handful oyster mushrooms
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1/2-inch piece ginger minced
- generous sprinkle sugar
- generous squirt kalamansi (or lime or lemon) juice
- drizzle soy sauce
Heat the pan. Pour in the oil. Wait until fine wisps of smoke float on the surface.
Throw in the chayote and squash strips. Over HIGH HEAT, stir fry for about three to four minutes.
Add the chilies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir fry for another minute.
Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, sliced onion, garlic and ginger. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Stir fry for a minute.
Add the sugar and kalamansi (or lime or lemon) juice. Pour in a tablespoonful of water. Toss a few times. Cover the pan for a minute or two.
Drizzle in the soy sauce. Toss and taste. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.