Does stir frying really need a zillion prep bowls?

Stir-frying. Does it *actually* require a ton of little bowls? And are there any alternatives?

0:00 – So, you don’t like washing bowls
1:19 – Steph: why little bowls help
4:05 – Chris: an alternative approach
5:22 – Dawei: on organizing ingredients
7:44 – Cadence: on combining ingredients
8:18 – Why many bowls make sense when filming

Huge thank you to Cadence for taking the time to answer this rather esoteric question. You can check out his YouTube channel over here – he mostly does videos in Mandarin, explaining western food to a Chinese audience, but he’s been looking at expanding to teaching some Chinese food (particularly Northeastern food, where he’s from):

You can also check out his restaurant, Magpie. It’s fun – Dongbei/Western fusion sort of deal:

Anyway, proper recipe video will be out next week 🙂

And check out our Patreon if you’d like to support the project!

Outro Music: คิดถึงคุณจัง by ธานินทร์ อินทรเทพ
Found via My Analog Journal (great channel):

15 Replies to “Does stir frying really need a zillion prep bowls?”

  1. Hey guys, a few notes:

    1. Ultimately, I think making use of prep bowls (or a similar system) is good practice in a Western kitchen as well. The reason I think you don’t see a lot of people using prep bowls in the USA and the like, however, is that the cuisine – especially the modern incarnation – doesn’t inherently demand it. Like, if you’re making a hotdish or something, ultimately you’re just laying stuff into a casserole dish… prep bowls would be sort of superfluous. Stir frying obviously moves a lot faster than a lot of western dishes do, so these sorts of practices – approaches that might be associated more with restaurant cooking in the west – end up getting etched in your brain as a homecook, too.

    2. In some ways, I do feel though that ‘dish dread’ (might have stolen that term from Internet Shaquille? Idk) is too much of a variable for a lot of people. Yeah, washing dishes isn’t as much fun as stir frying, or even slicing up aromatics. But it’s just part of the process. You try to minimize bowls/plates as best you can, of course, but ultimately a handful of little bowls is like… 60-90 seconds of washing? (Haven’t timed it, just a guess) It’s really not the end of the world.

    3. I suppose most of y’all watching these videos are at least intermediate cooks though (generally what we aim for), so in some ways I might be preaching to the choir. Just in case there are some beginners though – something else that I do when washing dishes is have a little metric that I have in my head called ‘% paranoia required’. So like, a prep bowl that just had some big chunks of aromatics in it requires very little dish-washing-paranoia – like, you could probably even get away with a quick rinse (but give a quick scrub anyway). Things that contained saucy things or raw meat require a lot more ‘washing paranoia’. And at the very top are oily things, which really require a hefty scrub.

    4. Another dish washing related question for y’all – I’m sure there’s some people here in the comments that use the ‘soapy basin’ dishwashing method. This is the method that my parents use, and something that always drove me crazy about it is that it seems like you need to do everything all at once (in my house growing up, all after dinner). Certainly, there’s a way to use the basin method but still wash-as-you-go?

    5. Re Cadence, a quick note that his restaurant is actually a Dongbei-Western fusion sort of deal – I know that with the way that I cut it it seemed to imply that his restaurant was a ‘standard’ Chinese restaurant (he swears like a sailor lol… I’m still not happy with the ‘bleep’ we have so I cut around it). If you’re in Shenzhen, definitely check it out – link’s in the description. His YouTube channel is here: His schtick is teaching western food to a Chinese audience usually, but recently he’s been thinking of expanding into teaching Dongbei food to a western audience (which’s way less represented online in English)

    Anyway, that’s all I can think of for now – I’m sure we might have some more in a bit. Proper recipe video coming next week 🙂

  2. As someone who grew up with a cuisine that's stew-centric, I just chop as I go (eg. chop aromatics and meat first, then chop the vegetables while the aromatics and meat are cooking, starting with the veg that needs to go first), so I don't have a lot of prep bowls. I also wash the dishes while waiting for the next step to avoid clutter. I'm also not super paranoid with the dishwashing process – as long as it doesn't feel greasy, I'm good (+ not skimping on what dish soap to use really helps in making the process easy).

  3. I don't have space or patience for a bunch of little bowls. I prep for the week. So everything is already separated. Seasoning is to my taste so no need to prep it again from an extra container. Fresh minced garlic, or herb goes into the pan directly at the correct step in the process. I think it is more efficient to keep stock ingredients at the ready. Measuring devices, cups, teaspoon etc are more practical if I need to parse an ingredient.

  4. I've been watching over the years and glad you guys have made great content this entire time.

  5. Some people see this video as a video about prep bowls in Chinese cuisine, I see this video in a philosophical way; the right tools for the right job. Thank you for creating this content and best of luck to your channel in the future.

  6. if you are just putting washed veggies in the bowls you can always just rise them out quick it doesnt need a deep wash

  7. I've always done the cutting board pile method but as I've done more wok cooking I've taken to School of Wok's "wok clock" method. A single plate where everything is ordered from first-in (12 o'clock position) to last in around the plate. It's easier to handle a plate than a cutting board when adding to the wok and leaves the only bowls needed for sauces. Since many sauces tend to be just a combination of thin liquids that are easy to pour you often only need a bowl if it's a sauce that requires a thickener or something more difficult to pour like oyster sauce.

  8. So two things.
    First: I am definitely a piles on the board kind of guy. Adam made a brag, but I have an enormous cutting board and I have plenty of room for everything. Obviously meet and sauces go in bowls. But veggies all go on the board.
    Second: Steph's dad is absolutely correct. Nobody in their right mind would call me anything except a messy guy. I'm just also a messy guy who makes pretty good stir fry.

  9. My approach is to just chop while stir frying. All ingredients on my board at a time get dumped together. At home my wok just won't get hot enough so to get a proper char on ingredients I have to leave them alone for a while. This obviously only works if you're fast enough at prepping stuff.

  10. I tend to use deli containers as prep bowls. I got them for storage, but I found them just as useful in this application. And like Cadence I'll just pile things that have already been sautéed together into a single container. I probably shouldn't put hot things into plastic like that, even if it's high grade. And I do have a couple metal bowls for just such an occasion. But I usually don't want to deal with the extra dish and just use the plastic anyway. Hasn't hurt me or the containers yet, but I'll keep y'all updated lol

  11. But if I'm lazy-cooking for myself with no raw meat: Start rice, chop first thing(s) to go in, heat on, chop the next to go in, first thing goes in, then jump between stiring and frantic chopping

  12. Great video. Love the practical advice. Would encourage mixing in more like these. Love the channel!

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