Marketer | Writer | Global Citizen

The Only Stir-Fry Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Stir-fries are the original fast food. If you are allowed into a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen, do visit, if only to marvel at the satellite-dish sized woks that shoot out flames to the ceiling when in use. The acreage of a wok and its ability to heat up in seconds mean food can be seared and cooked in minutes, retaining freshness and flavor.

This recipe is an old standby for its tastiness and versatility. You probably have all the ingredients right now in your pantry and refrigerator. The classic take would be to buy 5 Hong Kong dollars’ worth of deep-fried pork at the corner charcuterie, use that as seasoning for a boatload of vegetables, and have a feast. Think of its possibilities for leftover rotisserie chicken and veg.

The Only Stir-Fry Recipe You’ll Ever Need

1/3 cup stock

3 tablespoons oyster sauce (available in most groceries)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

A squeeze of lemon juice or a tablespoon of cooking wine (I use Xiaoxing but you can also use sherry)

Vegetable oil

1/4 to 1/3 cup protein (see notes below), chopped into bite-size pieces

Two or 3 cloves of garlic, minced

3-4 cups leafy vegetables. chopped

Sesame oil

Optional: Chili, ginger

Combine the stock with the oyster sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice or cooking wine in a medium bowl. Coat your wok with oil and turn up the heat to maximum. Once the oil is shimmering, toss in the chicken, pork or beef and stir-fry furiously until their surfaces turn white. Carefully lift out the meat and dump it into the bowl with the stock solution.

Tip in the garlic (with the chili and ginger if using) and stir-fry rapidly. Add the vegetables and stir-fry until the leaves turn a brilliant green. Return the meat to the wok, including the stock solution. Clap on the wok’s lid and let the mixture steam for a minute or two. Uncover the wok and dribble sesame oil; toss to coat. Serve.

Notes

Any protein will do for this recipe but there are differences in when they’re added. I normally use two cubed chicken thighs. When using pork and beef, slice them into chopstick-appropriate strips and only add them after the vegetables, not before. Otherwise they’ll overcook.

Delicate seafood like fish might fall apart in this recipe. You can sub prawns or squid.

If you’re using tofu, opt for extra-firm tofu and fry the cubes first until they develop a nice, brown crust.

This recipe is best for leafy vegetables like bok choi, baby bok choi (my favorite), Napa cabbage, even romaine lettuce. You can also substitute broccoli or cauliflower. Fleshy vegetables like eggplant and squash require more time for cooking so you’ll need to adapt the timing as needed.

Feel free to combine vegetables. I’ve used asparagus and bell peppers with success.

Experiment with the seasonings. I’ve mentioned chili and ginger, but you could add grated lemongrass and cilantro for a Thai-inspired touch. You can also sprinkle fried garlic or onions for added crunch.

Wok cooking and maintenance

Have all the ingredients ready before you even start cooking. Stir-frying is maniacal and there’s no time to step back from the hob to chop or mix.

The number one reason for wok fails: It wasn’t heated up enough. When it’s devilishly hot, the wok sears the food, locking in the juices so it becomes tender. A namby-pamby temperature means the ingredients absorb the oil instead of getting cooked in a flash.

Don’t have a wok? Pass up a non-stick wok. It heats up poorly and is a lot more expensive than a traditional carbon steel wok. The latter is a workhorse and will last you many years with the right maintenance.

Season your carbon steel wok to make it non-stick. After cooking, don’t leave food for long periods in the wok. Wash the wok, dry it, heat it up on the stove and coat it with oil using a wadded up paper towel and tongs.

 

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Going For Woke: How Brand Activism is the New Path to Profit

‘These creatives are trying to make their toilet paper save the world.’
 
So opined fellow creative Rob Baiocco of BAM Connection, who was wryly commenting in a Guardian article about marketers’ new pursuit of social justice cred.
 
Is endowing the most banal of products with meaning as ludicrous as one would think? In October 2017, because the subject intrigued me as a marketer, I conducted my own research using SurveyMonkey.
 
The findings showed that, increasingly, consumers choose brands that are aligned with their values and shed those they perceive as a mismatch.

How To Pick Colors Like A Pro

When it comes to choosing colors, people are almost always confident about what looks good on them. After all, they’ve had years to experiment with every shade possible, and know for a fact what works and what doesn’t.

The same can’t be said for picking brand colors. Not only do you not have the luxury of time to experiment, it’s very easy to get things horribly wrong. So we tend to leave color decisions to the experts, ie the agency or the graphic designer.

That said, dabbling in the parts of the color picking process is educational and fascinating, especially if you’re a person who has always been intrigued by colors, color psychology and the like. But if colors bore you, then think of the 5 tools below as simplifiers of irksome tasks, like making your Powerpoint deck look more professional.

