Five years ago, we visited our daughter, Olivia, who was studying in China. It was an amazing experience, culture, diversity, extreme landscapes, vast cities and food!

Lots of food!

The Chinese have an amazing and varied food culture, developed over centuries, far more varied than our Western view of Chinese food.

We loved the street food where everything you can imagine was served from makeshift

cookers and braziers, flaming hot, fast and exciting. Usually served from family groups, they knew

exactly how to churn out vast quantities of amazing food in the quickest time.

We stood out like a sore thumb, two ‘mature’ Westerners with a young vibrant girl speaking fluent Mandarin.

Everyone wanted to know where we came from.

Olivia’s ‘Sūgélán’ was always greeted with beaming smiles, great excitement and everyone shouting

at Philip, ‘you Sean Connery’?

If only!

The Chinese stir fry vegetables rapidly with a maximum of heat and a minimum of water and oil to

maintain their texture and flavour, using heat to cook and movement to prevent burning.

Par boil hard vegetables and re-fresh in cold water so they cook quickly.


1 head broccoli or cauliflower

handful baby corn on the cob

handful sugar snap peas

1 onion peeled and sliced

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and finely sliced

2-3 courgettes, sliced into rounds

handful mushrooms

1 -2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 -2 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped

4 cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced

3 tablespoons soya sauce

3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced at a slant.

sesame oil


Wash and trim the vegetables and cut into similar sized pieces.

They should all be able to cook at the same time, 10-15 minutes.

Blanch the harder vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, sweetcorn, and sugar snaps in boiling water for a few minutes, before refreshing in ice cold water.

Drain and set aside.

Heat a wok or very large frying pan until very hot.

Warm the oil. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and stir with chopsticks to allow the flavours to be released but moving around so we don’t burn.

Keeping the heat on high add the onion then the hard vegetables, continually moving them

in the heat all the time.

Add the rest of the vegetables, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. The vegetables loose bulk as

they cook, 10 minutes at most. The vegetables should still be crips and with a bite.

Add the soya sauce and stir to coat the veg.

Finish the dish with spring onions and a scant drizzle of sesame oil.

Mary Contini OBE is a writer and Director of Valvona & Crolla ltd. We are happy to welcome you in our CaffèBar and shop again, open all day. Book and order online:

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