Monday, May 20, 2013

Crunchy stir-fried potatoes... what a concept!

Just about every self-respecting northern Chinese restaurant in the U.S. has this on the menu. This has its own logic because, again, it uses two vegetables from the Americas but, again, puts a definite Chinese spin on them.

If you have never had potatoes just barely cooked so that they are still naturally crunchy, you are in for a definite surprise here. The potatoes are definitely not raw, but rather seem like a whole new invention. The secret lies in selecting the right potatoes; my go-to variety is Yukon Gold, which keeps its shape as it cooks and also retains its snappy character.

This dish is very versatile. You can use as many or as few chilies as you like, and if you have little kids or are just heat adverse, cook the chilies with the potatoes and so reduce their vibrancy to a muted hum. Otherwise, add them toward the end so that they barely warm through and so provide serious sparks. You can also add things like finely chopped garlic or fry some dried chilies before the ginger and onions… it all depends up your predilections and what else you’re serving.

By the way, northern and northeastern Chinese refer to potatoes as tŭdòu 土豆 (“earth beans”), while in many southern places they are known as mǎlíngshŭ 馬鈴薯, literally “horse bell tuber,” because small round potatoes looked like the small round bells that once jingled on horses. 

However, the potato's names are legion depending upon where you are in China: in Shandong it is called an “earth egg,” in Anhui it’s referred to as “Western sweet potato,” in southern Fujian and Chaozhou they call it either “Dutch tuber” or by the Malay word kentang, and so on. 

Peeled & unpeeled
Stir-fried potato and green chili threads
Qīngjiāo chǎo tŭdòusī 青椒炒土豆絲
Serves 4 to 6 

4 cups potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold) cut into thin (⅛-inch) matchsticks
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
½ cup finely chopped green onions
2 to 3 green jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced into long, thin strips

1. The potatoes can remain unpeeled, if you like. Be sure not to cut the potatoes too finely, as then they will mush up. Place the potato matchsticks in a medium work bowl and cover with cool water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Then, just before cooking them, drain the potatoes well, dump them out onto a tea towel, and pat them as dry as you possibly can, as this way the potatoes will fry rather than steam into a fat clump.

2. Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke and then add the oil and salt. Swirl them around to lightly dissolve the salt, and then toss in the ginger and green onions. Quickly fry them for about 30 seconds to release their aromas, and then add the potatoes. (If you like your chilies milder, add them at this point so that they cook more.) Toss the potatoes once in a while so that they lightly brown. (Add the chilies at this point if you want more of a kick.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.


  1. I think this is perfect for my kids breakfast because they love eating potatoes especially when it have lots of tasty ingredients. I will now copy this and made this tomorrow for them. Thanks for sharing!

    Easy Stir Fry