Adobe Color Wheel

Cost: Free

Adobe Color Wheel

Think of Adobe’s Color Wheel as the digital version of hand mixing paints on a palette. Move or stretch the arm on the circle to find a shade you like. Choose the color rule — analogous, monochromatic, complementary, etc — from the menu on the left. A palette will be produced showing the right shades.

If you click on the Explore tab, you’ll find palettes that other people have produced, which you can upvote or download. If you wish to save your palette (retrievable in the My Themes tab), you’ll have to sign up for an Adobe ID.

Adobe Color palettes

Got a photo with colors that make your heart beat faster? Then you’ll love this neat feature. Click on the camera icon underneath the Sign In link on the right — if you mouse over the camera it’ll say ‘Create from Image’. Upload a photo and the program will extract the colors into a palette based on a color mood you choose. The dropdown menu on the left has five different color moods and one custom which allows you to cherry pick the shades you want from the picture.

In this example, I’ve used a screen grab of a page from Elle Decor France, an interior design magazine that always makes me want to rearrange my furniture and distress my walls. Adobe extracted the greens and chocolates and created a muted palette.

Adobe Color Wheel palette from photograph

Coolors.co

Cost: Free

Coolors homepage

Adobe Color Wheel has so many useful features — it’s like the Swiss Army Knife of color planning — but sometimes you just want to mess around in one area without getting distracted by everything else going on.

Like what if you just wanted to play around with the palettes? This is where Coolors.co comes in.

The only thing Coolors does is spit out palettes. Fool-proof, pretty ones. All you have to do is click on the Generate link, which brings you to a row of five color bars. You can start with one hex code, then tap on your space bar for Coolors to come up with suggestions. You can also lock colors to remember the shades you want, or calibrate a shade up or down until you find one to your liking.

The palette below is the one I built for this website. I started with two shades that I really liked: Blush pink and a blackish purple like OPI’s Lincoln Park in the Dark nail polish. Once I put in the two hex codes, Coolors came up with the three other suggestions.

A sample palette from Coolors

It’s important to know that each shade must have a role to play and not just be merely decorative. In this informative blog post by Adobe, an ideal palette is broken down by one neutral color, two ‘pop’ colors and one call-to-action (CTA) color. You’ll find that having structure such as this in creating a palette will head off potential headaches in future, eg H1s or headlines that don’t stand out from body copy.

Hello Color

Cost: Free

Hello Color

Sometimes you don’t need an entire palette — all you need is a contrasting color that doesn’t look like dreck. You want to achieve what Pablo Picasso once mused aloud in wonder: ‘Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?’

Hello Color is as minimal as it gets. Just type in the hex code of your preferred color in the URL’s c parameter (see the visual below on where to find it) and it’ll spit out a fine matching color that you’d never have thought of, as well as other shades. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

How customize Hello Color

Brand Colors

Cost: Free

Brand Colors homepage

Now that you’ve had a go at creating palettes and seen some not-too-shabby results, you may be interested in replicating the palettes of specific brands. Perhaps you’ve seen the below infographic that spurred the idea, or read up on color theory and want to apply these insights to your own brand. Hey if red works for Virgin and Tesla …

Color Emotion Guide by The Logo Company

Brand Colors is a library of colors for 600+ brands, with an even spread across US and international names. All the hex codes are spelt out and you can download them for reference. The logos are sourced from official documentation such as identity/brand guidelines of press kits. If you are the steward of your company brand and think it ought to be featured, you can certainly suggest it to the site’s owner, Galen Gidman.

Brand Colors is not perfect — Boise State University is on the list while Apple isn’t — but it’s a great place to start researching other brands’ palettes and noting how they’re used.

Color Name

Cost: $.99

How Color Name works

Let’s say you’re out and about and saw a very fetching scene, the colors of which are so ravishing you’re inspired to create a palette.

You can take a photo with your iPhone and upload the photo to Adobe Color Wheel. Or you could download the Color Name app for 99 cents and start on your palette right there and then.

What’s neat about Color Name is that it identifies colors by name — what’s scarlet for you could be fuchsia for me — thus minimizing confusion. Just tap your finger on any part of the photograph and the app will provide the RGB specs and its official name for the color you picked. Tap on the color’s name at the top and it will bring you to a screen with RGB, CMYK, HSB and hex codes for the color plus three similar Pantone shades to consider.

All these apps demystify what we’ve always thought of as a skill belonging only to the artistically gifted. Choosing colors that look great is actually much more a science that it is an art.

‘Not only can color, which is under fixed laws, be taught like music, but it is easier to learn than drawing, whose elaborate principles cannot be taught,’ said French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix, who lived in the 1800s. He may not have foreseen the wondrous 21st century tools that can do just that, but would’ve certainly appreciated the vistas they have opened for the non-artists among us.